Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It Just Keeps Getting Better

"BOM Mailing

A package is being shipped to you on 03/03/2008 via U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail."

"BOM," for those of you caffeine-deprived, I can't possibly read acronyms people out there, stands for Bacon Ofthe Month. Mmmmmmmm.


Cause that's what went through my head last night. Pure bacon. No carbonara (next time Stef), no bourbon (sorry Stephanie).

I took Claudia's advice and took my nine slices of bacon down to the bar. Yes nine slices in one pound. Punny to think about fat slices of bacon you say? P-shah, says I, move on and talk about the pork.

Sorry there aren't more pictures after this. The bacon was gone too quickly. DT, Belcher, Adam, Hardy, Bob, Marcus, Trish, Red, and K all split a piece per pair. PG and Chubs got their own.

Sinese got a piece too. Lucky bastard. I walked across the street with the last three pieces for PG and I, and there he was sitting at the end of the bar.

"You are the luckiest man on the planet tonight"


"Eat this bacon"

"Ok...damn {head slightly cocked to the left in amazement}, that IS good."

Got a text from PG a few minutes later with a similar sentiment. I reminded him there were eleven more months of this.

So. The bacon? How was it really? Ok.

It was Hudson Valley Smokehose Country Style Bacon. And it was country style bacon. There weren't flavors other than pork and salt (and there was plenty of each). I cooked it on a grill top, so the pieces held shape. It was on the grill for about 10-12 minutes total time on the cooler side.

The fat rendered off nicely and left a firm but chewy texture. It was about where you want GOOD calamari to be, not rubbery at all, but you had to use your teeth. There was no gumming this wonderland of bacon.

It was a plain flavor, but don't let that lead you to believe it was ordinary. It was just bacon, in the best possible meaning of the word. It was the perfectly raised pig, the perfect salt, the perfect cure, and I want another perfect pound of it.

This is the bacon for Sunday brunch and wrapping seafood. It's not going to mess with other things on your plate, it's just going to make them better. This would have been an amazing Club Sandwich bacon (unless you're a must have crispy bacon person, and then not so much).

Next time, I pull two slices out of the pack and freeze them. That happens for 5 more months, and then I do a comparison between five months. I'll do that again at the end of the year. Unless I forget. But my sister suggested it, and she's gourment-tacular.

My day today will be a little less bright, because there's a little less bacon to put in my belly. But I'll make it. Hell, it's February. A short month. And it's almost over. There's more bacon coming soon!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bluegrass Kitchen Redux - Saturday Brunch

Deep Fried Catfish with Poached Eggs and Fried Green Tomatoes with Lime-Caper Vinaigrette

You really do need to go to the Bluegrass Kitchen for a brunch some weekend. Herb will be there working on Sunday. That's "current couch-surfing apartment not renovated yet roomie extraordinaire" for those who don't know. Look for the handlebar mustache.

No, I'm not joking.

When Herb and I walked in we set our stuff down on our usual table. Herb walked back to the specials board to see what was good that day. I caught up with him when it looked like his eyes were halfway down the board. I told him to stop reading.

"Herb, the first words on the board are 'deep' and 'fried;' why are you still reading?"

'Nuff said.

Jay, in the kitchen, is a rock star. C'mon, Lime-Caper Vinaigrette? Mmmmmmm.

Sue makes the biscuits. And she makes them well. They are just crispy enough on the outside and pillowy biscuit luscious on the inside. Gravy sops well. So do the perfectly poached eggs.

And let me say that again, because so many restaurants cannot get this right.

The Bluegrass Kitchen poaches eggs PERFECTLY.

J and K own a wonderful little restaurant on the East End. And they work their tails off to make sure it's a wonderful spot for folks who enjoy good organic, locally produced food at reasonable prices. That plate you see was definitely under $10, and I can't recall for sure, but it may have been $8.

Things That You THOUGHT Would Suck

So CY from CookEatFRET and I were commenting back and forth about my hospitalization a couple weeks ago. (Thank you, yes I'm doing fine. My follow-up appointment is today at three.) She was an absolute peach. And I was feeling snarky, so I let 'er know that it was just like her visit to New York to catch up with family and old friends and new food.

Only I was catching up on sleep, IV antibiotics, and TBS Sunday afternoon movie marathons. But wait, there was food there too.

And there you have it. Turkey with dressing and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, a roll, apple sauce, two peanut butter cookies, juice, milk, coke, and coffee.

And it did not suck.

CY, get that rice pudding out of the keyboard. Chez, tell the kids you'll explain later but everyone's okay. Steph, well, it really didn't suck, ok?

I'm sure it had something to do with the fact that it had been close to 24 hours since I'd last eaten, and having an IV in you for any length of time (I guess, this was my first encounter) makes the thought of comfort food uber-comfortable. But really, kudos to the CAMC General food service folks.

I'm fairly certain they contract it out, most hospitals these days do to increase their AHW calculation for the Medicare AWI reimbursements, but I don't really care if that was there rationale. The folks they have doing their food did a good job. Kudos to them.

The ultra-glowing rave reviews for the ER and 5-South nurses and doctors on that weekend will be sent by e-mail to a friend I have on hospital staff.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Post 100: Of Course It's About BACON

This is the most exciting day I've had in quite a while. Well, the most exciting food day anyway. There have been a few doozies in the past couple of months. But this snarky voyage through my mind and stomach is about the food. And food, is about the flavor. And really people, if you don't think bacon is the food most all about the flavor, I have taught you NOTHING.

But I'm here today to reflect on 100 posts, and the joy I have in knowing I will be eating some portion of a pound of artisanal bacon in the coming week.

Put it in the freezer?

Savor it?

Fah, I say, full porky-goodness ahead. I will be scouring the internets of tubes for recipes. I will cook at least two pieces in my cast iron skillet to get the old-school bacon-y goodness in its purest form.

Perhaps my dearest little Sunday blog-readers have a suggestion? What delectable treat will be wrapped in this smokehouse cured loveliness? Probably not the best bacon for wrapping fruit, although I did just see a recipe for Bourbon-Peach Roast Pork Chops that would allow for double-pork.

Savor that people, let it's lardy unctuousness seep in to your pours. Double the pork, and BOURBON. Mmmmmmm.

This is some of the most gorgeous swine I have ever seen in my life. It's so meaty, so thick-cut, and so mine.

Let me take a moment to thank Serious Eats, the random selection of a comment that got me here, and Robyn for e-mailing me to give me the joyful holiday news.

I wonder. I wonder if I need to put this bacon into as many recipes as it will stretch or if I need to deliver the 8th Symphony of Bacon in one fell, crispy swoop. I wonder if I will ever get the chance to visit the folks who made this pound-package of goodness. I wonder if I'll ever be able to scratch the little porker who will become a pound of next year's winner behind the ears and thank him for his noble sacrifice.As I type this I realize that I may have to sacrifice more than two slices to the skillet. It may be a moral imperative for two slices to be cooked floppy and two slices to be cooked crispy. Only then will I be able to truly understand the bacon.

And then I might have to cook a couple slices in the oven.

I am rapidly running out of bacon here folks.

And do I buy some store brand premium and not-so-premium bacon to do comparison tastings?

Yes, Chez, I know that's a good idea. We'll talk.

Bacon in Mac & Cheese?

Of course the most hysterical part of this entire experience is that my latest issue of Cooking Light arrived the same day as my latest issue of BACON. C'est la Vie.

What can I do? Return the bacon? Fah. Double Fah.

I just need to find Cooking Light recipes that involve bacon. They exist. Maybe they even exist in this issue.

Okay, you all get ready for your Oscar parties with your herbed goat cheese spreads and pita chips, I'm going to the Cold Spot for trivia and to discuss the finer points of Bacon with Greco.

That man knows swine, and we can't really go wrong talking about how to fry bacon for a few hours.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

This Is About Food Like Fish Need Bicycles

Thanks Bono.

My two freshman year roommates, Danny Spurr and Dan Thompson (yes dear readers, I know) are in a band. They travel all over the world. They have actually been here before and I didn't know it until the day after. They are coming back again.

I haven't seen either of them since I left school in December of 1998 (hell no I didn't go back to walk in May; Connecticut is far and mailing me a degree was fine by me).

In any case, there will be food to blog about tonight, and more this weekend. For now, know that I'm just here to 'pimp' a band.

The Can Kickers.

The Can Kickers on MySpace.

The venu on MySpace.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Chicken Goulash with Biscuit Dumplings

Two recipes from one magazine in one week? That's unheard of man. You don't actually COOK the recipes in those magazines. They're just for show right?

I mean, it's not like you can just read a recipe, think it sounds good, go to the store, buy groceries, go home and cook the damn thing.

Especially if you're not cooking for other people. I mean, no self-respecting cook-blogger would just make a meal for themselves and NOT call over the gang.

Heh. You, dear reader, have caught me in a blatant lie.

You can do all of those things and more. You can forget to put the butter in the biscuit dumpling batter (which didn't appear to matter in the end).

You can not realize the paprika can on your counter is really empty and useless. But then substitute equal parts cumin and chilli powder (with a dash of cayenne added in) to get a smoky approximation.

All (well, most) snark aside, this was the first recipe I wanted to cook from the March 2008 Food & Wine, and the second one I got around to cooking. It appealed to me on several levels. First, it's friggin' biscuits. I've been talking about starting to make biscuits for months. This seemed to be (and was) a very forgiving way to get 'er done.

Second, it's goulash. I love the word goulash and all the soupy, spicy, creamy, paprika and caraway goodness that word entails. I loved my ten days in Budapest wandering along the banks of the Danube, strolling through markets finally having wares to sell in the mid-1990s. The coolness of the sour cream served with the goulash and the warmth of the people who took me into their home and provided me with a simple, wonderful, traditional meal simply because doing so was what people did for kids of friends.

The recipe is simple and tasty. I deviated as mentioned above, and by using chicken breast as opposed to chicken thighs.

Chicken Goulash with Biscuit Dumplings

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups flour plus more for dusting
  • 5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter cubed
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock/broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T hot paprika
  • 3/4 T caraway seeds
  • 1 t thyme leaves

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dust lightly with flour. In a large, deep skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the olive oil. Add the chicken and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a plate.
  2. Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the flour, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Pulse in the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk 1/2 cup of the stock with 1/2 cup of the sour cream and drizzle over the dry ingredients; pulse until a dough forms.
  3. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic to the skillet and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Return the chicken to the skillet. Stir in the paprika and caraway and cook for 30 seconds. Add the remaining 2 cups of chicken stock and 1/2 cup of sour cream and stir until smooth. Add the thyme leaves and bring to a boil.
  4. Scoop twelve 3-tablespoon-size mounds of biscuit dough over the chicken. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the biscuits are cooked. Turn on the broiler and broil for 2 minutes, until the biscuits are golden. Serve the goulash in bowls, spooning the biscuits on top.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Birch Beer

This is not a post about cooking. But it is about food, and memory, and taste all wrapped up together in nostalgia. This is where Bourdain has an epiphany in the wild and says "there really is a quiet place in the hills where I can get blind on the hooch in a world from the past" and we all nod sagely that he has spoken the truth. Only my story is more corny, and hokey, and downright syrupy sweet.

I've been wanting to write this since I came back to town from a trip a month ago and stopped at the Amish Bulk Foods store at the outlets in Flatwoods. I picked up some great food there, and have put some of the cheese to amazing use. But the real fun for me happened as soon as I walked in the door of the store.

I walked in the side entrance and was staring at a six-pack of Old Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer. It was one of those time-waiting moments when you have a rush of memory come over you because of a sight, a sound, a smell, a feel, or a taste. And for me, it was all of them.

It was the long drive from West Virginia to Grasonville on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. For most of my childhood it was U.S. 48 to Baltimore before they opened I-68 in August of 1992, Route 2 (Ritchie Highway) from Baltimore down to Annapolis and the Bay Bridge, and the Friendly's for dinner and a Reese's Pieces Sunday, the low draw bridge at the Kent Narrows, the Fisherman's Inn before the Red Eye Dock Bar and it's muscle-man power boats was built, the Narrows if Dad was feeling 'nice-dinner after sailing before long drive home.'

I can close my eyes and tell you how to get to the restroom or the video games at the old Ebb Tide on Kent Island. I can show you how to crack a Maryland Blue crab with a knife, a mallet, and mostly your hands. I can have a conversation about the 'mustard' in the crab and how at 10 it is clearly not a delicacy, but at 31 it might be.

And I can tell you about the color and the smell and the flavor of Birch Beer. It's dark like a cola, and ruby in the light like nothing else. It's sweet like a root beer and tangy like a slow-cousin to a ginger beer.

When Mom and Dad had Hieneken or some domestic can with their dinner, it was the soda that I had.

I can still feel the wind of 5 knots when we forgot about the engine and the slow doldrums of the Virginia Bay down near Tangier when the only thing to count is how many green flies you had swatted in a competition with your sister.

And I can always remember praying that we only bought dinner for the boat for one night. That meant a restaurant for the second night of the trip. And it might mean a Birch Beer.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Orzo Risotto with Sausage and Artichoke

It was a GREAT day to cook. I got out of the hospital on Monday morning and knew that I needed to cook again soon. I was full of an energy that has since subsided a modest amount, and I am back to taking things a bit slower than when I went in to the ER Saturday night. But for that one Tuesday night, a living room full of friends chattering as I whisked from kitchen to living room to catch snippets was the uber-tonic.

Of course, Chez came over early. It's a ritual. Keeps the BFF-ness alive and well. But she was starving. And so was I. That meant something new in the Lazy Man's Supper schedule...appetizers.

I wanted good, but it didn't have to be brand new, so I grabbed some wild mushrooms and butter, a bit of minced garlic, the remaining marsala wine, and a 10-ince stainless skillet and went to work. Saute, stir, butter, stir, butter, wine, saute, reduce, butter.

Spread that on some toast and bake it for 10 minutes with fresh grated parmesean on top. I dare ya'!

It turned out that I had extra bread. Which really meant I had flavor vehicles for the last of the Bermuda Onion Amish Farmer's Cheese. Into the fire with you!

They really were good. Both flavors. Earthy and salty, and there was crisp and chew, sweet and tart. All of the good things Anthony Bourdain talks about when waxing eloquent about southeast asian street food (without the organs).

And that was just the appetizer. I had decided that my first forray back into the kitchen would also be a prime opportunity to put one of my new magazine arrivals to use. Food & Wine, March 2007, you're up.

I was originally going to do the Chicken Goulash with Biscuit Dumplings. I still will someday.

The eaters had other ideas. Chez was maternally correct and so I sent out an e-mail with the three options I wanted to cook from the mag. They picked the Orzo Risotto with Sausage and Artichoke

They chose well.

It was a one pot with few steps. Sausage, set aside. Add onion and garlic. Wait. Add orzo, stir, add liquid keep stirring for 15 minutes. Add everything else in, stir. Serve.

Five of us sat around my coffee table with the stock pot in the middle. No one tried to eat with the serving spoon. But it was a close call.

Once again, the food brought some semblance of order, some calm to go along with the storms. It didn't make everything go away, it didn't make everyone have a good day. But we all had a good time while we were eating, we all smiled a bit more easily, and we all laughed a bit deeper.

Not a bad way to get back in the saddle.

Why You Don't See Me

So the flu has been going around. And I got it. Boy did I ever. A week of aching and coughing and flu-ing. But more than that. I also got whupped by a nasty throat-infection gunk that required 48-hours of ER and inpatient IV administered antibiotics and steroids (that's right, I rage) to get rid of the infection and reduce the swelling so I could breath and swallow.

Do you know how rediculously hard it is to enjoy food when you can't breath or swallow? I do.

So I went in Saturday at 6:30pm and was released Monday morning about 10am. I have cooked one meal since then, and you'll get the details tonight when I get home.

I just had a spare minute and thought I ought to come back to blog world to check in with y'all.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Swine is Fine

I still feel like crap. Really, this is not cool. I was not born to be a mouth-breather. I was born to eat pork. Like this pork. No really, click the picture.

When I'm lying in bed tonight praying for the double dose of Tussin (don't worry I didn't mix it with three painkillers or Xanax) to kick in, I will be thinking about this pig. When I finally do drift off into a fitful sleep, it will be because my body knows I need to dream about this pig.

Hat tip to Robyn from Serious Eats.

Sweet Jebus of Meat!!! Go here too. I dare ya. It's pork-friggin'-tastic.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Lentil & Veg over Rice

I am sick. Sick like I usually don't get. Sick enough to leave work early and go home.

I slept much of the afternoon. Then I got hungry. Fortunately I forced myself to go to the store and but only vegetables (and coffee) so that I could detox from the birthday week/superbowl weekend eating.

I shopped well.

After chopping that all up quickly, and garlic/onion, I set the rice cooker to work its magic and started sauteing.

This was simple. One sweet onion, two carrots, two stalks of celery (leaves too), one red pepper, and three cloves of garlic. Chop/Mince it and throw it into the saute pan with a little olive oil (in the order written above). Add in some coriander, cumin, and a dash of cayenne.

After it all softens, throw in a cup of lentils and about 4 cups of that homemade stock you thawed (right?). Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook half-covered for 15-20 minutes, adding liquid and covering as need to maintain some liquid in the pan.

salt and pepper to taste and throw it over rice. So tasty and filling. Most importantly for me tonight, I could actually feel my body getting healthier as I scooped up my fresh veg goodness.

Now I am going to bed again. Chez's orders. G'nite y'all. Bacon dreams. I'll have more swine posts soon.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Bacon Tease

More on the presto and it's hilarity later. As Swirley McBadly said, "I'm busy. You have waaay too many irons in the fire."