Monthly Archives: September 2009

Danny and Shauna eat pork in San Francisco

hello, pig

We haven’t been here in awhile. Have you missed us?

Believe me, folks, we didn’t forget about you. In fact, for nearly a week, we were eating some of the best pork dishes of our lives, in the Bay Area. Prosciutto and lonzo. Braised pork shoulder and pork sliders. Jamon iberico and bacon peanut brittle. Smoked whiskey fennel sausage and carnitas.

Oh my.

After this whirlwind, delicious visit, we can say one thing with certainty: people of San Francisco, you sure do love your pig.

(the top photograph is of the pig decorating the wall above the door into the kitchen at Fatted Calf, in Napa. We’ll be telling you about that place soon.)

jamon iberico and American prosciutto

These curls of pink were some of our favorite bites of the entire trip. Jamon Iberico (aged 36 months) — dry with a depth of taste I cannot replicate in words — and American prosciutto — buttery and soft on the tongue — from La Quercia, the only American company making artisan prosciutto as good as anything emerging from Parma. (Even better? They’re based in Iowa.)

We were served this incredible plate of tastes at Contigo, one of the best new restaurants we have ever eaten in. We can’t wait to tell you more about Contigo, too.

salumi at Boccalone

This marvelous sight is one of the many salumi cases at Boccalone. This is such a tiny shop, tucked into the Ferry Building Marketplace, that you might miss it on your way to Frog Hollow Farm or Blue Bottle coffee.

Don’t miss it. Otherwise, you’d be missing the salumi cone, the lard-fried potato chips, and the Nudja. And that would just be sad.

How could we not love a business with the slogan “Tasty Salted Pig Parts”?

carnitas at Mijita

If you go to Boccalone, you could lunch on any handful of sandwiches. Or, why not pick up some salumi to go and amble down to Mijita instead?

This little Mexican cocina-type restaurant is owned by Traci des Jardins, who is one of the most respected chefs in San Francisco, as well as the consulting chef at Mijita. Here, she offers casual food, from different regions of Mexico, with extraordinary flavors.

And these carnitas tacos. You know you want one.

bacon peanut brittle

And when you go to Humphry Slocombe, and stand amazed in front of the display case when you see that they have prosciutto ice cream (so much better than it might even sound!), you might take a moment to look down and see they have bacon peanut brittle, as well.

At least, we did.

a room full of food bloggers

Oh, and we did attend this conference.

The first BlogHer Food conference was a smashing success (well, except for the food). Hundreds of food bloggers from across the nation gathered together to listen to talks about food photography from some of the best photographers in the nation, discussed how to change the world through food blogs, and pondered the meaning of identity in this increasingly crowded field of food blogs.

Also, there was plenty of squealing, as women and men who have been reading each other’s stories for years finally met in the flesh. Let’s be honest, it was a lovefest. A crowded, hectic, wonderful lovefest.

We were so happy to be there.

(And in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that the Pork Board sponsored us to attend the conference and eat great pork dishes around San Francisco. We were so happy to represent this website, and to meet Caroline and Adam from WeberShandwick and Cathy Lee from  the Pork Board. Those were some incredible conversations.)

Attending this conference was one of the biggest highlights of our time in San Francisco.

Lu ate at Bouchon (and so did we)

But perhaps the most memorable moments came at one of the better restaurants in the country, where we took our toddler daughter for lunch, along with two dear friends. And I ate one of the best sausages I have ever tasted.

You’ll have to wait to hear more about that. Come on back in these next few weeks. We’ll be sharing.

eating together

sharing breakfast

This is our daughter, eating with us. Scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes, sauteed zucchini, and bacon. (She loves bacon.)

She’s only a year old, but she’s already figured out that eating is really a social activity. In fact, if we try to sit her in her highchair, put some food in front of her, and get other tasks done while she eats? She doesn’t eat very much.

But if we gather together, sit around the table, eat slowly, and talk? She eats enough food for a much older child. She eats what we eat. And she eats well.

I have heard this idea many times — the most accurate predictor of whether a child will do well in school? It’s not a score on an IQ test, or preparatory class, or economic class of the parents. It’s whether or not families eat dinner together. As a former high school teacher, I can tell you, on an anecdotal level: this sure seems true.

That’s why Danny and I are happy to tell you about a promotion this week called National Eat Together Week. It’s meant to inspire folks to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner together, as often as they can this week.

If you go to this site, you’ll find plenty of pork recipes to make with your family. Even more exciting — to us, anyway — for every recipe you download from that site, pork producers will donate five pounds of pork to food banks this week.

There are so many families in this country who would like to eat together, but they may not have enough to eat.

So, if you’re going to eat dinner together, why not help someone else do the same?

the Cuban pork roast sandwich at Paseo

Cuban roast pork sandwich at Paseo

My friend Sharon wanted eat lunch in Seattle. Where to go? Where to go?

You probably don’t understand. You see, Sharon and I have been friends since 1983, best friends, friends with entire dictionaries of inside jokes. And food has been one of the biggest ties between us.

Sharon generally likes to plan every meal days in advance. When I told her Danny had pickled figs and red cabbage (separately), and the jars were sitting in our refrigerator, she decided we would eat them for Friday’s dinner. This was on Tuesday morning.

So when we were driving off the ferry on Saturday afternoon, and realized we didn’t know where to have lunch yet, Sharon started to panic. Where were we going to go?

Instantly, I knew.

Paseo.

They have this Cuban pork roast sandwich.

Cuban roast pork sandwich at Paseo

Paseo is a tiny little tin shack of a place, in the Fremont neighborhood, far away from anything else cool. When you’re looking for it on a Saturday afternoon, however, you will know you have reached it for the line of hungry people waiting outside the door. Most of them know to order their food to go — the place only has 5 or 6 tables. But Sharon and I wanted to stay, so we waited for a space to open.

This way, we could sit back and enjoy, instead of eating in the car.

Sharon really had no choice but to order the Cuban pork roast sandwich. I have never been able to eat it (the gluten thing), but so many friends have recommended it that I knew Sharon would love it.

What is it? And I quote….

“Pork shoulder coated in Paseo marinade & slow roasted ’til falling into succulent morsels….[served] on a lightly toasted baguette slathered with aioli (seasoned mayo) , fresh cilantro, pickled jalapeños, crisp romaine lettuce & crowned with caramelized onions.”

Try to resist it.

the last of the pork sandwich

Sharon certainly didn’t resist it. She said — and I quote — “That is the best sandwich I have ever eaten. And the messiest.”

Here she is, trying to find another piece of pork-soaked cilantro to eat. She licked that paper clean.

You might too.

Paseo

4225 Fremont Ave N · map·
206 545-7440
Tue – Sat 11-9
and
6226 Seaview Ave NW · map·
206 789-3100
Tue – Sat 11-8

we made our own BLTs

homemade bacon

That pork belly, brined and hanging in our refrigerator? Smoked on our front-deck smoker?

It finally became bacon.

(The Mangalitsa belly we bought was rather fatty, so these slices are mostly white. But bacon fat? Not a problem for this bacon goal.)

After I took this photograph, I stood in our kitchen, admiring. Homemade bacon. Right here.

It’s so much easier than I thought.

gluten-free bread for the BLT

And since we have perfected the gluten-free bread this month (well, perfected until the next version of the recipe comes out of the oven even crustier and warm), we knew we had to do this challenge.

lettuce from our garden

I grew a garden this summer, for the first time in my life. Every morning in May and June, I went out to the garden in the morning, my feet bare, the hot coffee cup clutched in my hand. I had to check on the growth of the lettuce. It seemed they would never grow.

And then one day, when I went out to see, there they were — sprouts of lettuce, green and leafy, poking up from the black earth.

Within weeks we were eating salads made from clutches of greens we had grown ourselves.

heirloom tomatoes with basil and olive oil

Oh, how I wish I could claim that I grew these tomatoes, the Japanese truffle heirlooms on our friends’ picnic table this summer. These were grown by Billy Allstot, one of our favorite farmers in the Seattle farmers’ market circuit.

I did, however, grow cherry tomatoes — sweet 100s — that glowed orange as kumquats on the pungent vines bending down toward the deck. And some simple slicing tomatoes that grew fat and red. Well, a few of them grew. And I have to admit — we ate all of them in a glorious orgy of warm tomatoes with sea salt, standing over the sink.

So we didn’t have tomatoes we grew ourselves in the sandwich. But they came from the farm stand down the street, where fruit and vegetables sit on a checkered-tablecloth-covered picnic table, along with a cash box. The farmers trust us to tell the truth. We do.

i made mayonnaise when I returned home

And mayonnaise? Mayonnaise is simple to make. A couple of eggs, an egg yolk, salt and pepper, mustard, lemon juice, and canola oil, poured in slowly, slowly, slowly. You don’t have to do it by hand. A food processor works just fine.

At the end of this process, the mayonnaise is thick and creamy, sunshine yellow and ready for spreading.

morning scene

But really, it’s all about the bacon. You cannot have a great BLT without some great bacon.

We’ve always loved bacon in this house. But this batch was different. Crafting the bacon from scratch?

This made me love the salty crunch and irresistible taste even more fully.

tonight's BLT

There’s another reason why this BLT meant so much to me, why it may mean more to me than anyone else participating in the BLT challenge.

I loved creating our bacon, making the bread, growing lettuce and tomatoes, and whipping up some mayonnaise in the food processor. But this was more than just a meal to me.

This was the first BLT I have eaten since having to go gluten-free. That means that this sandwich, which my friend Sharon is holding up in the dusky twilight light, is the first bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich I have eaten in almost 5 years.

Yes. It tasted that good.

Bacon Rice Crispies — a recipe

becky's rice krispies with bacon

Quite awhile ago now, we told about our friend Becky’s rice crispies with bacon. We felt bad teasing you with this photo and no recipe, but Becky wanted to perfect it before she let us publish it.

You see, Becky is an incredibly talented chef. She not makes great food with her hands, but she also invents flavor combinations that always leave us surprised and sated. She worked at the Herbfarm for years, along with other respected Seattle restaurants. She is a private chef, a cooking instructor, and and a very fine author. (I also hear tell that she’s a mean Scrabble player, but I can’t vouch for that for sure, since we still haven’t been able to arrange a game.) Becky created a website we consult nearly every day — Seasonal Cornucopia — because it lists every ingredient available in the Northwest and exactly when they are available. Start exploring it and you won’t stop soon.

Lately, Becky has combined all these talents into her food blog, Chef Reinvented. You really should be reading it.

Right after you make these bacon rice crispies. Enjoy.

Bacon Rice Crispy Treats

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 ounces marshmallows
6 cups rice krispies
1 cup best quality bittersweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons cocoa nibs
6 ounces your favorite bacon (I used Skagit River Ranch), brushed lightly with 1 tablespoon maple syrup and then cooked until crisp, drained and crumbled

Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter and half of the marshmallows. Stir, while melting, until it is a consistent texture. Mix in 3 cups of the rice krispies until well coated.

Add the mixture to a 9 by 9 square pan or 8″ spring form pan that you have rubbed bacon grease on. Press down the mixture with some wax paper or wet hands until flat.

Over a double boiler, melt 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips (reserve the rest). Stir the nibs into the melted chocolate and working quickly spread on top of the rice krispy mixture.  Top with 1/2 of the crumbled bacon.

Melt the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter with the rest of the marshmallows until smooth. Add the rest of the rice krispies and stir well.

Pour out on top of the chocolate-nib-bacon middle and press down to make flat. Garnish with the remaining chocolate chips and bacon. Press the bacon and chips into the warm rice krispy mixture.

Chill for at least 30 minutes before cutting into bars.

more on how to make bacon

belly smoking

A few days ago, we showed you the photo of this pork belly hanging in the refrigerator. What happened next?

Danny smoked it.

Smoking adds another layer to the flavor of the pork belly. You should have a good hint of smoke. When you first bite into the bacon, smoke should not be the first taste. And it shouldn’t be the last bite either. The smoke flavor should be the shy person in the corner of the room at the party. You decide to take a chance on the conversation and realize she’s the most interesting person there.
When you smoke something, you’re just adding flavor to it, enhancing the natural flavor of whatever it is you are eating. So smoke and pork go together like pancakes and maple syrup. You can eat pancakes without syrup, but they taste so much better with it.

How long you smoke the belly will depend on what kind of smoker you have. We have a basic Weber smoker, nothing fancy. But it works. We used charcoal briquets and a decent-size piece of applewood thrown in for the flavor. You want to cold smoke the belly, which means smoking at a low heat. If you smoke it on high heat, you’ll cook the belly. You don’t want that. This piece of belly, which weighed only a pound, took about 4 to 5 hours to smoke.

Take your time and don’t rush it.

And of course, the belly is still not cooked. Not even close. Once you are done smoking the belly, then you have raw bacon. Cook in your favorite fashion.

pork belly hanging in the refrigerator

bacon hanging in the refrigerator

Let’s see. There are eggs, milk, club soda. Pickled red cabbage, blueberry chutney, and pickled figs. Milk and buttermilk, an orange pepper, and homemade apple cider. All looks pretty typical for a refrigerator, right?

But what’s the gauzy bandaged package in the middle? That, our friends, is pork belly, brined and now drying.

In other words, it’s almost bacon.

Did you know you can make bacon from scratch? I certainly didn’t, not for a long time. Bacon seemed like one of those delicious foods that arrived in a package, brined and delightful, made by the food gods for me to enjoy. Once I started learning where food comes from, I began to enjoy it even more. Thinking about the hours of work, the well-honed techniques, the salt and cider and drying and smoke? They have only made me love bacon more.

Soon, we’ll be eating bacon that Danny crafted from scratch, from raw belly to brined goodness to that hanging package to meat on the smoker to crisp fat and meat in a BLT sandwich we constructed ourselves.

I can’t wait.

So, why make bacon when it’s available in every store?

It’s going to taste better. What tastes better, making your own mayonnaise or something you buy at the store? You can buy canned tomatoes or you can buy some at the farmers’ market. So many people are used to buying their bacon at the store. But it’s such a simple process, mostly about waiting patiently, that you will be amazed. Once you make bacon once, you’re never going to want to stop.

If you would like to make bacon, here’s a place to start.

3 cups water
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 clove garlic
4 sprigs rosemary, chopped
4 sprigs thyme, chopped
4 sprigs sage, chopped
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon fennel seed
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 fresh bay leaf or 2 dried bay leaves
2 pounds pork belly (we used Mangalitsa from Wooly Pigs)

Pour the water and apple cider into a large saucepan. Add the sugar and salt. Boil until the sugar and salt have dissolved.

Meanwhile, toast and smash the peppercorns and fennel seed. Add the toasted spices, plus everything else, to the liquid. Remove the saucepan from heat and cool to room temperature, allowing the flavors to steep.

Put the pork belly in there. Make sure it’s submerged. Put in the fridge, preferably in a container with a lid. Brine for 5 days.

Remove the belly from the liquid. Pat it dry.

Wrap the belly in cheesecloth, in at least a couple of layers. Use butcher’s string to truss up the belly, then hang it in your refrigerator. Hang the belly for at least three days. Let the flavors in the brine intensify in the belly.

(stay tuned next week for the rest of the process)

would you like some sausage?

sausages!

Would you like some sausage?

If you came to our house for breakfast, you’d probably be offered some homemade pork sausage. Want to come over?

Every time Danny makes sausages, he tries out a different set of flavors. Fennel and rosemary. Apple cider and prunes. Mexican chile powder and garlic. Once you start making sausage, you won’t stop.

“But I enjoy the classics just as much. Chorizo. Blood sausage. Sweet Italian. Kielbasa. It’s fun to experiment and try new things. Then again, it’s just nice to go back and do something that has been perfected over the years.”

In other words, you could make pork sausage for the rest of your life and still not be done.

Go ahead and try.

If you’d like to make the sausages you see pictured above, here are the ingredients. And for the technique, please look back at our Making Sausages — A Primer.

3 pounds pork butt
3/4 pound backfat
4 large cloves garlic, rough chopped
1 tablespoon toasted fennel seed, crushed
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
pinch red chile flakes
2 teaspoons each kosher salt and cracked black pepper

bacon is my co-pilot

bacon is my co-pilot

We’ve seen a lot of conversation and catch phrases about bacon in the last few years. Bacon is the new black. Bacon is the gateway meat. Bacon is good for me!

This phrase, on the back of a t-shirt sold at our local farmers’ market, may be our new favorite: bacon is my co-pilot.

The t-shirt is one of many phrases for the about-to-open Swinery, a retail store and charcuterie production house soon to open in West Seattle. For now, the folks who run The Swinery are selling bacon, sausages, bratwursts, and terrines at farmers’ markets around the area. Expect a report from us as soon as they open.

One of their other t-shirts says: “I do whatever the bacon tells me.”

Since it was International Bacon Day this past weekend, we thought you’d want to see this t-shirt.

And we’d love to hear about what you did to celebrate the day.

If you had to encapsulate all your feelings about bacon into one phrase, what would it be?

International Bacon Day

bacon cheeseburger

Tomorrow, Saturday September 5th, is a very important holiday.

No, Labor Day is on Monday. The weekend does feel like an entire holiday, but that’s not it either.

Do you know what September 5th is?

It’s International Bacon Day.

Really.

Not that we need another reason to eat bacon, but here’s yours. It’s time to celebrate bacon.

When I asked on Twitter today what people might be doing to celebrate the holiday, here’s what they said:

@vikingkat cook up bacon, make blt or eat w/scramble eggs+cream cheese

@HighChair Adding bacon to my broccoli slaw!

@Shibaguyz oooohh… I’m seeing a bacon & blue cheese stuff burger in my immediate future!

@cooklocal Making something delicious w/@seabreezefarm pancetta! Is that close enough to bacon? If not, bacon wrapped green beans.

@EmilysPearl Oh, Jesus. I’m afraid what I might do…

But really, as @mamster wrote, “What WON’T I be doing to celebrate!”

There are so many ways to enjoy bacon.

If you want a recipe, any of thousands of recipes, for making something delicious with bacon, look at the Bacon Show, an extensive blog dedicated to recipes with bacon.

Megan, of I Heart Bacon, seems to be posting again, sporadically. Hooray!

If you are, somehow, stumped for new ways to enjoy bacon, here are a few of the more unusual ideas for you:

How about a bacon sleeve for your iPhone?

If you are worried that you haven’t eaten enough bacon in one day, you could suck on these bacon mints.

This attempt failed, but perhaps you could successfully make a bacon pinata.

Mr. Bacon Pants is having a bacon photo contest.

And finally, if licking your lips after eating all that bacon has left them chapped, you could apply some of this bacon lip balm.
We will, of course, be enjoying bacon in a number of forms throughout the day. Perhaps a warm bacon vinaigrette for salads with poached eggs. Or candied bacon ice cream. Or a tomato soup with white beans and bacon.

Or perhaps we’ll just cook up a raft of bacon slices and munch throughout the afternoon.

Happy Bacon Day, everyone!