Tag Archives: bacon

The Tower of Bacon

Gentle Readers, sometimes, bacon is more than the flavoring, more than a garnish, more than a bit. Sometimes, bacon is the guest of honor. Recently, in my professional life, I had cause to order 100 pieces of bacon. Just bacon. It was for a Tweetup called #vBacon, and I was not kidding. To the extreme credit and creativity of the staff at Cable Car City Pub, they brought this out.

Behold the Tower of Bacon!

Behold the Tower of Bacon!

That’s right, it’s a tower of bacon. Essentially a deconstructed BLT, lettuce and tomato served as garnish. It was bacon shock and awe. There were pictures taken, poses with, bacon inception even.

Bacon Inception

Bacon Inception: Photo credit @revolize

I’m well-documented as being a bacon fan, and this bacon was tasty. Lesson here, sometimes, when you have an event, less is more. Beer and bacon, yes, that is enough. They tried to push me into fancier appetizers, but I kept saying, just bacon please. The result was 150 happy technologists.

Will don ears and bacon for charity! Annual #v0dgeball tournament for Wounded Warrior Project.

Will don ears and bacon for charity! Annual #v0dgeball tournament for Wounded Warrior Project.

Have you ever thrown a party around a single ingredient? Post a comment below, or Tweet at me with #vBacon in your Tweet!

Send your bacon photos, your kitchen questions, and your food confessions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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It’s almost time for Sunday Weekly Menus again. Wow, blink and September is halfway gone!

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Filed under Bacon Brackets, Kitchen Philosophy

Weekly Menus: Week of 8/5/2012

Gentle Readers, this has been a whirlwind summer for The Practical Cook and the Juniors. We have often found ourselves lacking the sheer stomach space to consume all we want to try. Not a bad problem to have, I know. However, it has also meant a real lack of kitchen time. I think I’ve cooked in other people’s kitchens more than my own!

The magic quadrant of pancakes from #projectpancakes

The magic quadrant of pancakes from #projectpancakes

Not a bad skill to acquire. Last night’s #projectpancakes was a huge success, as you can see. We field tested a couple of mixes with add-ins for a tough crowd. And there was bacon. That was less of a hard sell. Wright’s Hickory Smoked, the victor from Bacon Madness, again reigned supreme.

Underline your panckaes with bacon. For emphasis.

Underline your panckaes with bacon. For emphasis.

However, I find myself lacking inspiration. I resubscribed to Everyday Food, on my iPad. Let’s see how that format goes, if I use and enjoy it as much. So here’s what I’ve got for the week. Would love to hear from you all, what you’re cooking and eating these days. I also wonder if I’m going to be able to get up at 6 AM again before too long–schooltime draws near!

Totally counts as a vegetable. Cucumber gimlet for the win!

Totally counts as a vegetable. Cucumber gimlet for the win!

But alas, back to the late days of summer. Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

Weekly Menus: 8/5/2012

Weekly Menus: 8/5/2012

And the four-square grocery shopping list:

The still lean Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 8/5/2012

The still lean Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 8/5/2012

Which all translates into:

Sunday: Italian
We’re being treated to a 3-course meal featuring pork. Part of my ongoing quest to learn to cook Italian courtesy of the cantankerous Waldorf.

Monday: Eggplant something
This will be Turkish (broiled and pureed, a smoky base) or Italian (oregano/thyme plus a hit of red sauce and mozzarella)  in nature. TBD.

Tuesday: Leftover surprise
This may change because now we need to do some field research this week. So it may be Mexican and leftovers may be lunch.

Wednesday: Field Research (Dine out!)
I am fortunate enough to know a couple of local chefs, and the Juniors have demanded a seat at the table. Since summer is the perfect time to stay up late, we’re going out more than usual! I will reveal our mission in a future guest blog by the Juniors themselves.

Thursday: Beef and Veg
Because both of these things need to be eaten, work in volume, and can be frozen for the future.

Friday: Dine Out!
More field research! There are not enough meals in the day. Truly.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Though this may very well turn into leftover surprise. Or a salad! I adore the Whole Foods salad bar on a Saturday. The challenge of not building a $20 salad and the infinite variety!

Share your summertime cooking strategy (or eating strategy works too)! Post a comment! The crickets and I await your feedback.

Send confessions, challenges, and inspiration to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Wednesday: Kitchen Tool Talk, More of My Favorite Things.

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Punt! Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes with a Side of Bacon

Gentle Readers, sometimes good fruit goes almost bad. The tomatoes sat too close to the bananas, chaos ensued. Normally I freeze the overripe bananas, but I’ve got a stockpile awaiting banana bread time. And it was breakfast, and the Juniors and I were hungry and creative. Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes with a Side of Bacon were born.

Trader Joe's Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter with Sea Salt

Trader Joe’s Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter with Sea Salt

Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes Recipe

Start with your favorite pancake mix. I prefer whole grain or buckwheat. Don’t judge. There will be more on this topic soon when I deploy my emergency pancake rescue team. Make according to the mix, but go light on the oil. Add 1-2 thoroughly mashed, completely overripe bananas. We’re talking blackening ones. Mash mash mash. Add the bananas and a spot of dark brown sugar to the mix. Make silver dollar size pancakes.

One Very Large Banana Pancake!

One Very Large Banana Pancake!

And if you’re me, make the last one a gigantor pancake, for no reason other than you want to sit down and eat and it’s what you’ve always done.

Melt a few tablespoons of peanut butter in the microwave, just takes a few seconds. Apply as a drizzle or light spread to pancakes, top with maple syrup, serve with bacon (or facon, the salt is what’s important here).

Sing Love Me Tender at the top of your lungs and thank me later.

What do you like to add to your pancakes? Post a comment below, I’m listening. Better still, Tweet me a video of you covering Elvis. Special thanks to the Juniors for helping invent and consume these. You are the bestest.

Send your good ideas, your challenges, and your kind regards to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Sunday Sunday Sunday, will be late. I’ll be in the air, but you’ll get Weekly Menus later in the day.

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Weekly Menus: Week of 6/24/2012

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook must confess something, yet again. Please lean in close. Last week, I patently ignored my Weekly Menus. Wednesday is my CSA day, and it involves a visit to the Carrboro Farmer’s Market. At said market, there is a food cart from The Pig in Chapel Hill. The Eldest Practical Cook Junior can read. The Youngest Practical Cook Junior is not afraid to place an order. They had allowance money in their pockets and are experts at collaboration.

Hot Dog from The Pig with Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish

Hot Dog from The Pig with Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish

Two hot dogs later, we ended up having salad for supper. Thus is the rhythm of summer. A bit chaotic and vegetable fueled, with a fair bit of pig thrown in. Alas, I try, but bacon follows me.

Bacon Family Photo: We Just Can't Help Ourselves

Bacon Family Photo: We Just Can’t Help Ourselves

But I shall fight the good fight, and I’m putting out a menu again this week. However, I encourage you to fill your house with vegetables and then commit to using them. It’s summertime, and the meals should be easy.

Summertime starts with corn on the cob!

Summertime starts with corn on the cob!

So here is my weekly menu (aspirational):

Weekly Menus: 6/24/2012

Weekly Menus: 6/24/2012

And the Four-Square Grocery List to back it up:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/24/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/24/2012

The CSA from Brinkley Farms includes:

1 dozen eggs
1 bundle swiss chard
1 bundle carrots
1 lb red tomatoes
2 green peppers

Which may or may not translate into:

Sunday: Cookout!
Happy birthday to The Practical Cook’s Mom. You don’t look a day over <redacted>. We’re having burgers, dogs, and watermelon, with a bunch of sides I’m not actually making. My SIL rocks, as does TPCM. I am however bringing Scotch Chocolate Cake:

Gratuitous Scotch Chocolate Cake Pecan-Side View

Gratuitous Scotch Chocolate Cake Pecan-Side View

Monday: Salmon, Green Beans, Potatoes, Fruit
The other joy of summer, guests! We are hosting almost once a week these days, and we are happy to be doing so this night. It’s a great time to cook a little bigger than usual, and break out some traditional favorites. For one of our guests, fruit is not optional, and it’s a great addition to the table in the summer.

Tuesday:  Sausage and Pierogies
I just have to keep the freezer clean! Still laden with the spoils of the winter and spring, I’m going to cook something heavier but string out the consumption of it.

Wednesday: Tapas Night!
If I get near the Farmer’s Market, I will buy something extra. I have goat cheese and bread at home, I can top it with a green and call it crostini. Mama Tapas, as we call it at Chez TPC, can be any series of small bites. Great way to use up bits and pieces of leftover food.

Crostini with Broccolini

Crostini with Broccolini

Thursday: Dine Out!
Okay, I’ve got an event. More on that, follow my Twitter stream for more details. I plan to leave the at-home team with either sammies or lasagna. Let’s see if it goes to plan.

Friday: Spinach Quesadillas
This says, Punt! I know I’ll be tired, there’s a big week ahead, and I predict feelings of laziness and exhaustion. Martha won’t mint this recipe, but the kids will eat veggies.

Saturday: Dine Out!
There is always more research to be done! Send a suggestion my way, and I’ll put it on the list!

Do you find yourself cooking more extemporaneously in the summer? Do you cook at home more or less now? Post a comment today! It’s free AND easy.

Send your birthday candles, fire extinguishers, and veggies to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Wednesday, Nuevo Southwestern Salad Recipe!

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Bacon Pecan Ice Cream Recipe (a Guest Blog)

Gentle Readers, rarely have I been so excited to share a recipe that I have not yet tasted. This post really highlights the power of Twitter and bacon in terms of connectivity, and I am heading into the test kitchen to work on a lazy lady version based on the power of the picture alone.

Hello world, meet Bacon Pecan Ice Cream Sundae!

Hello world, meet Bacon Pecan Ice Cream Sundae!

But I digress. Without further adieu, please allow me to introduce you to my friend Lisa (@TheRealLisaC). In her own words, here’s her fantastic culinary breakthrough.

Bacon Pecan Ice Cream Recipe

I’ll admit it: I was afraid. Afraid of making the ice cream too rich, too sweet, too over-the-top. It turns out that with bacon ice cream, as in business and life, opting for the cautious–or as some prefer to call it–the sensible approach produces acceptable but underwhelming outcomes. There may also be some lessons in here somewhere about cooking against type: I’m really more of a chocolate person, to begin with.

That said, I am rather fond of making myself a small sundae of vanilla ice cream, Trader Joe’s Caramel-Sea Salt sauce (warmed), and candied pecans, which I also get from TJ’s [Editor's Note: I plan to run, not walk, to score some of both for the test kitchen]. Sometimes I use their “Very Crunchy, Lightly Sweetened” pecans, which are a bit cinnamony, but I really like it with their “Sweet & Spicy” pecans. The vanilla ice cream that I prefer to make is creamy but fairly mild in flavor; it only uses two eggs. Think Dreyer’s without the stabilizers that make it chewy instead of creamy. That sundae was, flavor-wise, my starting point in figuring out this bacon ice cream idea.

Burger King Bacon Sundae!

Burger King Bacon Sundae!

Now, in terms of how I made it…Lord Google put me on the path of using brown sugar instead of white in the custard. And I liked this recipe’s approach to candying the bacon.  But this is when I started getting scared. 5 egg yolks? Wouldn’t that be too rich with the bacon? (Not to mention I generally avoid making ice creams that involve tossing 4+ egg whites–the waste annoys me. And my schedule doesn’t allow for making something else with them in addition to the ice cream!) So I reverted to my usual vanilla ice cream, with some minor variations (see below). I also decided not to use plain toasted rather than candied pecans of either variety–can’t be too sweet! Would be too weird with the bacon!

 Custard for bacon ice cream:

2 eggs
2 Tbps all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 2/3 c. whole milk
2/3 c. light or dark brown sugar (I used dark) [Editor's Note: I support this, more caramelly]
1 c. heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract

Beat eggs in a med-large bowl until thoroughly combined, then beat in flour and salt. Set aside. Combine milk with brown sugar and bring to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan (2.5 qt non-stick is a good bet). Using an instant-read thermometer, heat milk to 175F. Slowly beat hot milk mixture into eggs, a portion at a time. Pour the entire mixture back into the pan. Quickly rinse out the bowl to remove any sugar granules, etc, and set aside to dry. Heat custard on medium-low heat, stirring *constantly* until it begins to thicken–many recipes give the wonderfully vague instruction, “until it coats the back of a spoon”. IMPORTANT: don’t turn up the heat or try to hurry this along. It’ll take a good 15 min to get there. I produced many a pot of milky scrambled eggs until I finally learned to view this part as a meditative exercise, like kneading bread. The other absolutely critical thing: as it starts to thicken, check the temp regularly. Once it gets between 183-185F, immediately remove from heat and pour through a fine-mesh sieve back into the bowl. Dispose of any lumps. Allow the custard to cool, stirring every once in a while to release heat and prevent a skin from forming. Once mostly cooled, stir in the cream and vanilla, cover and chill at least 4 hours or overnight. Once it’s chilled, you pour the custard into an ice cream maker and let it go Per Manufacturer’s Instruction, adding in solids (like, say, candied bacon and pecans) once the custard is semi-frozen, usually 5-10 min before it’s supposed to be done.

Peppery Lacquered Bacon from the San Diego Marriott: Winner!

Peppery Lacquered Bacon from the San Diego Marriott: Winner!

The next morning I candied the bacon following the Lebovitz instructions. BTW, 2 tsps of brown sugar isn’t anywhere close to what you need for 5 strips of bacon. 1 tsp per slice still equates to a fairly light dusting. We normally bake our bacon on a rack, but this recipe seemed to suggest the grease was supposed to merge with the sugar to form a glaze, so I went with the bacon straight on aluminum foil. I wound up pouring off 2/3rds of the fat halfway through. The glaze never turned brown, but when the bacon itself was browned enough and crispy I took it out and let it cool on a rack. It turns out this approach, even with 5 tsps of brown sugar instead of two, makes for a fairly light glaze. It’s actually quite nice: just sweet enough to offset the aggressive saltiness of the bacon and add a bit of crispness without being crusty. It was light enough that I started to think candied pecans might have been just fine after all, but by then it was too late–I needed the ice cream done and didn’t have any candied pecans in the house. So I toasted ~1 c. chopped pecans and let them cool, then got the custard going in the ice cream maker.

Mr. Lebovitz says the bacon should be cut to the size of rice grains, but that didn’t seem toothsome enough, so I went for about 1/4″ dice. Even at that size, the bacon wound up being broken down quite a bit in the ice cream maker, so I might cut it larger next time. Also, as it turned out, the mildness of the ice cream didn’t set off the baconness; instead the creaminess kind of hid the bacon flavor. Next time I think I will go with a version with more eggs, perhaps just follow the Leibovitz recipe in its entirety (except no liquor and yes candied pecans).

2/3 male consumers of this ice cream* said the custard base should be smokier. One suggested using Liquid Smoke, which I’m thinking one could use in place of part of the vanilla extract–maybe 1 tsp of each? I also thought of using smoked salt in place of the regular salt (and no Liquid Smoke), which would be subtler, but perhaps insufficient for a whole batch. Further experiments in this area may be conducted at some undetermined point in the future.

*Knowing your audience may be important here: the two lobbying for smoky custard are American-born and -bred, and also fairly serious barbecuers. #3, who expressed no opinion about this, was born in India and grew up partly in Dubai, and views American barbecue as a charming and delicious foreign custom. Women were slightly skeptical of this smokiness idea.

Final takeaway: it’s bacon–go big! Go bold! Display wacky American excess in all its glory!

Now that, my people, is a recipe!! Hats off to you Lisa for a most excellent experiment! I’m going to take a few shortcuts and do some experimentation. Look for an upcoming blog inspired by this recipe. I have enjoyed bacon-bourbon-pecan Locopops at my local paleteria, but also found the bacon not bacon-y enough. With my aversion to Liquid Smoke, I am going to have to find a different way to turn up the BAM!

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Bacon Locopop Before

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Bacon Locopop Before

What is the wackiest flavor of ice cream you’ve ever eaten or craved? Post a comment below. We’re not here to judge, we’re here to take your ideas and make sundaes out of them.

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Bacon Locopop After

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Bacon Locopop After

Send your sugar cones, spoons, and outrageous challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Sunday, it’s Weekly Menus! Summertime is here, and the cooking is easy!

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Reviews from the Road: San Diego Style!

Gentle Readers, last week’s journey was sponsored by, wait for it, bacon. And avocado. And dessert. It is so very difficult to eat properly while traveling, particularly when the days last for 22 of 24 hours. However, there was much deliciousness to be found in San Diego. This was my first trip, and I very much liked what I saw. I kicked things off with this:

Peppery Lacquered Bacon from the San Diego Marriott: Winner!

Peppery Lacquered Bacon from the San Diego Marriott: Winner!

And it just kept going from there. Because what could be better than mixing my professional (social media) life with my personal (food) life? Answer: nothing. So we threw a Bacon and Waffles Tweetup at Brians24. Ironically, I had eaten so much bacon by this point I went for the lo-cal option, fried chicken.

Not bad for SoCal: fried chicken and waffles!

Not bad for SoCal: fried chicken and waffles!

But that wasn’t enough! We also held a team meeting at Extraordinary Desserts in Little Italy. The taxi driver kept trying to drop my teammate and I off at the bail bondsman, no matter how many times we repeated the address. A hint perhaps? The desserts should have been illegal. They were delicious, and so artfully presented. Carrot cake is a vegetable, right?

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Mango-Caramel Glaze

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Mango-Caramel Glaze

I spent some quality time with my favorite California ingredient, the avocado. I had it in omelets and as presented here, in this fantastic blackened tuna wrap. I attacked this like a wild dog. It was at a cafe in the Gaslamp District, where there are endless little bistros ready to serve you.

Blackened Tuna Wrap with Avocado and a Tasty Side Salad

Blackened Tuna Wrap with Avocado and a Tasty Side Salad

Of course, there was also plenty of my road food staple: oatmeal. Hats off to my friend, SirMinceALot, for pairing a parfait with bacon for the morning meal.

Bacon. Parfait. Bacon. Parfait.

Bacon. Parfait. Bacon. Parfait.

In my meager health defense, I did run a 5K in the middle of the event. I ran most, I walked some, I worked a 12+ hour day after doing so. Not my best planning ever. However, we raised over $1700 for the Wounded Warrior Project, so well worth it.

My first 5K ever!

My first 5K ever!

Overall, I loved the parts of San Diego I got to see, and plan to return when I have time to explore further. Very relaxed vibe, and some truly fantastic food. Have you been to San Diego? Would love to hear your recommendations for the next trip. Post a comment below!

Send your good will, questions, and restaurant recommendations to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up on Friday, a guest blog: Bacon Pecan Ice Cream Recipe!

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Bacon Quest: Bacon Bacon Truck in San Francisco Reviewed! (with video)

Gentle Readers, it has been too long since The Practical Cook broke out the video review. Fear not, she is reunited with her camera and on the road. Better still, she is stalking that crowd favorite, bacon.

I learned about the famed Bacon Bacon SF food truck a few months ago, when I was, well, talking about bacon at a Tweetup. You would be shocked how often that happens to me. They have everything from your standard bacon grilled cheese to bacon popcorn and chocolate bacon.

The Menu at the Bacon Bacon SF Food Truck

The Menu at the Bacon Bacon SF Food Truck

Accompanied by fellow bacon fan, whom I shall call Semper Fried, we decided to try as much as we could across the menu, for science of course. In our meager defense, we walked to and from the truck, and that was some reasonable distance.

Pork Belly Taco and Pork Belly Fries: Delicious in a box

Pork Belly Taco and Pork Belly Fries: Delicious in a box

I had the Bahn Mi and Chocolate Bacon, he went for the Pork Belly taco and Pork Belly fries (they made me think of Southern BBQ, a win). The bacon was exceptional. I am in the process of determining where it came from. My sandwich was good, the pork meatballs were nice, but I’ve had better pork belly. The money is really on the bacon here, it is outstanding, thick without being jerkylike, not overly hammy or salty, very balanced with a pronounced bacon flavor.

Pork Meatball Bahn Mi with Bacon!

Pork Meatball Bahn Mi with Bacon!

Would I go back? Absolutely, if only to buy more chocolate bacon. Yeah, it’s good, don’t try to kid yourself about that. Go early, the line forms fast. I think I’m going to try the vegetarian option next time, with bacon.

Chocolate, Meet Bacon.

Chocolate, Meet Bacon. <3

Will you go out of your way to eat bacon? Tell me your story or issue a bacon challenge in the comment box below!

The Bacon Bacon Food Truck in San Francisco! Hunt it down today!

The Bacon Bacon Food Truck in San Francisco! Hunt it down today!

Food truck recommendations, kudos, and culinary challenges can be sent to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Friday, Roasted Spring Vegetables Recipe.

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