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!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

From Vegan to Bacon Godess

When I started this blog I was asked by a good highschool friend; "aren't you a vegetarian?" Because it's true, from 5th grade until the summer after our senior year in highschool I was in fact a vegetarian, well a pescetarian if you want to get technical.
What knocked me off the wagon was one too many white bread and american cheese sandwiches at the summer camp I had worked at for most of highschool. You see, I am also lactose intolerant. Though I would usually eat the cheese, you can imagine I was not really taking in enough calories. I was hungry. One day I could take it no longer, I ate a hot dog. After that my friend Joe, who had recently fallen off the wagon as well, and I went on a meat eating binge. We had to remember what animals tasted like after nearly a decade each of not eating them. We were out to try everything!
A few years went by and I graduated from college. Then I followed in the footsteps of so many by moving to Colorado to snowboard. Sometime during the Colorado years I decided to return to vegetarianism. I wasn't as strict with myself and have always held the belief that I should try everything once (I will never eat animals I have had as pets, or horses). And yes, I did eat rocky mountain oysters. Before I went veg again, I tried them believing they were salisbury steak. They looked and tasted just like the salisbury steak at the cafeteria where I worked. I thought that they just put up the sign for rocky mountain oysters to get a rise out of the tourists. I later discovered that in fact the rocky mountain oysters were authentic.
After a few years in Colorado I moved to southern California. My good friend there was a vegan and I decided to give it a go. I mean being lactose intolerant I really shouldn't be eating cheese. I had yet to eat true free range chicken eggs, so I also didn't really think I liked eggs. Handily the cafeteria here in California provided a soy substitute for every animal based protein. We had soy sausages, soy corn dogs, soy nuggets, soy burgurs, soy patties...the list goes on. You may have heard that eating too much soy is bad for you. I can attest to it, I was crazy and generally not fun to be around. I am much happier now that I eat bacon again.
Towards the end of the first year in California I made a decision. If I or a person I knew had killed an animal, I would eat it. I tried fresh tuna from the Pacific and rattlesnake. I also started eating eggs from the chickens where I worked, turns out eggs ARE actually good. I tried drinking goat milk straight from the milking bucket, that is one I won't be trying again.
That summer I moved to Montana, where I eventually moved full time, where just about everyone hunts and fishes and it is difficult to establish residency if you don't eat meat. I tried fresh caught trout, elk, moose, bison. It was all delicious.
And so my food views changed once again. The more I returned to Montana where the farm to table path is more transparent, the more meat I have eaten. I try not to eat meat more than once a day, I try to have at least one day with no meat. I am gentle with myself with both my rules and the dairy. I eat bacon, and it's delicious. I do my best to shop locally. When I do eat prepared foods, I try to eat things that have the same ingredients I would use (do you have the ingredients to make soy bacon in your pantry?). I try to avoid soy at all costs (I do eat edemame, I could pick that myself if any of the farms would let me). I have also learned that the better the pigs are treated the better the bacon tastes. And really animal welfare is the reason I originally became a vegetarian all those years ago. This week's recipe is void of bacon (I am still recovering from the bacon chocolate chip cookies). It does contain one of the ingredients that convinced me that eating some meat was ok; elk, hunted and butchered by someone I know.
First you will need to get some elk steaks. If you don't hunt yourself, find out who among your friends does and start offering to do things for this person in trade for these steaks. Do they need a ride to the airport? Help with the butchering? Their carpets cleaned? Figure it out, you will need about a pound.
Other ingredients:
Peppers (green, red or yellow and something mildly spicy such as anaheim, one of each)
Taco seasoning
Defrost the elk steaks and cut into strips the size you would expect to find in a fajita. Put in a bowl and mix with about a tablespoon of the taco seasoning. I'll let you decide exactly how much seasoning your elk needs.
Chop up as much onion as you like. I don't enjoy very much onion, so I use about 1/4 of an onion.
Put your skillet on the stove on medium heat and toss the onions in.
Meanwhile chop all three peppers. When the onions are starting to get tender add the peppers, salt, pepper, another teaspoon or two of taco seasoning and about 1/4 cup of water. Put the lid on the mixture and cook until the peppers are tender. Now you can take off the lid and add the elk steak. Stir and cook for not much more than five minutes. The elk should just be brown on the outside and pink in the middle. Please don't overcook the elk.
Hopefully you remembered to warm those tortillas because you want to eat this right away. Plenty of veggies and local meat, yum!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometime while I was working on the bacon apple tart I had another epiphany. Why not make bacon chocolate chip cookies? I mean bacon covered chocolate is good. Why not take it one step further?
I thought about this for a while and figured I could just add bacon to chocolate chip cookies. Then I thought some more.
Start out with a clean seasoned skillet. I realized in the middle of making my first batch that I had cooked lake trout in my skillet the night before. In this case I think I got lucky in terms of taste transfer, I still don't like to think about it. You see, although some may call it gross, I am of the school that the less I clean my skillet, the better. I have learned though that this can backfire after one too many fishy tasting pancakes. Now, as a general rule (except for last night) I do try and give the skillet a little scrub after I fry fish.
So, as I said starting with a clean skillet, fry four pieces of bacon until crisp. Drain bacon and reserve 1/2 cup of the grease. Now let everything cool down. Go and do something else for about an hour. Do not speed up the process by putting the bacon grease in the refrigerator. Just be patient. Going for a 5 mile run would be a good idea.
Ok, here is the rest:
Mix together the 1/2 cup bacon grease (if you didn't get that much grease from your bacon add butter to make up the difference, butter is also a good substitution if you don't have an ultra marathon in your future)
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 c brown sugar, I live at 5,000 feet so I don't pack my brown sugar, I find it helps with the whole altitude thing, you do what you need to do.
Mix this together then add:
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg (your roommate will be happy to give you one if you share your cookies)
1/2 tsp vanilla
Now mix in 1 1/4 c flour
Next ingredient is 1 c chocolate chips and finally crumble in the bacon, you should have about 3/4 of a cup.
Dole out 1T balls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. In between batches put the remaining dough in the fridge. I baked mine at 375° for 12 minutes a batch. I would recommend checking your cookies after 8 minutes and then making your own call on how much longer they need. Depending on how much dough sampling you did, you will get about 2 dozen cookies. If the cookies will be around longer than a day I recommend storing them in the fridge.
Serve these cookies with a tall glass of milk (or your favorite lactose free alternative) and a side of leafy greens to counteract their affects. These cookies should be taken with physical activity as well, such as a recovery food for an ultramarathon.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Everything is better with bacon

With the start of November the big day is already on my mind. By big day I mean of course thanksgiving. My roommate and I have already started planning out what we will be making. She asked me if I might be able to make a pie, perhaps apple. "Sure," I said, I can make an apple pie.
Later that night as I started thinking about the pie I had promised to make, I realized that there was only one pie plate in the house and it was already promised to another thanksgiving dish. Maybe I could make a tart. And then, just as I was drifting off to sleep I wondered, could I put bacon in an apple tart?
The next morning when I awoke I set to it. I looked high and low for a recipe for a bacon apple tart. Well, such a thing does in fact exist. However every recipe was for a savory tart with gross things like onions in it. This was supposed to be dessert.
There was only one thing to do, invent my own bacon apple tart. I ended up borrowing heavily from my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. You know the one, red checked, most of the pages gummed together except the page with the chocolate pudding recipe, that page is suspiciously missing. I loosely followed the directions for the "country peach tart." My roommate would caution you against simply looking up this particular recipe, she often asks me why I even use recipes when I ignore most of the directions and adjust the ingredients to my liking (what we have in the house).
So, here is what I actually did. The results were delicious and will be repeated on thanksgiving.
Start with your favorite pie crust recipe. Don't be lazy here and buy one, they really aren't that hard. I use a combination of my trusty cookbook's recipe and Alton Brown's tips from his Good Eats show.
Pre heat the oven to 375°
Cook 3 pieces of bacon until crispy, drain
In a bowl combine:
1/4 c sugar
4 tsp flour
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 c sliced apples (about 3, with a few snacks)
1 T lemon juice
Crumble the bacon and mix in last
Place the pie crust on a baking sheet (a round pizza pan works well). Plop the filling into the middle and fold the edges of the crust in over the filing. Feel free to make a fancy design with the apples that are visible in the center. Bake for about 30 minutes. Put foil over the edges of the crust so it doesn't burn. Bake another 20 to 30 minutes until the apples are soft and the house smells amazing.
Let the tart set for at least 10 minutes. If you are more patient than I, you will let it sit for 30 minutes, good luck with that.
To make this dessert extra classy, put it on a plate and dust with powdered sugar.
Enjoy with roommates, friends or in the pantry, where no one can see that you just ate half of it.