Recipe: Bacon Jam

So it’s all just been lots of travel posts around here lately, but can you blame me? Who wants to be indoors at all during the summer, let alone in the kitchen cooking. But I recently had a pound of bacon staring back at me in the fridge and needed to use it up, so what better to do than whip up a batch of bacon jam.

Yes it’s just what it sounds like, a sweet sticky bacon mixture that’s perfect for spreading on just about everything. The flavour is actually pretty deep and complex – sweet, spicy, smoky, and salty all at once.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1lb thick cut smoked bacon
2 medium onions
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper
black pepper, to taste (optional)
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
4 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup brewed espresso
1/4 cup brown sugar

I get my bacon from the farmer’s market because I think it has a lot more flavour than anything you can get from the plastic packets in the supermarket.

Cut the bacon in to small pieces and cook on medium-low heat in a wide bottomed pan. You want the pan to have a large enough surface area so all of the bacon browns. If the pan is too small the bacon will just stew and you won’t get any of that lovely caramelisation you’re looking for.

While the bacon is cooking, chop the onion in to a smallish dice and mince the garlic.

This is the bacon cooked about half way. You want the bacon to brown but not become crispy, that should take 15-20 minutes.

When the bacon is ready, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Take out all of the rendered fat save a tablespoon or two. In the same pan add the onions, garlic, crushed red pepper and black pepper.

Cook until the onions are softened and translucent, do not let them brown too much. Add more of the bacon fat as needed. You really want to release as much of the sugars in the onions as possible.

When the onions are done, add back the bacon and all of the remaining ingredients and scrape all of the bacon flavour from the bottom of the pan. Bring this mixture to a boil for 2-3 minutes and then lower to a slow simmer. Taste at this point to make any adjustments.

Cook on a very low heat for 45-60 minutes until you get a thick, syrupy consistency. The jam should be shiny when finished.

Once cooled take a portion of the jam (about two thirds) and coarsely chop it in the food processor. Mix the chopped jam back in with the rest of the batch.

As I mentioned you can use this with pretty much any dish – sandwiches (especially breakfast sandwiches), burgers, bruschetta, on eggs – but my favourite way to eat it is to tear of a piece of crusty bread and top it with a thick slice of cheddar and a heaping spoonful of the jam. So good.


Travel: Mystic Connecticut

A couple of weekends ago, K and I embarked on our annual summer road trip. There are so many beautiful towns, hamlets, and villages around we’re never short on a list of places to choose from. This year we decided on Mystic, Connecticut. To say that we’re primarily out to discover a new place would be a lie, as we’re really just out for our fill of some delicious, fresh east coast seafood.

Driving in to town on a narrow two lane road you pass a number of historic colonial homes, some of which have been turned in to museums. Many of them are still beautifully preserved.

Turns out we picked one of the hottest days of the year for our little jaunt, so our first stop was a seafood shack near the seaport where we sat by the water and snacked on fried whole belly clams.

Every bite bursts in your mouth and imparts a really deep flavour, so much better than fried clam strips.

Trying out the fisheye lens on the olloclip, I think I need more practice…

The Mystic Seaport is a large interactive museum where you can get tours of old ships, see a number of exhibits and visit a series of gardens. As much as we wanted to see some of the gardens, we weren’t interested in most of the museum and thought the $24 entrance fee was a bit steep.

Instead we walked along the bridge across the Mystic River and in to downtown, where there are lots of little shops, some restaurants and a few galleries.

After all that time in the heat we decided we needed to find a spot indoors to rest. The S&P Oyster House was calling our names.

We whiled away the rest of the afternoon here, sipping cold beers and looking out on to the river.

Mystic is about a 2 hour drive from New York City and perfect for a day trip. I recommend going on a cooler day as you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors.

Recipe: Shrimp and Fish Cakes

I had some great fish cakes at a restaurant about a month ago and decided to try and recreate them. The ones I had were battered and deep-fried, which I’m sure had something to do with why they were so good, but since seafood cakes (crab, etc.) are usually coated with breadcrumbs I think these will be just as tasty.

For 8 cakes, you will need:

½ lb white, flaky fish such as cod or haddock
½ lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 medium potatoes, peeled and boiled until tender
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs or panko
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
zest of two limes or lemons
¼ tsp chili powder
salt and pepper, to taste

Roughly chop the shrimp. Some recipes call for the shrimp to be processed, but I prefer the taste and texture of chunks of shrimp in the cakes.

Steam the fish fillets for 7-10 minutes until just cooked. Remember that the fish will cook a little more when the cakes are fried, so you don’t want to overdo it now. Allow the fish to cool for a few minutes and then flake.

While the fish is steaming, slowly fry the onions and garlic until golden.

In a large bowl, mash the cooked potatoes, then add the flaked fish, onion and garlic, lime zest, worcestershire sauce, mustard, and chili powder. Season liberally with salt and pepper and combine.

Be careful not to mix too much, you want the potatoes to remain fluffy so the cakes are light.

Taste and adjust seasoning as needed, then fold in the shrimp.

Form the mixture in to patties and then coat with breadcrumbs. Fry over medium heat for 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness.

Serve with a lime (or lemon) wedge and your choice of sauce – remoulade, mustard, tartar sauce, or some spicy mayo.

I had a couple with a big salad and it was an excellent lunch. I’ll definitely be making these again; they are so easy, and the majority of the ingredients are staples. They would probably work just as well with some good quality frozen fish and shrimp too, so it’s a good recipe to have on hand.

Recipe: Spicy Mayo

I was in Toronto a few weeks ago, and of course any trip to Toronto means a sushi date with my Canadian twin Claudia. The location always different, but the scene the same – a big pile of pickled ginger next to my plate, and extra spicy mayo for C.

When I told her I often make it at home she insisted that I post the recipe. So here it is.

It’s so simple, all you need is:

Mayonnaise, preferably Kewpie
Sesame oil
Scallions – green part only – finely chopped
Chili oil, optional
Tobiko (flying fish roe), optional

If you use standard mayonnaise the resulting sauce will be thicker than it will be with the Kewpie. I recommend using Kewpie as it is much creamier, more tangy, has less egg flavour than traditional mayonnaise, and marries well with the other ingredients here.

You’ll notice I haven’t listed any quantities for the ingredients above. This recipe is really about taste and the amount of heat that you prefer.

Begin with equal parts mayo and sriracha and adjust from there. You only need a small amount of the sesame oil as it is fairly strong and can quickly overwhelm the other flavours if you add too much – I’d estimate about a quarter teaspoon per half cup of sauce. The chili oil has a really intense heat and I use it to add an extra punch without watering down the sauce, which the sriracha can do. Sprinkle in the green onion and a heaping spoonful of tobiko at the end to finish. The pearls of roe add a little fishiness and pops of crunch.

This sauce isn’t just for sushi, in fact I probably use it much more with other foods, adjusting the ingredients – adding lime juice, omitting the tobiko – depending on the application. It’s great with french fries, on fish tacos, dressing for coleslaw, the list goes on.

Chocolate: Teuscher Champagne Truffles

A lovely surprise arrived at my door last week. This gorgeous little box of champagne truffles from Teuscher – my favourite chocolates by far. Now, that’s no easy achievement. Of course, the fact that I love champagne definitely gives them a leg up.

Teuscher makes some of the smoothest chocolate in the world, and these truffles are no exception. The chocolate shell is filled with a chocolate ganache and a champagne cream centre, and then dusted with powdered sugar.

These are the only champagne truffles I’ve had (and trust me, I’ve had a lot) that have a clean, strong champagne flavour. With others the finish tends to be a little bitter, but in these the taste is pure to the end.

Every once in a while I make a trip to the shop and pick up a little box of two truffles. The perfect treat no matter the day.

A Relaxing Thanksgiving

This year Thanksgiving was at my uncle’s house which is about 4 hours north of the city. He has a huge, gorgeous house up in the hills where you don’t have to see another soul  if you don’t want to. It’s perfect.

We left here early on Thursday morning and arrived just in time for this:

There was more colour, I swear, it just wouldn’t all fit on my plate at once.

Then we were off outside for playtime with the cutest puppy in the world.

This little miss is the sweetest. She’s a rescue who was found roaming the streets and was adopted by my cousin. So glad to have her in the family.

The property extends so far that we’re able to take long hikes in the back garden, we even go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing there in winter. Our own private trails.

The rest of the weekend was spent being lazy mostly – napping, reading, eating, playing cards, eating, napping. And, of course, lots of wine.

All too soon, it was time to head back home.

Recipe: Kale Chips

There’s a lot of eating that goes on around here, as you may well have noticed from my other posts. Lately I’ve been having a hard time stopping myself from constantly snacking when I’m at home, which was a bit of a problem when we were trapped inside for a week with no power during the hurricane (more on that later).

So this week I decided to experiment with kale chips. Yes, yes, they’re everywhere so why not just buy them? They’re so expensive! And so covered in stuff that I can’t imagine much of the goodness of the kale is left. I thought there must be some secret to them, a reason you couldn’t make them quite the same at home. I was wrong. A friend showed me how and it’s simple.

This is all you need – kale, olive oil, and seasonings*

  • Preheat oven to 300°F.
  • Wash and dry the kale. The kale crisps by drying out, so getting off the excess water from washing is important.
  • Remove the stems and tear the leaves in to larger than bite-sized pieces (the kale shrinks while cooking).
  • In a bowl, combine kale with a little oil until lightly coated, then add your seasonings.
  • Lay the leaves in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Cook for 20 minutes until crisp.

You will probably need to adjust the temperature and cooking time depending on your oven, and the type of kale you use. I recommend keeping a close eye on them the first time you make them as they can go from crisp to burnt in a matter of seconds.

*You can flavour these any way you like. Cheese. Chili and Lime. Soy and sesame. The possibilities are endless.

Eats: Pig Island 2012

When some friends asked me if I wanted to go to a barbecue and eat pork all day, I didn’t need to think even for a second. For the past couple of years, for one day only, Governor’s Island has been transforming in to Pig Island.

So on Saturday September 1st we hopped on the ferry and headed over to see what 25 of New York’s best chefs could do with more than 80 whole pigs. They did not disappoint.

Peaceful and not all that crowded. The event was sold out but the space never felt too cramped, nor were any of the lines unbearably long.

These guys are from Mosefund and cooked up some of my favourite dishes of the day using Mangalitsa pork, a special breed that originated in the Austro-Hungarian empire. Here they’re grilling up Thai pork skewers with green onions. The onions were a great addition and reminded me a lot of calcotada.

This is their BBQ Mangalitsa collar with grilled peaches, pickled cabbage and Carolina sauce. The collar is smoky, and comparable to bacon in some ways. The meat was moist, with just enough fat and the sweet and sour of the salad was the perfect accompaniment.

See how charred the skin gets, the meat is beautifully tender inside.

Head cheese on black bread with homemade mustard and pickled onions from Waterfront Ale House.

Spicy Korean roasted pork bun with plum sauce, pickled peaches and cucumber from Delicatessen. Another favourite. The ratio of bun to filling was just right and those little crunchy bits sprinkled on the top – amazing!

Pate and a honey butter biscuit from Joe Doe’s.

After all that food (there is a LOT that I didn’t photograph, some things just get eaten before you think to snap a pic) we decided to take a little walk around and make room for round two.

Governor’s Island was most recently a Coast Guard installation and before that an Army post. There are lots of interesting old administrative buildings and former barracks, like the ones pictured below.

I think we managed to burn off all of twenty calories before heading back around for some more hogs.

Whole pig wiener with roasted tomato ketchup and spicy cucumber relish from The Darby.

Ovelia Psistaria brought Greek-style pulled pork on pita as well as homemade sausage.

Edi and The Wolf’s grilled pork belly with arugula, peach and rye bread-mustard vinaigrette. This was a highlight for me.

Casa Mono – Pork, smoked maple banana sauce, fried plantain and sherry lime vinaigrette.

Tacos al Pastor from Hecho en Dumbo. Slow grilled chile marinated pork served with caramelized pineapple on handmade corn tortillas.

As you can see we were lucky to have gorgeous weather and were able to stay until the last ferry out. I’ll definitely be heading back next year for the next Pig Island, but Governor’s Island is a great place to go for the day even without all the bbq.

Food: Marshmallows

Miss B loves marshmallows, and so I decided to make her some for her birthday.

I’m not going to provide a recipe here because I decided to make two batches – one plain and one maple – and as a result had to combine and adapt a couple of recipes. So I’ll just go through the method.

The ingredients you see above, along with some sugar, are all you really need. There are some marshmallow recipes that use only gelatine and no egg whites, but I prefer those with egg.

Although it can get a little messy, these are very simple to make at home.

You start by heating your sugar and corn syrup with a little water. While this is coming up to temperature, start whipping your egg whites. You should also have your gelatine dissolved at this point.

Once the sugar syrup is at the right temperature slowly add it to the egg whites with the mixer still on. Next, slowly add the dissolved gelatine to the egg white mixture and continue to whip for a few minutes.

Dust a baking sheet with a mixture of cornstarch and icing sugar. This should be prepped ahead of time.

Spread the whipped egg mixture evenly on to your sheet pan. The gelatine starts to set fairly quickly so you want to do this as soon as you’ve stopped the mixer. Sprinkle the top generously with another layer of the cornstarch and sugar.

After leaving them to set overnight, cut in to squares and shake off any excess powder.

Simple! And so delicious in a s’more or some hot chocolate.