Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bacon Fail

I am no stranger to packing up and moving, I seem to do it at least once a year. In fact the closest thing to a year lease I have had since college was taking over a lease with 10 months left on it. I do however have standards. There are things I will not leave behind. One of them is my trusty griswold skillet. It is wonderful. It has a lid. Well, anyone who moves for seasonal jobs knows about the last minute scramble. No matter how long you have been preparing, planning and packing there comes a time when you are frantically cramming the last odds and ends into your car. Somehow during this most recent episode my skillet ended up in storage and not in Sue Bea. I didn't realize this mistake until sometime the first week I was here. I had bought some delicious local bacon for my potato salad. Brought it back to Tumble Inn (our staff office, where the refrigerator is) and nearly had a panic attack. My skillet was in Montana! I figured since the bacon was bits and pieces I could cook it in my pot. Bacon needs to be single layer to get crispy. It was the longest bacon cooking episode of my life. I had to make a decision. I decided I would buy a second skillet of a different size. Two skillets are reasonable. There have been times when I could have used two. I can now bake corn bread and fry bacon at the same time. Well, I will be able to when the skillets are united. What I have also learned from this adventure (besides always bring the skillet) is that pre seasoned is a load of crap. The first bacon I cooked was even sticking. I have yet to cook my eggs in the new skillet successfully over easy (one of the few ways I will consume eggs). My griswold is like magic, my mom bought it at a rummage sale, so even though it is nowhere near as dark as the new lodge pan, the 40+ years of bacon frying really shine through. If my eggs are broken in that pan, it's my own fault. One day I will look back at this and be proud of the work I put in to this second skillet. Right now I need to cook a lot more bacon in it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bacon as currency

Yes my friend. Having worked in ski shops for the majority of winters I have been old enough to collect a pay check, bacon and beer are equal to or greater than common currency. Why? Because ski shop employees are notoriously underpaid. We are hungry and thirsty from spending our days turning dins, waxing skis and taking ski breaks. When you bring me a bloody mary garnished with shrimp and bacon in exchange for waxing your skis, not only will I not be taxed on it, I won't have to shell out the $6 I just spent the last hour working to earn for said bloody mary later.
We can't hook up everyone all the time, we will remember your good deed and repay you when we can. After having some awkward encounters recently I thought the general public could use a guide on how to get the occasional bro deal.
#1. Never speak of the bro deal. Tourists don't want to know that you just got for free what they just paid $40 for. And by the way my boss is standing right over there, reference to previous bro deals could result in a lengthy bakery talk ie me getting yelled at.
#2. If you have a pre arranged bro deal, for example you are a pro patroler and my shop as a rule gives you free tunes be sure to casually mention your career when you drop off your skis. There are a lot of ski patrolers out there and as much as I appreciate what you do, you are not as famous as you think you are. Also I feel like a real big jerk when I don't recognize you and the person who took in your skis didn't mark them paid because they didn't recognize you and I try to charge you only to find out you are not just any Dave, you are THAT Dave.
#3. Payment is due at the time of service. Stringing us along and promises of future beer will get you no where. Payment in advance is welcomed weather you bring in a 12 pack with the snowboard you just ran over a cheese grater or drop off a random pizza that your work just put the wrong toppings on, we will remember it.
#4. Do not get all huffy when I cannot pass along the bro deal to you on this occasion. Did I mention my boss is standing right there. Did I also mention we have yet to make a single sale today, I can't just give away demo skis. Getting huffy and causing a scene will not only result in your not getting the bro deal this time, it puts in jeapordy all future bro deals you may have received. Always be prepared with funds so you can buck up and pay as needed. By the way, that is the way most of the rest of the world does business.
#5. Figure out what your local shop employees like. There was a vicious rumor going around one ski town I worked in that because we were also a bike shop in the summer we must love fat tire. Everyone in the shop hated it. While we graciously accepted it and drank it, it was everyone's last choice. Locals could have saved alot of cash and made us way happier with PBR. The shop I work in now two of us are gluten intolerant so wine, hard cider and spirits are preferred.
#6. Get creative. We will remember your creativity and thoughtfulness and go above and beyond for you. You better believe the skis of the patroler who always brought hot pockets as a tip and the woman who would make us dank coffeecake for breakfast got bumped to the front of the tune line.
#7. Consider the actual dollar amount of the work you are having done when calculating exchange rates. While a six pack may be sufficient to cover an edge and wax, if your skis look like they have been shot up with a .22 I might suggest bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo, a nice gluten free loaf and a bottle of patron.
#8. Establish a relationship with your local shop employees. Get to know us. Buy us a beer when you see us at apres. Talk to us, you may discover that you qualify for the our little brothers played on the same soccer team discount.
#9. Know your local shops policies. While both the shop I work in now and the previous shop I was in condone drinking towards the end of the work day not every shop does. I once spent a few moments fretting over having tipped the dudes at the local board shop a six pack of high life for holding the last ticket in existence for the 9pm TGR opening that night only to hear a rumor their shop owner wasn't down with liquid tips. I hope I didn't get them in trouble I quipped as I took another sip of beer. If it happens again I'll bake them cookies.
#10. Never speak of the bro deal. Ever. We have already covered that this is inappropriate shop talk. I just want to clarify that when I am at the bar or skiing, I am not at work. Well ok, since I do bartend two days a week, when I am at the bar sometimes I am at work, it is a different job and I still don't want to talk about base welding your skis. Nothing will alienate you faster than forcing me to talk shop off the clock. If I bring it up on my terms that is one thing. Don't make me mentally clock back in.
In general us ski shop folk really are cheerful people who do our jobs because we like to be on the mountain as many days as possible. That is just the thing, it is a job and we have to make money for the business. When you do get the occasional hook up, don't take it for granted. Don't expect it to be the norm. Smile inwardly and tip accordingly.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Breakfast, lunch or dinner

I love breakfast foods, who doesn't? Sometimes with pesky work and trying to catch the bus to save gas money and save the world there just isn't time to make the delectable breakfast I had in mind. I always make it up to myself on days off. Sometimes I just can't wait that long. And really, when there are eggs and bacon involved, the meal is hearty enough for any time of day.
You may also know I am doing a gluten elimination diet to find out if I am intolerant. On the advice of my childhood friend Melissa, I am only eating naturally gluten free foods during this trial time. The reasoning behind this is that if you eliminate a food and then introduce all sorts of new foods you aren't used to, you aren't running a fair test. This method also has made the transition much easier because I am focusing on what I can have (a lot) and not getting distracted by strange new tastes and textures that don't exactly measure up to what they are replacing.
This recipe is so basic and already gluten free. On my friday this week (wednesday) I just couldn't wait until the next morning to make this, so I had it for dinner.
I had half a pack of corn tortillas in the freezer, left over from a casserole I made a few weeks ago. My first task was to gently break off three corn tortillas and defrost them. I am also big on one pot meals. Even though the house I live in now has a dishwasher, usually in my life that task falls on my own two hands. So, while I was preheating the skillet I just stuck the tortillas in it.
Next you will need to fry up one slice of bacon per tortilla.
While that is going on, spread half of each tortilla with a thin layer of refried beans, salsa and a sprinkle of cheese. This is a great thing, I am discovering that it was the gluten that was making my belly unhappy this whole time. That means dairy is now probably ok for me and I am not actually cheating by eating it! Microwave the tortillas and their toppings for 30 seconds.
Spread a thin layer of jalapeno jelly on the other half of the tortillas. This is a new discovery of mine since my friend Leo gave me some for christmas. It is like southwestern sweet chili sauce, a little sweet, a little spicy. Of course you could just use a dab of hot sauce.
By now your bacon should be done. I like to put it right into the tortillas so the grease soaks in.
Finally, fry however many eggs you want right in the bacon grease.
Wrap up your tortillas into tacos and you have a delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Taste of Home

I am as American as apple pie. I didn't always own up to it, I used to joke that I was going to go to school for Canadian studies, eh and I am still waiting for my Canadian Nordic skier to sweep me off my feet, marry me and take me away to Saskatchewan. Over the years though, and especially after living in Montana and becoming a park ranger I have started to come to terms with my citizenship. My family's american roots can be traced back to the mayflower and not traced back to illegal immigrants who would never tell the whole story of how they got here for fear of being sent back. I grew up in a great little city on the north coast where I ate food from just about every country people in america come from.
My Dad's side of the family is eastern european. The exact country varies depending on who you talk to and how the borders were drawn on the map. The one thing that seems to be agreed upon is pierogies in some shape or form. Even if my own family was not part eastern european, Cleveland is very much so. I can not remember making pierogies as a kid, though I have my grandmother's recipe. The pierogies of my childhood mainly consisted of Mrs. T's. Easy and ready right from the freezer in less than half an hour. Once as a child my Mom took us kids on a pilgrimage to Parma Pierogies. This is where I discovered that pierogies could be deep fried and filled with things other than potato. What a revelation! There was even a brief time when Parma Pierogies opened an east side store where we would sometimes eat lunch. For the most part though our pierogies were made by Mrs. T and that meant bacon. You see if you read my grandmother's recipe you are supposed to use salt pork to keep the doughy dumplings from sticking together. Since salt pork is not so common now a days my Mom would always serve up a side of bacon with our Mrs. T's to provide a similar flavor. I of course do the same.
Pierogies are one of those great comfort foods because weather you make them or buy them you can keep them in the freezer to always have on hand. For a while I had to make my own here in Montana as Mrs.T had yet to settle the frontier. Then this summer, there they were in the freezer section of my local grocery store. I literally exclaimed in the aisle, "this is the best day ever!" Before adding them to my basket.
Now I am going gluten free for awhile to see if it helps my belly at all. I anticipate experimenting with a gluten free pierogie recipe. As long as there is soft dough, warm potato and bacon, I know it will taste like home.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


For as long as I have known my friend Audra she has made the best breakfast sandwiches of all time. The bacon egg and cheese. The bacon egg and cheese also has tomato and is packaged in an english muffin. The eggs are always over easy. If you do things right the yolk should run all over the plate like a poor womans hollandaise sauce. Audra makes these for special breakfasts. Sometimes to really make things classy she includes a nice cold can of cheap beer. Delicious.
I of course have fully embraced the bacon egg and cheese and have added several variations. The most common being the substitution of an everything bagel for the english muffin. Then one day while digging into the recesses of the fridge, I invented the BEAST, the ultimate breakfast sandwich. In fact I usually save it for lunch. What is a BEAST you might ask? It is:
On an everything bagel. The eggs again should be over easy. The bacon peppered if possible. Hot sauce is optional, I like to add a splash of tapatio to the egg just after I crack it into the pan. Don't expect to lap this up and run out the door. Stop off for a quick tooth brushing and face wash. If you have done things right you will have seeds from the bagel glued to your cheeks with egg yolk. Yum!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Winter Greenery

I have mentioned before that I used to be a vegetarian and for a brief period a vegan. Here is the funny thing about that; I did not like to eat salad. The reason is, that when you take a restaurant salad and make it vegan, it often becomes a poor excuse for a meal. I mean really, iceberg lettuce, five carrot shreds and a tomato is not a meal. I do in fact like salads, especially when I can make them myself. This is one of my go to salads for winter, it can easily be switched up for summer by substituting more fresh fruits (such as strawberries) and veggies. This salad is also deliciously easy.
Start out by cooking up 2 to 3 pieces of peppered bacon per person. I am usually just making this for myself, so repeat the steps for each plate if you are serving more people.
While the bacon is cooking shred a good amount of greens onto a plate. About 2 cups worth. I don't often buy into salad mixes and I don't believe in iceberg lettuce. I usually use a combination of spinach and red leaf lettuce. I just use my hands to tear the leaves into bite size pieces.
Next add about 2T of dried cranberries (I never actually measure anything in this recipe)
2T sliced almonds. You really could use any type of nut. I just happen to usually have almonds on hand. I like to break up the nuts before I toss them on the salad.
About 1/4 of a small log of chevre (goat cheese). That will be roughly an inch off the log. We have a great local goat dairy, I try to use their cheese when it's available. The flavor is worth the extra cost. Make sure to break up the goat cheese into small crumbles.
Sometime soon the bacon should be done. Drain the bacon and crumble onto the salad.
I like to make my own dressing because it is easy, cheap and I don't have to worry about discovering a two year old expired bottle of suspect dressing in the back of the fridge. Squirt about a teaspoon of honey into a small bowl. Microwave the honey for 10 seconds so it is easier to work with. Add about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a 1/2 teaspoon of mustard. Don't use yellow mustard. Use something that has identifiable mustard seeds in it. Wisk the dressing together with a fork, pour over the salad and mix everything together.
Enjoy. If you want this meal to feel even more like your own private gourmet feast make sure to have a delectable dessert waiting in the wings. I like a nice flourless chocolate cake. I believe the recipe I use came from epicurious.com.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey Time

I know, I know thanksgiving is all about the turkey. In the house of my childhood that meant bacon. Allow me to explain; in order to add a delicious seasoning to the bird and also keep it moist my Mom has always laid several strips of bacon over the top. Pork bacon of course, turkey bacon would just be silly.
Also as long as I can remember my Father and I have fiercely competed for that bacon. When the bacon coated turkey comes out of the oven the skin and the bacon are nice and crispy, not to mention at the peak of flavor. There are many strategies one can utilize to get to the bacon first. Waiting until dinner is served is not an option. Bacon does not make it to the table.
My Father's strategy has always been to be the husband. I believe there are other reasons he chose to be my Mom's husband, though I believe the bacon is a big part of it. What my Father does is insist that because he is the husband and a turkey is so big and heavy he should lift it for my Mom out of the oven. I know my mother to be rather strong and capable so this chivalrous act is really about the bacon. You see, lifting the turkey out of the oven puts my Father in perfect position to pick off one of the bacon pieces while Mom is not looking.
My strategy is a little different. I make the rolls. These batter rolls have been passed down from my Grandmother to me. When we aren't at her house I am in charge of making sure the rolls are light and flaky and full of butter. What no one realizes is how the rolls play into my bacon strategy. Said rolls could easily be made a day in advance, please don't tell my Father. When I am home I make the rolls right before dinner. I try to have them ready to go so that when the turkey comes out of the oven to rest the rolls go in, then everything is ready at the same time. Of course I cannot venture far from the oven lest the rolls burn. It just so happens that the turkey and all that bacon are resting on the stove. Delicious.
My Father and I have been in such fierce competition for the bacon for so long I'm not sure if my brother and sister even know that my Mom puts bacon on her turkey. I do have a sneaking suspicion that my Mom may be in on the bacon stealing action as well, though I have yet to figure out her strategy if she is.
Being of the number of decades that is usually considered grown up, I don't often get to be home for thanksgiving. This often means a lower bacon count for me. Everyone has their own way to cook a turkey it seems and it can be considered rude to sneak into their kitchen and doctor up their bird. That is why this year I am happy to be cooking the turkey.
The first and most important thing is to get a turkey and defrost it. We got ours from the local grocery store. Starting mid October they start tracking your purchases via your turkey (phone) number. If you spend $350 you get a free turkey. If you spend $750 you get a free Hutterite turkey. We made it just over $350 between the three of us. Last Saturday the turkey came home with us and went into the fridge to defrost. This morning we had to run a 10k. When we got back it was really turkey time.
Start with one thawed bird. Place it in a baking dish. Use whatever you have that the turkey will fit in. It turns out that all the hype about having a fancy roasting pan with a rack is just that, hype. Make sure all the giblets are removed from the bird. Cut up one apple and one onion, quarters will be fine. Place the apple and onion in a dish of water and microwave for one minute. Now cut one or two pieces of celery into three inch sections. Stuff the apple, onion and celery into the turkey. Whatever doesn't fit tuck into the pan. Next lay as many strips of peppered bacon across the carcass as you can. Cook at 325° for about three hours, when the internal temperature of the bird should be 160°. Don't worry the bird will keep cooking while it is resting. Double check cook times for the size turkey you have, I will not be responsible for your undercooked/overcooked bird.
While the turkey is resting you can fix up another take on a thanksgiving standby; the green bean casserole. As many folks know I don't really get along with lactose and I like bacon. It's time to step it up. Just like the normal version you will need to start with 16oz of fresh, frozen or canned green beans. Place the beans in a casserole dish. Cook four strips of peppered bacon and crumble into the dish. Now saute about 1/4 pound of chopped mushrooms and add those. Next you will need one cup of non dairy yogurt. Vanilla flavor is fine. I used soy because it was the most cost effective, however this could be equally good with cultured coconut milk or even goat milk. Finally add half of your can of those beloved french fried onions. Stir. Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes or until heated through. Add the rest of the onions to the top of the casserole before serving.
I have alot to be thankful for this year. Did I mention our friends brought bacon wrapped steak as a side dish? Enjoy your leftovers, we will be, for at least a week. May your next year be full of things to be thankful for, especially bacon!