Bacon Brittle

A few weeks ago I was watching one of the cooking competitions on the Food Network where one of the contestants decided to up her burger entry with bacon jam.  I was intrigued enough to go on the hunt for a bacon jam recipe.  Now, there are no bacon haters in this family.  Just the opposite.  I can even get my husband to eat fried liver if it is cooked with bacon in bacon fat, so I thought I would surprise him with bacon jam to be used on the burgers we were planning for dinner that night.

There were a lot of recipes to choose from but I decided to play it safe and selected one featured on the Food Network.  Here’s the ingredient list for the recipe I selected.

  • 1 lb bacon
  • 1/2 a white onion
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1 bunch fresh roughly cut fresh thyme leaves

The recipe directed me to brown the bacon in a non-stick skillet.  Remove the bacon, add the onion to the bacon fat and cook until translucent. While onions are cooking, chop the bacon.  After the onions are cooked add the brown sugar and apple cider to the pan and reduce the sauce.  Stir in chopped bacon and the thyme.

Seemed pretty simple.  In reality, the execution was not exactly what I expected.  In fact, it was an epic failure. And I am sure it was because I second-guessed the recipe.

My first problem may have been my choice of bacon.  I was using a thick-cut bacon when I probably should have been using regular cut bacon.  I began by cutting up the bacon before I put it into the skillet. I thought if you have to cut the bacon up anyway why not do it before it gets crunchy.  Not a good idea as some pieces got browner ( read burnt) than others.  When the bacon was cooked and removed from the pan I went to add the onion.  It seemed like there was FAR too much bacon fat in the skillet for this recipe to work so I drained most of it off. I think I might have left a couple of tablespoons in the skillet.  I added the onions and cooked them up. Then I added the brown sugar and the apple cider vinegar and waited for the sauce to reduce.  When it seemed like it was reduced enough I stirred in the bacon and the thyme and let it cool.  After about 15 minutes I went to check on the “jam.”  What I had was not jam but a cooling mass of essentially bacon brittle.  I turned the heat back on and added a bit more apple cider.   It loosened up the jam a bit but the minute I turned off the heat I was back to bacon brittle.

Too late I realized you actually need that much fat to interact properly with the sugar and the acid.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time or ingredients to remake the “jam” so I let it cool, put it in a double baggie and, using a meat mallet, broke it up into bacon bits.  While it was still good on our cheeseburgers, it was not at all what I was hoping to achieve. In fact, it came close to an epic failure.

Will I try this again?  Absolutely. But it is times like this that I like to ask myself the question from the old “Kung Fu” tv series ” What have you learned from this grasshopper?”  My answer – Do not use thick-cut bacon, don’t pre-cut the bacon, and use all the fat.

Or maybe just find a different recipe!

Posted in American Food, Cooking, Food, Jams, meat, Pork, Recipes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Chicken and Tuna? You Bet!

Last Sunday it was our turn to host the gourmet group gathering.  It is the dog days of summer here in New Mexico and while the house is cool, the outside temperature begs for cold dishes.  And, truth be told, after my surgeries in October and then my bout with cancer, I am still regaining my stamina.  So something complicated was not in the cards.

We recently had oven-fried Chipotle chicken and there, on the opposite page was an idea too good to pass up – Poached Chicken breasts with Tuna Basil Sauce.  I wouldn’t have given the idea a second thought  – not a big fan of poaching – but using the sous vide machine, now that’s a different story.  Another plus, the recipe calls for everything to be made at least 6 hours ahead or, preferably overnight. All that remains to be done on the day of the dinner is plating, garnishing and bringing to the table.  I have modified the original recipe by sous viding the chicken and adding the arugula.  but poaching would work just as well, though you may want to use bone in skin on breasts if you are poaching the chicken.  I have to admit it was a great idea.  The house stayed cool and I had none of the stress associated with last-minute cooking.  A BIG win all around!

Cold Poached Chicken Breasts with Tuna Basil Sauce     Serves 6

  • 6 chicken breasts
  • 6 ½ ounces of canned tuna packed in olive oil, drained well
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1 tbl. Drained bottled capers, more for garnish
  • 2 tbl. fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 1/3 c finely chopped fresh basil leaves, plus sprigs for garnish if desired
  • 3 cups loosely packed Arugula
  • Kalamata olives as a garnish

Sous Vide the chicken breasts per directions for your machine, remove from the water bath when done and place in the refrigerator for at least six hours or overnight. If you prefer the poaching method, bring enough water in a pot to cover the chicken breasts by one inch and bring to a boil. Add the chicken breasts and salt to taste to the water.  Simmer the chicken breasts for 18 minutes (a bit longer at altitude) and remove the kettle from the heat.  Allow the chicken breasts to cool in the liquid for 30 minutes.  If you used bone-in skin-on breasts, when cool enough to handle, remove the skin and the breast from the bone.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Place the tuna, mayonnaise, yogurt, anchovies, 1 tbl of capers, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor.  Blend until the sauce is smooth.  Transfer sauce into an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.  Finely chop the basil and set aside.

To serve, place ½ cup of arugula on each plate. Place a cold chicken breast on top of the arugula. Stir the chopped basil into the tuna sauce and cover each chicken breast with a thin layer of sauce.  Garnish the chicken breasts with additional capers, Kalamata olives, and sprigs of basil.

The other couples contributed an appetizer, a side, and dessert.  And, as I had announced the entree to the group via email the others followed my cold idea with dips, cold fruit and vegetable salads and sorbet with cookies.  We poured a chardonnay and a merlot with the dinner.  A good time was had by all!

Posted in American Food, Chicken, Cooking, Entree, Food, Gourmet groups, meat, Recipes, Sous Vide, Tuna | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Ribs!

Last week, while planning our menu for the upcoming week, I included some baby back ribs that were in the freezer.  I thought they would be perfect on July 4th.  Then, because ribs are always a two meal event, I decide to rearrange the menu to have the ribs on Sunday and have BBQ chicken on the fourth.  All was going as planned until I went to the freezer on  Saturday night and discovered we had eaten the last slab of ribs out of the freezer!  I’m usually pretty good about verifying what I believe is on hand to actually be there but for some reason that step got omitted last Friday.  Fortunately, I discovered I did have a pork tenderloin in the freezer so it was substitution time.

The temperature yesterday was hovering in the upper nineties – not exactly the time to turn on the oven.  We briefly discussed putting the tenderloin on the grill but I’m always leery of grilling a piece of meat as lean as pork tenderloin.  Then I thought about my sous vide machine.  Perfect!  Season the meat, seal it up and put it in the sous vide machine for a little over an hour.  No heat in the kitchen, no dry meat – what more could a girl want.  Oh, maybe a sauce.

Just before I took the meat out of the sous vide I started heating up my cast iron frying pan.  When it was sizzling hot I took the tenderloin out of the cooking bag and put it in the frying pan.  After I got a nice sear on all sides I set it on the island to rest.  I added a tablespoon of butter to the pan and let it melt. I added 1/4 cup of Heidi’s Raspberry Jam to the melted butter along with the juices from the cooking bag and scraped up all of the goodness in the pan.  I evened out the sauce with a little white wine.  It was the perfect touch!  I rounded out the meal with mashed potatoes and broad beans.  Not bad as substitutions go.

And if you’re interested, Heidi’s raspberry farm is located here in Corrales.  If you don’t live near Corrales and would love to sample some of the best raspberry jam around, just click on the link above to visit her site and order. And in case you’re wondering, yes, she sells raspberry chile jam. No I don’t use it.  Just because I live in New Mexico doesn’t mean I have the sudden urge to mix green or red chile in everything.  Somethings are too good to mess with!

Posted in American Food, appliances, Cooking, Corrales, Food, Fourth of July, Jams, meat, Pork, Recipes, SanSaire Immersion Circulator, Sous Vide | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Starting Over

It has been quite a while since I’ve been up to posting.  But I suspect I can be forgiven considering what has gone on in the last eight months of my life.  Without boring you with too many details, since late October I have had three surgeries, been diagnosed with cancer and, after treatment, been pronounced cancer free.  During that time we received notice that we were voted one of the top 5 B&B’s in an  Albuquerque The Magazine  “Best Of” poll, so the news wasn’t all bad!  While the inn was closed for much of that time as I recovered I am now back up to speed and ready to share my kitchen adventures.

My latest obsession is Tonnato sauce.  The June edition of Food and Wine magazine has a recipe for Pork Loin with Tonnato Sauce and Summer Salad that looked intriguing so I gave it a try.  Because the dish is served cold, it’s a great summer meal. As pork is quite frequently in my menu rotation, this one will appear again.  But it was the tonnato sauce that really won us over.  It was so good on the pork that I began imagining all of the other uses for this versatile sauce.  Cold chicken breasts and all manner of pasta came to mind.  It also makes a great dressing for greens and vegetables like cucumberAlbuquerques and tomatoes.

Since the recipe makes about two cups of sauce I was able to experiment that very same week.  I have used it on three cheese tortellini with broccoli and chopped greek olives, and, just recently on fettuccine with chopped wilted spinach and greek olives ( greek olives seem to have an affinity for this sauce.)  I plan on making more next week to top tuna burgers and as a sauce for stuffed chicken breasts.  This sauce is really versatile for summer meals.  The only drawback is that it must be used cold.  Heating the sauce breaks the mayonnaise base.  However, mixed with pasta right from the pot and thinned with a little pasta water, the sauce warms up quite nicely. So here’s my new goto sauce that has me back cooking with a vengeance!

Tonnato Sauce

  • 1 cup mayonnaise ( do not use lite mayonnaise)
  • 1 5oz can of tuna in olive oil, drained (use the best quality canned tuna you can get. It makes a difference in the taste of the sauce.
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.



Posted in appliances, Cooking, fish, Food, Food Processor, Pasta, pasta, Pork, Recipes, Salad, Sandhill Crane Bed and Breakfast, Seafood | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cool as a Cucumber

Is it a midwest thing or did a lot of you grow up hearing the phrase “cool as a cucumber?”  It was certainly a part of the lingo I heard as a child.  Unfortunately, it can be hard to be as “cool as a cucumber” when the outside temperature is hovering around 100 degrees F.  (that’s around 37 degrees C for my metric friends and family.)  Any way you measure it, it’s hot!

On days when the weather turns that hot, I look to serve cool dishes as dinner entrees.  This week we’ve been enjoying cold meals. One of them was “Cool as a Cucumber ” Cucumber soup!  It’s really easy, requires absolutely no cooking, and can be made well ahead of time.  If you’ve got a blender or a food processor you’ve got this dish made!

Cool as a Cucumber Soup                      Serves 2 as an entree with a little leftover

  • 1 lb cucumbers (I find that two medium size cucumbers provide you with the required amount.  You will be removing the seeds so purchase cucumbers that weigh slightly more than one pound)
  • 6 scallions
  • 1 cup chicken stock, more if the soup is too thick (Note: if you are going to consume the soup as soon as it is made use cold chicken stock.)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (do not use Greek yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • juice of one lemon, divided
  • salt and pepper to taste

Trim the ends off of the cucumber, no need to peel the cukes, and cut in half lengthwise.  Using a teaspoon, scoop out and discard the seeds.  Slice the cucumber into strips then into a dice.  (If you are using a blender I recommend a smaller dice as it will process faster.) Set aside.

Cut the root ends off of the scallions and chop. Include the white and all of the green parts of the scallion.

Place the cucumbers and scallions into a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Add the chicken stock and puree until smooth.  If you are using a blender you may need to process the vegetables and stock in two batches to achieve the desired smoothness.

Add the yogurt, sour cream and 2 Tbl of lemon juice and puree again until all the ingredients are well combined.

If you are not serving immediately, and I have found this soup is better if it has time to sit, pour into a container and season with salt and pepper to taste.  And just like that, you’re done.

When dinner time comes around, stir the soup well.  Add additional stock if the soup is too thick and additional lemon juice, salt and pepper if desired.

I serve this soup with garlic pita chips (follow this link on my blog to see the recipe for these addictive things!)

A great meal for a hot summer day!

Posted in American Food, appliances, Cooking, Entree, Family, Food, Food Processor, Kitchen tools, Meatless, Meatless Meals, Soups, vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Menu Day

Another week has gone by.  Here it is Thursday and time to plan the weekly menu.  Of course, when you own a B&B weekly menu plans cover both breakfast and dinner.  Fortunately, my guests have already made me aware of their dietary preferences and requirements so that menu is pretty well set.  Dinners, however, are another story.  Repeating a week’s worth of breakfast menu ideas isn’t really a problem as most guests are not here for more than a week. I suspect George would get a little testy eating the same dinner menu week after week so Thursdays are spent looking at the grocery store sales, the weather forecast, and past menus to determine what we can have that is “different.”

This week is going to be hot.  While the inn is a cool 73 to 74 degrees F., it is going to be over 100 degrees F. outside.  While we restrict our outdoor activity when it gets this warm, just running errands can take a lot out of you.  So I will be looking for light meals that feature more fish and vegetables or meals that can be served chilled.

Here is my plan for next week.

Friday and Saturday are already covered.  Friday we’ll have leftover pork roast which I will turn into BBQ pork sandwiches and Saturday we’ll do some Italian sausage in the grill with sauteed green peppers.

Sunday will be something on the grill – pork chops or a small steak with baked potatoes and roasted vegetables.

I think I’ll kick off the week with a nice iced cucumber soup served with garlic pita chips.  The chips are a little labor intensive but so worth the effort. And if I make them immediately after breakfast the kitchen won’t get too hot.

I like the idea of a cold fish salad so I will get a couple of trout, smoke them and serve them cold with a flavored mayonnaise alongside and a few sliced tomatoes to complete the dish.

I have decided to make my favorite sous vide chicken breast dish with mozzarella, basil (which is growing like crazy in a pot on the portal) and roasted red pepper.  Julienned zucchini squash lightly sautéed in garlic and olive oil will do double duty as both a vegetable and a starch substitute.

And finally, tomatoes stuffed with crab salad made with a typical southern rémoulade and crusty rolls.

There you have it.  My menu is planned, the shopping list is completed.  I’m ready for the store.

Stay cool!



Posted in American Food, BBQ, Bed and Breakfast, Beef, Chicken, Family, fish, Food, Meatless Meals, Menus, Pork, Salad, SanSaire Immersion Circulator, Seafood, Smoked Food, Sous Vide, Southern Food, Trout, vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy 4th Of July!

It’s the 4th of July and that means it is time for one of the best parades in the area – thanks Corrales MainStreet – and later in the day to fire up the grill and get cooking!  For a lot of people, hot dogs and hamburgers are the fare of the day.  They’re fast, they’re traditional and they can feed a crowd quickly and without breaking the bank.  As it is just the two of us we have decided on a more ambitious menu.  We are having baby back ribs, corn muffins with jalapeno and cheese and Louisiana Cole Slaw.

My husband LOVES my Louisiana Cole Slaw (don’t ask me why it is called Louisiana ColeSlaw, maybe because I first had it at a cooking class that featured Jambalaya and they wanted to tie everything together.)   Usually, when I make Cole Slaw I slice up some cabbage and dress it with Cole Slaw dressing.  Nothing fancy.  My Louisiana Cole Slaw has a few more ingredients and if your really ambitious, homemade dressing.  Because it is hot and I make enough to for more than one meal I am using commercial dressing.  Not taking any chances with raw eggs! I’ve made this recipe numerous times for block parties and larger gatherings.  It is a big favorite with the men.

Louisiana Cole Slaw   4 generous servings

  • 1/4 head of green cabbage ( or a mix of red and green)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored an diced
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Cole Slaw dressing to taste

Slice the cabbage into 1/4 inch slices.  Stack the sliced and dice the cabbage.  Place in a bowl.  Grate the carrots on the large hole side of a box grater. Add to the cabbage in the bowl.  Slice the apple, stack the slices and dice.  Add to the bowl.  Add the raisins and dressing to taste. Mix well and refrigerate for at least two hours so the flavors can meld. And yes, it tastes just as good – maybe better – the next day!

Happy 4th!

And Happy 11th Birthday to our rescued Rhodesian Ridgeback Boz.  Party on B Man!

Posted in American Food, Cooking, Cooking class, Corrales, Family, Food, Fourth of July, Holidays, Kitchen tools, Menus, New Orleans Food, Recipes, Rhodesian Ridgeback | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment