M. Andrew Gordon

Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page

Caramelized Onion, Fig, and Bacon Pizza

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2010 at 9:46 pm

This past weekend was a good one for food, having spent some time with Lena’s friends learning the finer techniques for grilling pizzas, something I’ve long wanted to do but had never really tried.  With four different pizzas to be made, I offered a caramelized onion, black mission fig, bacon, and mozzarella pie that I greatly enjoyed.  But the braised fennel pizza was great as was the homemade pork sausage pie.  I also got to help make seafood sausages, which was great for a number of reasons.  It’s making sausage – what’s not to be excited about?  And I added a carrot-chickpea salad using a recipe that I had found in the May 2010 Food & Wine.  So, all in all, some pretty spectacular food over the weekend.  And I even got to have fried clams for the first time this season, so a definite culinary success this weekend.

But, as I often feel, I’m not sure how much of it is blog-worthy, mainly because I don’t feel like I did the hard work to really come up with the recipe behind it.  The seafood sausage, for instance, was fantastic but I was only just barely helping out with it.  So it wasn’t really something that I created.  The pizza was close enough, so I’ll just drop a quick line about that.

Caramelized Onion Pizza with Figs, Bacon, and Mozzarella

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large or 3 small yellow onions, cut in half and sliced thin
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 3 ounces bacon
  • 4 ounces dried black mission figs
  • 4 ounces mozzarella, preferably ?? Dairy
  • Pizza dough, enough for one pie
  1. Heat olive oil in medium skillet.  Add onions, tossing to coat with oil, and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently.  When onions have softened and start becoming opaque, add salt.  Watch heat and stir frequently.  The onions should just barely start to brown before they are stirred again.  Onions are done when they become almost jam-like and are a uniform golden brown color, about 35 – 40 minutes.
  2. Light charcoal grill.  Heat large skillet on stove and cook bacon until well-browned and starting to crisp.  Drain on paper towels.  When cool, crumble bacon.
  3. When coals are ready, place on one side of the grill, leaving one side cooler.  Let sit to warm grill.
  4. Slice figs into quarters and roughly chop the mozzarella.  Roll or toss out dough to desired shape.  Cook on grill for four or five minutes, turning as needed to evenly cook.  When the crust is starting to brown and the top is set, flip and transfer to dish off of heat.  Spread caramelized onions on crust, sprinkle figs and bacon and top with the mozzarella.  Place back on grill and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes, until the cheese has melted.

Thai Beef with Green Beans and Shitake Mushrooms

In Beef, Main Dish on May 20, 2010 at 8:27 pm

A thing of beauty

There are times I make a meal for myself and recognize the absurdity of an entire dish and pause, thinking that perhaps it is just too ridiculous to write about.  For instance, sometime this winter I was at a dinner party with some friends and my brother had brought some smoked trout as an appetizer.  Come the end of the night, there is a little bit left and it was going to get thrown out.  I couldn’t very well let that happen, so I bagged it up and took it home, putting it in the refrigerator and going to bed, forgetting all about the trout.  Two days later, I was looking to make breakfast when I suddenly remembered the smoked trout.  I quickly chopped a potato and roasted it; cooked up some onion; and combined it all with the trout in an omelet.  Genius.  It was delicious.  Something I am putting in my back pocket for a brunch in the future.  But it was the very way in which the dish came together that had me thinking it was absurd.  Who has smoked trout just sitting around?

So it was, the other night I had some left over filet mignon (absurd, right?) that I wanted to make into dinner.  I also had some green beans and shitake mushrooms in the refrigerator.  Dinner came together so quickly, with so little thought, and tasted so damn delicious, that I was left with little choice but to write about it.  Everything about it was good – a nice ratio of vegetable to meat, a dose of heat and spice, and a sweet and sour glaze from the fish sauce and honey.   Since I still think it is absurd that anyone would have leftover filet mignon waiting around, I wrote this to reflect using raw beef.  This would also be good over rice.

Maybe some time I’ll make that smoked trout omelet again and write the recipe for it…

And then the idea hits me: A regular column, if you will, on Just Add Bacon: Absurd Leftovers!  I have been thinking about shaking things up here for a while, so it fits right in with my current thinking.  And, I’ve made no attempt to hide my unabashed love for using leftover ingredients in a second or third dish, as evidenced by my February post on leftovers.  So there it is, an announcement of a new, regular feature here.  The Absurd Leftover recipe which will seek to reposition some leftover into an entirely new meal.  As a matter of fact, I believe there is one waiting in the wings already.

Thai Beef with Green Beans and Shitake Mushrooms

  • 4 ounces filet mignon or other tender cut of beef
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1 small chile pepper, sliced thin
  • Half small red onion, sliced thin
  • ½ pound green beans, cut into one-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2-3 dashes, hot sauce
  • ¼ pound baby shitake mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  1. Light grill to medium-hot heat.  Season beef with salt and pepper.  Cook until medium-rare or to taste.  Let cool slightly and slice thin.
  2. In large skillet, heat sesame oil to over medium-high heat.  Add garlic, chile pepper, and red onion.  Cook, stirring constantly, for one minute.  Add beans and stir into oil.
  3. Combine fish sauce, rice vinegar, honey, and hot sauce.  Add to beans and shake pan to distribute sauce.  Add mushrooms and cover, shaking pan frequently.  Cook for five minutes.
  4. Add beef and toss to combine.  Add sesame seeds, season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

(Just add bacon?) Ice Cream

In Desserts on May 20, 2010 at 6:30 am

Finally, I am ready to write a post about ice cream, just in time for the summer season (for those in areas where seasons are readily differentiated).  Back in the winter I had posted about the habanero-ginger ice cream from the Dr. No dinner party.

Mint Chip Ice Cream

Since then, I have made several different types of ice cream using two main recipes as the base.  One recipe I cribbed from Jeni Britton in the June 2008 Food & Wine.  That recipe uses cornstarch and cream cheese to help make the ice cream even creamier.  Another recipe I have used, which is slightly more traditional, was pulled together from several sources and uses egg yolks as the thickener to make custard.  At this point, I can’t really say one is better than the other, but the Britton recipe base seems easier to make.

The beauty of making ice cream is that, for the most part, the base recipe stays the same and you can tweak additions.  This can come in the way of another liquid, like the Stout Ice Cream, as an addition that gets strained out like in the coffee, basil, and mint ice creams, or with a pureed fruit like in the raspberry ice cream.

And despite the title of this post, I have not made bacon ice cream.  But I’m sure it’s only a matter of time…

Britton Vanilla Ice Cream – adapted from Jeni Britton’s recipe in June 2008 Food & Wine

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 ½ ounces cream cheese, softened (3 tablespoons)
  • 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1.     Fill a large bowl with ice water. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch. In another large bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.

2.     In a large saucepan, combine the remaining milk with the heavy cream, sugar, and corn syrup. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes. Off the heat, gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

3.     Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla extract and the salt. Set the bowl in the ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 20 minutes.

4.     Strain the ice cream base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Freeze the vanilla ice cream until firm, about 4 hours.

Traditional Ice Cream base

  • 3 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups cream
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until light yellow and thick. Set aside.
  2. Combine the cream and milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Slowly stir into the egg mixture. It is important to add the milk slowly and stir so you don’t end up cooking the eggs. Return to the saucepan and cook while stirring until the mixture is slightly thickened. Pour into ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s directions.

¨      Raspberry Ice Cream: Make Britton Ice Cream.   Combine one quart fresh raspberries, ¼ cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice in a food processor.  Pulse until well mixed.  Strain to remove seeds, reserving raspberry juice.  After cream mixture is poured into ice cream maker, pour in reserved raspberry juice and make ice cream per directions.

¨      Basil-Pine Nut Ice Cream: Make Britton Ice Cream, adding two cups fresh basil leaves to cream after the cornstarch has been added.  Toast ½ cup pine nuts until golden brown.  Strain out basil before pouring cream into ice cream maker.  After 20 minutes of churning, add pine nuts and continue per directions.

¨      Mint Chip Ice Cream: Make Britton Ice Cream, adding three cups packed mint leaves to milk/cream mixture once sugar is dissolved.  Strain out leaves after cooling and 20 minutes into churning; add 4 ounces of chopped semi-dark chocolate.

¨      Coffee Ice Cream: Make traditional ice cream.  Roughly chop 5 tablespoons coffee beans.  Add to cream and half & half.  Strain before pouring into ice cream maker.

¨      Oyster Stout Ice Cream.  Make traditional ice cream. Reduce 2 cups of Harpoon Oyster Stout to one cup.  Reduce cream by half and add to cream and proceed as directed.  If desired, mix in 4 ounces of chopped semi-dark chocolate.

Sunday Dining, Part Two: A New Classic Chicken Salad

In Main Dish on May 17, 2010 at 8:19 pm

In the second part of the Sunday Dining series, we will make a stopover for a different take on that all-American classic, Chicken Salad.  Did you know that, according to Wikipedia (therefore, it simply must be true), classic chicken salad with mayonnaise and tarragon was first popularized in Wakefield, Rhode Island?  Yet another reason to love li’l Rhodey.

Chicken salad is something I have only recently begun to enjoy.  For a long time, I naively passed on chicken salad because I envisioned the sort of institutional mayonnaise pulp one might find in a bad cafeteria.  Rather than suffer through that indignity whenever any sort of meat-mayo-salad was offered, I would opt for anything else.  Thankfully, I was exposed to a rather transformative chicken salad full of walnuts and dried cranberries and my newfound enjoyment of chicken salad was reborn.

Knowing that we were planning on getting a little 4.5 mile run in during the day, I wanted to use some chicken breast I would have to make chicken salad for a sandwich post-run.  Since I was going to be grilling the chicken, I wanted to help make sure the meat stayed moist, and wound up with the idea of melting butter and making a sort of curried butter sauce to glaze the breasts with.  Accompanying the chicken in the salad would be chopped Granny Smith apple for sweetness, red onion for tartness, toasted pecans to add more depth, and some garlic to add a little…zip.  That’s it, garlic for zip.  Sounds a little like a slogan from the 1950s.

New Classic Chicken Salad

Makes four sandwiches plus leftovers

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup plus one tablespoon mayonnaise
  • One lemon, juiced
  • Half large Granny Smith apple, chopped
  • ¼ cup pecans, toasted and chopped
  • Half small red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Light grill and heat to medium.  Combine butter, cumin, chile powder, turmeric, paprika, salt and pepper in saucepan.  Melt butter and mix thoroughly.
  2. Cook chicken, brushing with butter regularly.  Let cool and chop.
  3. Mix mayonnaise and lemon juice.  Add apple, pecans, onion, and garlic and combine.  Add chicken and mix thoroughly.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pile chicken salad on toasted bread, into a pita, or on a bed of lettuce.

Sunday Dining, Part One: Breakfast

In Baked Goods, Main Dish, Sauces on May 17, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Corn Cake with Egg and Cheddar

As I wrote recently, there are some times that I cook something new and interesting and rush to get it on the table and don’t properly pay attention to all of the ingredients or amounts used which makes it difficult to write about with any certainty.  There are also those times when I don’t photograph my meal or dish and then don’t feel good about writing about it without any corresponding photo.  This past Sunday, however, I got lucky, because I got three meals in the day which yielded the time and the results to be worthy of blogging.  So, without further ado, here is the breakfast installment.

Cornmeal and cornbread figure prominently in many dishes I create.  I make no apologies for my unabashed love of cornbread and my use of it in different ways.  Why I love it so much is difficult to figure, but I think it lies somewhere in the simplicity of the ingredients of cornbread, the ease in which it is made, and the varying textures that a well made cornbread exhibit. That cornbread also figures into many rustic, traditional North American cuisines also gives it some allure.  And I prize cornbread for its ability to adapt to the situation; it can be made to be drier or fluffier, more moist and more or less sweet as the situation calls for; it can be made into a biscuit, a muffin, a bread, a fritter, a waffle, or a pancake.  And as Lena pointed out on Sunday, it is probably the easiest and quickest way to make a fresh bread.

It was the cornbread as pancake idea that we wanted to work with this past weekend – the humble corncake.  Not

Batter in Griddle

content to just have a stack of pancakes, we devised two different servings of the same corncake, one using the cake as the base layer for cheese and eggs, the other a more traditional pancake with a rhubarb-honey syrup.  The former is pretty simple to assemble; when the batter is cooking on a griddle or skillet, you cook up some eggs over-easy or sunny-side-up as you wish.  Top a hot corncake with a slice of cheddar or whatever cheese you have on hand and then slide a piping hot egg on top of that.  Give it a good shot of freshly cracked black pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt and you suddenly have a much more luxurious breakfast than just pancakes.  And it can almost be done in the time it takes to pour a bowl of Krispy Flakes.*

*It is more accurate to say it can be done in the same time it takes you to open the Krispy Flakes, pour a bowl of cereal, realize that you have no milk, walk or drive down to the corner store, wait in line behind someone trying to find the exact change in their pocket, return to your home with milk, and pour the milk over your Krispy Flakes.  But, the corncakes do not take long to prepare.

Cooked Corn Cakes

Somewhat less simple to make but yielding fantastic results is the rhubarb honey.  I had some extra rhubarb in the refrigerator and thought it would make a delightful accompaniment to the corncakes.  Rhubarb is one of my favorite fruits*, probably for many of the same reasons as cornbread: the tartness of rhubarb pie and other dishes just seems sort of antiquated and even a little rustic.  The tart rhubarb needs some sweetness to really draw out the flavor, so pairing it with honey seemed obvious.  By simmering in the rhubarb in honey, you wind up flavoring the honey with the rhubarb, which is good, but you also let some water from the rhubarb dilute the honey, which is sort of bad.  This is really no problem as you simply put the liquid back on the stove and reduce it slightly.  The resulting syrup is a vivid red and pairs wonderfully with the nutty flavor of the corncake.  If you wanted to be really fancy, you could then mix the rhubarb-honey into a butter for the corn cakes.  The honey would also be delicious over ice cream.

*Is rhubarb a fruit?  It actually seems more like a vegetable since the edible portion of the plant is the stem.  As it turns out, as I thought, rhubarb is really a vegetable (sort of like tomatoes are really a fruit).  For some interesting reading into the history of the classification of rhubarb as a fruit, check out http://www.specialtyproduce.com/index.php?item=862.  Seems that in 1947 a US Customs Court ruled rhubarb should be classified as a fruit.

Corn Cakes

Corn Cakes with Rhubarb Honey

Makes 10-12 cakes

  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  1. Combine corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl.  In separate bowl, mix oil, milk, and egg until combined.
  2. Heat large skillet or griddle over medium heat with one tablespoon butter.  Mix liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and let stand.
  3. Ladle batter into skillet, cooking 3 or 4 at a time.  When bubbles just begin to form on the top, flip corn cakes and cook another minute.  Repeat, adding additional butter when needed.  Serve immediately or let stand on rack in low oven.

Rhubarb HoneyRhubarb Honey, first step

  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 cups rhubarb, chopped
  • ½ tablespoon butter
  1. Combine honey, rhubarb, and butter in small saucepan over medium heat.  As rhubarb releases liquid, bring to a simmer and let stand for about five minutes or until the rhubarb has completely softened.
  2. Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain liquid into measuring cup.*  Pour strained liquid back into saucepan and bring to a boil.  Let liquid reduce by about half and then let cool.

*When you strain the rhubarb, you will wind up with a ruddy looking mash of rhubarb in your strainer.  It’s nothing to look at but it actually has a nice flavor to it.  Being the frugal Yankee that I am, I saved the pulp and put some in Greek yogurt which was fantastic.

Spring Time for Soft Shelled Crabs

In Main Dish on May 9, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Soft Shelled Crabs gently frying. It's a wondrous thing.

Soft shell crabs are one of the ocean’s most decadent treats, a handy parcel of sweet crab without all the fuss and bother associated with removing crab meat from the shell.  Because for that one shining moment, the shell itself is edible, providing a satisfying crunch to balance the soft and creamy sweetness of the meat.  Due to a trick of nature, when the blue crab molts the new shell is very soft and, conveniently, the crab doesn’t eat.  So it doesn’t have anything in its stomach.  Very important if you’re going to be eating the whole darn thing!

Soft shell crabs can be grilled, fried, or sautéed.  I suppose they could be baked too.  The only messy part is cleaning them, but wherever you are buying the crabs from can do that for you.  If you’re adventurous, it’s really not that difficult although it trends toward the barbaric.  First, you need to take a good sharp knife (when I mean sharp, I mean sharp) or kitchen shears and snip off the eyes and mouth of the crab.  How about that, huh?  Then you remove the gills and, flipping the crab over; remove the loose “apron” from the underbelly.

I bought four crabs for two people, a pretty standard serving size.  But I was conflicted as to how I wanted to prepare

The All-American Soft Shelled Sandwich - crab with apple-garlic mayonnaise

and serve them.  Grilling them had a lot of appeal but I did not have access to anything but a propane grill.  I’m not necessarily a grill snob but I figured the soft shells would really suck up the smoky flavor of a wood grill and that in this case, the propane just wasn’t worth it.  So, I decided to stick to the tried and true: dredge the crabs in flower, coat in egg, and then dredge in bread crumbs.  I coated two in plain bread crumbs and two in bread crumbs with chile powder, cumin, and curry powder.  The latter might be my default soft shell crab seasoning as we both very much enjoyed the results.

On the serving end, I had visions of using flavors from Asian cuisines.  This prompted me to braise bok choy and shitake mushrooms in a garlic, ginger, and fish sauce-laced liquid.  The end result was good – probably not great – but still enjoyable.  My other idea was the prototypical soft shell sandwich.  But even there I was torn between several ideas.  One included an avocado-mango salsa but the other was even simpler: the crab on a toasted roll with an apple-garlic mayonnaise.  In some circles this might be called an aioli but frankly, that phrase seems a bit over done.  Also, this is just doctored mayonnaise so it doesn’t qualify as an aioli.  And ideally, I would have had some type of green on the sandwich, maybe watercress or arugula.  But I didn’t have any at the time.

Basic Soft Shelled Crab Preparation

Soft shelled crab on gingered bok choy and shitake

(Serves 2)

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 soft shelled crabs, cleaned
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon chile powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  1. Combine butter and oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Place egg and water in shallow bowl and beat well.  Place flour in separate shallow bowl.  In third bowl, combine curry and chile powders, cumin, and bread crumbs.  Dredge crabs in flour, shake off excess; dredge in egg and then dredge in bread crumbs.  Tap off excess.
  3. With butter starting to foam, cook crabs top-side down for four or five minutes per side, until cooked through and golden brown.
  4. Serve on toasted rolls or on top of greens.

All-American Apple Mayonnaise

The whole damn feast: soft shell crabs over gingered bok choy and shitakes; two different soft shelled crab sandwiches; and oven fries. With Long Trail IPA.

(enough for two sandwiches)

  • 2 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons diced apple
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Freshly ground pepper
  1. Combine all ingredients.  It’s awfully difficult.

Spotty Updating and New Posts

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2010 at 9:08 pm

And here I am, another week in without a new post, watching the Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-once-of-California-and-formerly-purely-of-Anaheim…I digress.  Point is, this blog is over six months old and over the winter I haven’t quite lived up to my expectations for it.  My cooking has not waned; if anything, I am cooking as much or more than I was in the fall.  But each time I cook something I am faced with one of several challenges.   To explain:

  1. The No-Picture Scenario: Someone once said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  I imagine that person worked for Kodak.  But in the world of food/recipe blogging, I think they might be right.  I am reticent to post about a recipe if I am forgetful and do not get any meaningful photos.  And, uh, that happens a lot.  Just this week, I made this really interesting salad with grilled potatoes, onions, and peas topped with steak and a hardboiled egg.  Dressed with a quick blue cheese dressing, it was really quite good.  But no pictures exist.  It’s sort of like the Yeti.  Except Jimmy Stewart didn’t try to bring back this salad in a suitcase (and as an aside, last week there was a pretty decent potato salad with a poblano dressing that didn’t get photographed).
  2. The Forgetting What Exactly I Did: Notice a trend?  I’m forgetful.  Yes.  Sometimes, like tonight, I cook dinner and forget what exactly I did.  There are no notes.  No scraps of paper with a few cryptic notes about how dinner was prepared.  I can tell you this much: I marinated a steak; not a fancy cut, something like top sirloin, in a mixture of bourbon, mustard, and soy sauce.  There may have been some honey in there too.  Simple, yes, but it was pretty delicious.
  3. Making Tried-and-True Recipes: This is the easiest trap to fall into when cooking – just going to the same old recipes that I don’t particularly think are unique or new.  Which violates my basic tenet of JustAddBacon: that recipes should be new and creative.  So, when I sesame chicken in lettuce wraps with peanut sauce from a recipe I’ve cribbed from Bobby Flay, it’s hardly me being creative.  So it has no place on this blog.

I am going to try to get better about this, as two of these are very easy to fix.  And as soon as I get some pictures from the weekend, I’ll have a post about soft shell crabs up.