Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bacon Lasagna

Even though I have seriously neglected actively posting to this blog I continue to happily cook and discover new recipes.



Lately I felt that it was worth sharing this recipe because it's actually an invention of my own and I'm it's gonna be one for the books that I'll keep returning back to.

I have been thinking over a bacon lasagna and how to execute it for about a week now. My friend just had a birthday and it was the perfect excuse to try it out. My original thought was frying up bacon and then layering it between tomato/meat sauce, ricotta/mozza cheese and cooked lasagna noodles, and letting it cook just enough in the oven to let the cheese melt. That way the bacon would remain crispy and not get too soggy.

When I was preparing the lasagna components, I added eggs to the ricotta mixture on a whim as suggested in many lasagna recipes. Having never done this before, I didn't immediately realize that it would require the lasagna to be cooked for nearly an hour. This meant that the quick heat in the oven with the layers of bacon was not going to happen. Then after some recipe scouring, I noticed that most people simply add the chopped bacon to the sauce.

I also have heard that adding onions raw and letting them cook down in a sauce rather than sauteing them imparts a lot more flavor to a sauce. I tried it this time by adding a quartered onion and it caramelized nicely.

I had a happy accident of forgetting a layer of noodles in between the second layer of meat and cheese. It made for an extra thick and very decadent layer!

This particular lasagna was extremely meaty with a pound of bacon and pork in a "Meat Flavored" Sauce. I even got to use the Bacon Rub that I bought years back for Christmas.



Overall, this definitely one of the best lasagna recipes. It was so good that hardly anyone spoke during dinner. All you could hear were delicious "Mmmms".

Bacon Lasagna 
Serves four to six people 

Ingredients
1lb ground beef, pork, veal, turkey or chicken
1lb bacon
canned tomatoes or basic marinara/tomato sauce
olive oil
garlic
onion (quartered, peel each layer)
salt
pepper 
cayenne
paprika

4 cups ricotta cheese
dried herbs (basil, marjoram, parsley, or oregano)
1 egg

lasagna noodles
shredded mozzarella cheese
parmesan cheese
pecorino romano cheese


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wrap cloves of garlic, (I would choose about 3-6) in tightly packed tin foil ball and let roast for roughly 25 minutes until soft. Let cool. Peel away skins and mash. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Bring your canned tomatoes or tomato sauce to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Add a generous portion of salt, cayenne and paprika. Cayenne will get hotter the longer you cook it so use sparingly at first if you want a mild heat. Depending on the acidity of the sauce, you may need to add a dash of sugar.

Add ground meat and let simmer until the layer of water on top of the sauce cooks down and you have a thick sauce that remains. Add your quartered onion around the time you add the ground meat so it has time to effectively cook slowly in the sauce. I would add the garlic last when there isn't much more time to cook down.

Remember to keep tasting your sauce as it cooks and adjust your spices as you go to your liking!

While the sauce cooks, fold herbs in with the ricotta. Beat your egg slightly and add to mixture. Set aside.

Boil water for your lasagna noodles.

Fry up half your bacon. Let the cooked bacon cool down on paper towels and then crumble. Once your sauce is cooked, add.

Spoon a thin layer  of sauce onto your casserole dish to prevent sticking. I prefer to keep a little extra tomato sauce aside for this bit. Layer noodles. I like my noodles of lasagna to touch each other without any space between.

Layer third of ricotta mixture
Layer half meat mixture
Layer noodles
Repeat.
Add last layer of ricotta. Sprinkle generously with mozza, parmesan and pecorino.

Cook for about 35 minutes to 45 minutes covered with tin foil. Uncover and broil for about 3 minutes.
Use the time when the lasagna is about to come out to fry up the rest of your bacon so that it is hot and fresh when it comes out of the oven. Layer top with bacon.

Fiona Beckett of "Matching Food and Wine" suggests a  Rioja crianza, medium bodied Cabernet Sauvignon or a Syrah/Malbec to pair with it.



On a side note, I read "Love by the Glass" in a week this month and it's inspired me to take the extra time to try pairing wine with food when cooking a special meal such as this.

I had a magical pairing of my own this past month when I drank a  Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc with my first home cooked Carbonara!



Saturday, January 19, 2013

Oh Hey!

I took pictures of all the special holiday meals I ate this year. Put it in the new blog, but hey, this one's about food too!

I was going to post in both places, but it's easier just to send you from here to here

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bacon Love's Labors

This is the recipe that my boyfriend ultimately chose for me to make from the Bacon recipe book. 
I had never made risotto before and I had heard that getting the technique down was quite difficult and required some skill. I was very apprehensive. 

Bacon Butternut Squash Risotto 
Courtesy of "I Love Bacon" Cookbook 




It turned out perfectly! I would make it again in a heartbeat  without fear. One of the best things I've ever made!

Ingredients
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb applewood double smoked bacon, diced
12 fresh sage leaves, plus 1/2 small bnch sage, stemmed, leaves julienned
1 large red onion
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup white wine
6 cups chicken stock, hot
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted then crushed
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup shaved parmigianno reggiano for garnish

Preheat oven to 350.

Fill saucepan halfway with water and bring to boil
Add squash and cook for 15 minutes or until tender.
Move squash to a baking sheet coated in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Roast until brown.

In a skillet on medium low heat cook bacon and drain on paper towels.
Fry sage leaves in the bacon fat and drain on paper towels.

Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium heat.
Add onion until translucent.
Add rice and coat with oil.
Add white wine and stir until the wine is absorbed.
Add chicken stock ONE LADLE AT A TIME, stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed (THIS PART IS ESSENTIAL!!) Usually will take up to 20 minutes.
After about 15 minutes, add squash, bacon, pecans, sage and parsley.

Lastly add butter and season with salt and pepper.
Garnish with shaved parm and serve. Bon Apetit!


Bacon Love

*This post was actually created in December before Christmas...
Sometimes simple gifts make the best gifts.
I had no idea what to get for my boyfriend this year. I probably ran a six dozen ideas through my head before I found the answer.

 BACON. GLORIOUS BACON.

I got him all Bacon themed gifts from bacon cheddar cheese,

to this bacon magnet



 to this book

with all bacon recipes along with the promise of making any of these recipes of his choice for our own Christmas dinner celebration.

My personal favorite thing about this Bacon package was this card I made explaining the Bacon Promise depicting my boyfriend and his mutual friendship with Bacon. His shirt says Bacon is My Homeboy.

If you're looking for novelty bacon items like bacon floss, bacon gumballs, a bacon tie, bacon soap or a bacon car freshener check out this site! That's where I did most of my holiday shopping!

Tribute to Harry Potter!

I made this creamy delightful drink on Halloween on last year as I dressed as a Hogwart's student from Harry Potter complete with a cloak, a Gryffindor badge and broom.

Today I've been lying around pathetically on the couch recovering from a cold reading the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It's taken me months but today was the faithful day that I completed it. It's as if I've put part of my childhood to rest. Thus I decided to share this Harry Potter inspired recipe on this day.

I especially like it with spiced rum! After all it is also St. Patty's Day weekend!

P.S. Don't be frightened by imitation butter, it's actually VERY tasty!

Butterbeer
Courtesy of Darla of Bakingdom
(http://bakingdom.com/2010/11/butterbeer-oh-yes-friends-butterbeer.html)


Six  12-ounce bottles chilled cream soda [I prefer IBC (which is vegan) or Polar Classics Vanilla, but any will work perfectly], substitute diet cream soda for a still yummy sugar-free version
3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon) imitation butter flavor, or 2 tablespoons clarified butter (instructions linked above **clarified butter does not always blend well with the cold beverage, see info above**)
*The original recipe from Darla calls for 1 oz of rum. I chose to put in 2 oz and I also drizzled some rum over the top of the foam. I used an Old Rum, which I bought last year on a birthday trip to Bermuda. 
FOR THE FOAM (Vegan/Dairy-free recipe linked above)
2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons sugar, or splenda for sugar free version
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons imitation butter (if using clarified butter, double the amount to 3 teaspoons, or 1 tablespoon)
To make the butterbeer: Set out 6 16-ounce glasses. Place 1/2 teaspoon of imitation butter (or 1 teaspoon clarified butter) in each glass. Pour 12 ounces of cream soda into each glass, over the butter. Lightly stir, if necessary.
To make the foam: In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, whip the heavy cream on medium high speed for 3-4 minutes until it starts to thicken. Add the sugar and continue whipping until very soft peaks begin to form, another 3-4 minutes (if you need to whip more or less, then be sure to do so, the times can vary quite a bit based on environment). Stir in the vanilla and imitation butter (or clarified butter), then whip for another 30 seconds or so, until soft peaks form.
Spoon a generous portion of foam on top of each glass of butterbeer, mixing gently, if desired (or spoon the foam into the bottom of the glass and pour the butterbeer over the top). Serve immediately.


Homemade Orange Julius Smoothie

Courtesy of Colour Palate
 http://www.colourfulpalate.com/2011/07/27/healthy-vegan-orange-julius/#more-1086
Originally this recipe called for orange juice concentrate but I opted to juice my own oranges seeing as I had quite an abundance of them.

1 cup almond milk
3 ice cubes
honey
cinnamon
nutmeg
1 orange
*Optional
2 raw almonds
coconut flakes

Using a juicer, I made orange juice with the orange. Then I added the pulp to the juice, being careful to remove the pulp that was filled with pith. I added the remaining ingredients to the blender to create a milky, orange smoothie. It was not as thick as I so desired so I covered it with plastic wrap to harden in the freezer. I grated 2 almonds to create a coconut/almond garnish. This makes for an excellent dessert for a raw dieter!

Cauliflower Two Ways

Raw Mashed Cauliflower (Substitute for Mashed Potatoes)
Courtesy of Kimberly Snyder
http://www.kimberlysnyder.net/blog/2010/02/21/raw-cauliflower-mashed-potatoes/

Modified for 1 serving

1.5 cup chopped small cauliflower florets
tblspoon olive oil
sea salt to taste
pepper to taste
dash of onion powder
sprinkle of rosemary
sprinkle of parsley flakes

Blend til smooth.

My boyfriend absolutely hates raw cauliflower. In fact, he despises this vegetable. Calls it the poopy version of broccoli.  The only other time that he will eat cauliflower is when I use it in an Indian Cauliflower Soup.  He tasted this raw cauliflower mixture and claimed it was pretty good!! It does  uncannily taste, look and feel like mashed potatoes. There is a slight cauliflower finish but it isn't as aggressive as when you bite into a raw cauliflower floret. Overall, I suggest that any non-cauliflower believer will find themselves liking this so hated vegetable in this raw recipe, the Indian cauliflower soup and roasted.


Roasted Spicy Cauliflower
Courtesy of Kirsten's My German Kitchen
http://www.mygermankitchen.com/2011/01/spicy-cauliflower-pasta-with-garlic.html

I modified this recipe according to a former co-worker's suggestions, who used to serve this dish in a restaurant. I only made enough for a single serving and I didn't measure anything.

chopped cauliflower florets
olive oil
sea salt
black pepper
chopped anchovies or anchovy paste
red pepper flakes or dried red chili peppers with seeds

Preheat the conventional oven to 400 degrees. Place chopped cauliflower florets in a zip-lock bag and add olive oil, anchovies, and red chili pepper. Shake and coat the cauliflower in mixture. Place on aluminum covered baking sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes. When using anchovy paste or anchovies, you do not need much as a little goes a long way. If you do not like anchovies, have no fear, as you cannot taste them once the cauliflower has cooked.

After I roasted the cauliflower, I decided to add it into an ad-hoc mac and cheese that I was making for myself. I used a box of Annie's white cheddar shells, added some preshredded Monterrey jack and cheddar cheese, a dash of Parmesan cheese, a tablespoon of butter, a little bit of almond milk, blanched broccoli and mushrooms. I also added red chili pepper flakes, and some onion salt to taste. The cauliflower was delicious in this creamy pasta! Next time I will try a recipe that uses cauliflower as a substitute for the macaroni in a mac and cheese recipe.