M. Andrew Gordon

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Last Minute Substitutions Yield Grand Results

In Beef, Main Dish, Soups and Stews, Uncategorized on March 2, 2011 at 9:40 pm

As I awoke on Sunday morning, I had a hankering for a richly spiced stew, possibly a curry or perhaps some Moroccan-inspired flavors.  That Lena would be coming back from running a 10K in the snow also made a hearty stew seem like a great idea.  Lamb stew really got me intrigued but when I went to the grocery store (I didn’t feel like making a special cross-town trip to a butcher), all of the lamb seemed excessively priced for the cuts available.  Enter the first substitution: boneless beef sirloin filets for lamb.  At this point, my thoughts began to drift back into the curry realm, and I started salivating thinking about beef rendang.  But I am nothing if not stubborn and I decided to try out the beef in a Moroccan-styled stew.

As I started chopping onions and cutting meat, I had every intention of serving this stew over rice.  But when I realized that I had several potatoes taking up space on the shelf, I decided that I’d try my hand at gnocchi.  Substitution number two turned out to be a smart one, as the soft, doughy gnocchi were the perfect accompaniment to this stew.

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Cranberry Pie, part 2

In Desserts, Pies, Uncategorized on November 23, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Last year I made an all cranberry pie that I thought was spectacular.  The reviews, however, were mixed.  Mostly they were split into one of two camps: those who reveled in the bracing tartness of the cranberry and those that just felt the tartness was too overbearing.  Although I firmly fell in the former camp, I do see the perspective of the too-tart crowd.  Cranberries are an exceptional little fruit for their exceedingly tart flavor with only a slight hint at the sweetness they offer at the back of the mouth.  That’s what I like about them – they’re just a little different, they’re not super-sweet and they damned sure taste like New England to me.

I was going to revisit this pie for the all-cranberry dinner party I was cooking.  For a dinner where cranberries would be featured in every dish, it seemed fitting to finish it off with a big celebration of cranberry in the form of a pie.  But I wanted to dress it up.  Originally I had made it as a two crust pie.  For the 2010 edition, I would top it with a towering layer of meringue.

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Rabbit ragout

In Dinner Party, Main Dish, Uncategorized on October 29, 2010 at 12:41 pm

I’m not sure the first time I ate rabbit.  I can remember the first time I cooked it, three or four years and two apartments ago.  My roommate and I braised the rabbit in a mustard-cranberry lambic mixture and for some reason, even though I can not recall the specifics of that meal, I just flat-out fell in love with the flavor of rabbit.  Since then, I seek it out anytime I see rabbit on a menu, which thankfully is becoming more common.

This particular course for the dinner party was partly inspired by reading chef Peter Davis’s Fresh and Honest.  Davis is the chef at Henrietta’s Table in Cambridge and one recipe in the book had caught my eye (well, many have, but in particular): a grit cake topped with a mushroom ragout.  There is something I love about the idea of grits that are allowed to cool and harden enough to be served as a cake and the mushroom ragout sounded absolutely delicious.  But when planning my menu I realized that I wanted to have meat in one dish (there was going to be octopus in one course but no terrestrial meats elsewhere).  Ox tails seemed like a good item for this, as they could be braised until tender, cooking down and making its own stock around it.  Surprisingly, I had a little trouble finding ox tails, which I hadn’t been planning on.  I thought about using duck but, again, was thwarted by availability as finding just legs of duck was not easy.  I wasn’t sure the breast would make the best ragout anyway.

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Thursday’s cusk

In Uncategorized on October 15, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Pan grilled Atlantic cusk with chanterelles, roasted Brussels sprouts, and bacon-stuffed eggplants.

Just Add Bacon

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2010 at 6:00 pm

June is proving to be something of a crossroad for me as far as this blog is concerned.  The past nine months of blogging has been an enormously fun, and more importantly, satisfying experience.  Whereas cooking and, really, all things food, has been a passion of mine for quite some time, pushing myself to write about food and the food I create has really crystallized that passion and focused my own interests on the subject(s).  In these nine months I’ve suffered a few setbacks and periods of general inactivity which I am not happy about because it violated the basic tenet of JustAddBacon: to highlight a newly created recipe each week.  In the abstract, I think I have probably met the quota for recipes over that time, as there have been plenty of weeks featuring multiple entries about multiple recipes, so all is not gloom.

Recently, I have grappled with the focus of this blog.  On September 19, 2009, I wrote in my introductory post that my plan was to blog “one new recipe per week.”  I haven’t much wavered from that narrow focus, rarely posting anything but an exposé on my culinary explorations and any resultant recipe that was brought forth.  But I have heard from several people that perhaps I should broaden the scope of the blog to include other’s recipes (guest chefs if you will), reviews on published recipes, critiques of restaurant meals and drinks, and even reviews of beer, wine, or liquors.  To basically chronicle my experiences as they relate to all things food and drink.  At first this made little sense to me, but the more I thought of it, the more the idea grew on me, to make this blog something more comprehensive, away from the narrow constraints of only unique recipes.

The reason June has been such a catalyst for thinking about this has been the sheer mass of experiences around food which have had little to do with my working at a stove or grill.  They have come instead in other places, some surprising, some not.

  • Lena and I made lemongrass chicken and gingered pork dumplings from scratch, even making the dough for the wrappers.  Because it was largely following a Food & Wine article, I didn’t see fit to blog about it at the time, despite Lena’s assertion that it would be fine to do so.
  • I have eaten a great meal at a restaurant I had previously never heard of because of Lena needing to sample the restaurant for work.  If you ever find yourself at Parson’s Table in Winchester, MA, do yourself a favor and order the Chocolate Semifreddo with Vanilla Gelato Affogato.  It is without question one of the best desserts I’ve eaten.
  • Lena and I cooked dinner for for her father’s birthday which included trout, fresh from Maine.  Amazing…and yet, no real new recipe.  But that trout could have been a blog post by itself based solely on how good it tasted.  So too could have been the coconut cream pie we made following Tom Douglas’ recipe, but then again, there are a few quality blog posts about that pie on the interwebs already.
  • I cooked brunch for about 25 people.  That fed my blog post of June 7 with my thoughts of cooking for a group of that size.
  • Cooked dinner for a good friend and collaborated on making chocolate pudding for dessert which she let me know was an absolutely egregious omission from my blog post about the dinner.
  • During a somewhat inebriated night (or as my friend Jared would say, “an overnight drunk”), I experienced the wonder of heating pretzels I had made earlier in the day on the grill at 4am.
  • I sampled several unique Montreal street foods: shish taouk and poutine.  The former is the Montreal version of chicken shwarma, the latter is a fascinating combination of French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds.   I expect to pull out a variation of this theme later in the year.
  • I had one of the greatest food experiences to date and it was as simple as could be.  While some food personalities have made their reputations on simplicity (there’s a reason Rachel Ray has made a killing) and others stress minimalism, like Mark Bittman in his Minimalist section of the New York Times, it was a completely simple moment when Lena and I discovered the joys of $7-per-bottle wine out of plastic cups, fresh (and local) goat cheese, bread, locally produced honey, an apple, walnuts, and csabai, a spicy, Hungarian cured sausage.  Sitting outside alongside Lake Champlain on a beautiful June afternoon, this represented a singular gastronomic experience.

All of these moments, crammed into a couple of weeks in June, made me think that broadening the scope of this humble blog might actually be a good idea.  So, with as little fanfare as possible, I believe today will mark the beginning of a new chapter at JustAddBacon.  While I would rather unveil wholesale changes all at once – to pull the tarpaulin off and reveal a shiny new version of JustAddBacon, polished and glinting in the sun – this blog is unfortunately not the only draw on my time.  So I offer the following as changes I plan to make and areas in which I will focus:

  • A continued push to meet my one per week goal of new, unique recipes
  • Any insights or thoughts on food that I may offer as they relate to cooking or other experiences through food
  • Reactions to new foods, new restaurants, new beverages
  • A new design/layout of the blog

I welcome any and all feedback on this new beginning.  Thanks again for reading and I look forward to doing my best to provide some interesting anecdotes about my experiences with food.

Lemongrass Pork with Rhubarb Sauce

In Uncategorized on June 11, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Lemongrass Pork with Summer Squash and Gingered Asparagus

For anyone who regularly reads JustAddBacon, it comes as no surprise that pork is fairly close to being considered my favorite of the big three meats (beef, chicken, pork).  Lamb might give it a run for its money, duck is a weakness, most game is stunningly delicious, and let’s not forget all manner of things from the ocean.  But from the American meat section’s big three meats, pork is probably my favorite.  Pork tenderloin, however, is a curious cut of meat because unlike, say, pork shoulder, it is tender from the start and doesn’t need any lengthy braising or smoking to become tender.  And, unlike pork shoulder or a well-marbled pork chop or even just pork loin, tenderloin is not the most flavorful of cuts.  This, however, is a bit of a strength in my opinion, as I think the tenderloin reacts quite well to marinades, glazes, and rubs.

Here, I wanted to impart the pork with some characteristic southeast Asian flavors such as lemongrass and ginger.  It was a stroke of good luck that I was also looking to use up some rhubarb that was in the refrigerator.  While rhubarb mainly finds its way into desserts using copious amounts of sugar, I have lately been fascinated with using it in less traditional ways.  By gently poaching the rhubarb in sweetened water, a solution much less sweet than simple syrup, it allows for the tart vegetable to be just lightly sweetened.  Care is needed with this step, as the rhubarb can quickly cook and break down to a mushy consistency which I did not want.

Other than taking the time to let the meat marinate and using a watchful eye with the rhubarb, this is an easy meal to prepare and was certainly just different enough to warrant making its way onto these pages.

Lemongrass Pork with Rhubarb Sauce

  • 2 stalks lemongrass, chopped
  • 1 lime, quartered lengthwise and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • ½ cup tonic water
  • 1 ½ pound pork tenderloin
  • 2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 3 large stalks)
  • 2 cups water
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ small red onion, diced (reserve remaining half for other use)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • Hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  1. In large bowl, combine lemongrass, chopped lime, garlic, ginger, 2 tablespoons honey, fish sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, and tonic water.  Mix together.  In baking dish or plastic bag, place tenderloin and pour marinade the meat.  Turn several times to completely coat the tenderloin.  Let marinade for 6 hours or overnight.
  2. While meat is marinating, combine water and sugar in small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves.  Add rhubarb and cook, just until water begins to boil.  Rhubarb should be soft but not mushy.  Using slotted spoon, transfer rhubarb to bowl and add remaining tablespoon of honey and tablespoon of vinegar.  Add onion, carrot, lime juice, and several dashes of hot sauce and mix well.
  3. Preheat oven to 425°F.  In large cast iron skillet (or other oven proof pan), heat butter over medium-high heat.  Add tenderloin and cook for about five minutes, turning several times to brown the meat.  Transfer to the oven and cook for about 15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145°.  Transfer meat to platter and tent with foil.
  4. Place skillet on stove over high heat.  Add rhubarb mixture and stir to deglaze the pan.  Turn off heat.
  5. Slice tenderloin and serve with the rhubarb sauce.

Thoughts from a Weekend’s Cooking

In Uncategorized on June 7, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Over the weekend, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking dumplings on Friday night, baking a variety of muffins and scones on Saturday, helping to cook an impromptu birthday dinner with my girlfriend, and then finally catering a 25-plus person brunch on Sunday.  It was also an unusual stretch which saw me cooking in three different kitchens: my own, Lena’s parent’s kitchen, and my aunt and uncle’s kitchen.

Since I was relying on a handful of tried-and-true recipes pulled from cookbooks and internet sources, there are few original recipes for me to share with you here.  I do, however, have a series of thoughts from that much cooking that might be worth mentioning here, as one of my goals with JustAddBacon has been exploring the background knowledge behind cooking, because a little bit of knowledge can carry you a long way in the amateur kitchen.  Before I go on, though, do yourself a favor and whip up a batch of this lemonade “concentrate, mix it with champagne (or, equally as delicious, club soda, if that’s your bag) and read on:

New England Lemonade

  • 2 ½ cups freshly squeezed lemon juice, from about 15 lemons
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup honey

1.       Combine lemon juice, syrup, and honey.  Whisk well until combined and refrigerate until cold.  Stir again before using.

To serve with champagne: add one tablespoon lemonade concentrate to champagne flute, top with champagne.

To serve with club soda: add three tablespoons to Collins glass, add ice, and top with chilled club soda.

Thoughts from a weekend’s worth of cooking:

  • Chinese-style dumplings are not terribly difficult to make from scratch.  Sure, rolling out each dumpling’s dough takes some extra time but it seems worthwhile to me when you eat them.  Depending on the circumstances, those are going to be in the rotation for cocktail parties for sure.  Recipe here.
  • If you ever want to bake scones, I’m not quite sure why this is, but use turbinado sugar instead of white granulated sugar.  Perhaps it is like switching between table salt and kosher salt – bigger crystals yield less weight per volume measurement (and why some chef’s demand that all measurements be by weight).  But the cranberry-pecan scones I made from a recipe on Epicurious.com, which I have made before, were incredible and that is the only difference I can think of.
  • Tom Douglas’ coconut cream pie recipe is just damn good.
  • Traditional champagne cocktails using sugar cubes soaked in Angostura bitters is a classic cocktail for a reason: it’s acidic, sweet, refreshing and full of interesting flavor all in one.  I am a fan of bitters to begin with, so that certainly helps, but this is a cocktail that I wish was easier to find at local bars.  Even with the rise of cocktail culture in recent years, the champagne cocktail(s) is something that seems curiously under-represented among even serious cocktail bars.  To me, it’s the cocktail equivalent to the session beer: a thirst-slaking drink that can be imbibed with near-disregard because of the lightness and relatively low alcohol (when compared to most cocktails).
  • Even if you know a kitchen well and have spent countless hours there, you don’t know it all until you stand behind the stove and spend some time trying to prepare a meal.  The kitchen at my aunt and uncle’s house is a place that I have spent a lot of time (hell, I could spin tales about the building of the house itself), but until Sunday I had never really cooked a meal there.  It’s a much different experience when you’ve got three pans heated, something in the oven, and you’re trying to chop herbs for a frittata.
  • ·         Sorbets require a particular balance between sitting in the freezer and the refrigerator.  The former simply makes flavored ice; the latter gives you cold syrup.  This isn’t wholly surprising, really.

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.

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.

The best meal in town? Last night’s leftovers.

In Uncategorized on February 10, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Using ingredients or whole components in subsequent meals is something that seems, in some part, to be a good frugal New England Yankee trait.  Though in fairness, I am sure this has absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with any geographical location and more to do with a characteristic of past years.  But this is a food blog about new recipes not a sociological study of changing social mores in America.

I don’t have a new recipe here to discuss but rather just a quick post about using leftovers again.  For instance, I made a variation on this Pork Stew last week and made cornbread to go with it.  We only ate about half the corn bread but two days later I used about a quarter of it for the filler in crabcakes.  The remaining quarter of the bread sat in the breadbox wrapped in foil.  On Saturday it was split in half and toasted, topped with a fried egg, some jalapeno-cheddar, and served with bacon and avocado.  That, my friends, is a cornbread that lived a good life: side dish to stew, integral component of crab cakes, and the foundation of a delicious weekend breakfast.

Because of my newly acquired ice cream maker, I have been using any food-based event as a good excuse to make a new ice cream.  This left me with a delicious espresso ice cream and the habanero-ginger ice cream from a recent post.  At a recent dinner-party, I served beer floats, pairing Berkshire Brewing Company’s Coffeehouse Porter with my espresso ice cream and Left Hand Brewining’s Milk Stout with the habanero-ginger.  The former pairing was spectacular and is something I very much want to break out in the future; the latter pairing was somewhat less successful, although that owes more to the overpowering flavor of the habenero-ginger ice cream than anything else.  A nice vanilla or burnt sugar ice cream might be just about perfect with the Milk Stout.

I also recently roasted a ten-pound pork shoulder for a dinner of six people.  Overkill really doesn’t quite begin to describe it.  Two days later I cut up the rest of the pork and wondered what to do with it.  Some chicken stock, onions, potatoes, various spices, a whole bunch of black-eyed peas, and about an hour yielded a decadent pork-and-bean stew that was pretty damned good on a cold winter’s night.

Half the plate was left open for bacon...don't ask what happened.

This past Saturday, Lena and I made a sautéed shrimp appetizer to tide us over before our stew was ready.  With the simple, bold flavor of garlic and soy sauce, it was rather tasty.  But…the next morning we were making waffles with a healthy dose of cornmeal in the batter.  And we upped the ante by laying bacon across the batter and cooking the waffle per usual (thank you to Mark Bittman and his book “How to Cook Everything”).  Sometime while the waffles were cooking we looked at each other and said, “what do you think about serving those shrimp over the waffles?”  Oh boy.  The shrimp were quickly warmed up in a skillet, put on the waffle, and topped with shredded cheddar.  I know it sounds a little crazy, but this is going into the brunch rotation for me.

All of which is to say, if you don’t like leftovers, you don’t know what you’re missing!