Tuesday, May 19

Bacon Fever

"Swine flu! I had bacon fever once, but it turned out the cure was just more bacon."

If statements like this represent "the norm" of communication between you and your siblings, what exactly does that say?

a. We all read The Onion a lot.
b. We have some psychological aversion to taking things seriously.
c. We have nearly every Simpsons' episode memorized and try to mimic them in every aspect of daily life.
d. We have a lifelong devotion to cured meats.
e. We grew up on a farm in Iowa; pork fervor is in our blood.
f. All of the above.

Oh yes, it is all of the above.

I know bacon loving has become quite the fad these days (I'm still not sure how eating fried meats becomes a fad, but whatever), but I'd like to take this moment to say: Tricks! The Perdues were here first! And we'll be here (with clogged arteries) long after you go running back to chicken and fish--or some weak sauce like that.

Bacon was present for many of my fond memories with my family. Some moments I feel like bacon was a member of our family. An abnormally silent, highly valued, and acceptably edible member, but still.

Bacon was there in BLT form with garden-fresh tomatoes after swimming lessons every Summer. Bacon has come to all our large New Year's day parties snugly wrapped around prunes and adding to the delight of the cleverly named "big sandwich." Bacon has been the steadfast breakfast partner to waffles, french toast, eggs, ableskiver, crepes and numerous other breakfasts that have been lingered over in my parents kitchen.

Last week I was in one of those rare moods when I was hungry, but nothing really appealed to me. I was wandering aimlessly around Miahuatlán mulling over the food in my fridge--none of my stock sounded remotely appealing except for a cantaloupe whose days were numbered.

I contemplated this cantaloupe and drifted into a daydream of eating melon and prosciutto in the Italian countryside with a glass of prosecco.
Then I had the realization that: hell, I am in Mexico. Prosciutto's cousin bacon, good ole sturdy bacon, my life long friend, lives here. And bacon crept into my mind, infecting me, and reminding me of all the good times we've shared.

So I decided to make an Italian countryside-daydream into a small Mexican city reality that showcased the food-love of my life. I came out with: Bacon Manchego Quesadillas with Melon Salsa.

It was just the trick. It sparked my hunger, was fresh, sweet, and savory. I was excited about my new twist while maintaining some (probably minimal, yes) Mexican cuisine elements. I
practically ran home to make it--I mean, it has BACON in it--who can walk? It had everything my bacon revering family would be excited about: bacon.

Bacon Manchego Quesadillas with Melon Salsa

I actually didn't pile on the bacon or cheese. With the amounts below (and using a little of the grease for frying) the flavors are all strong without being a heavy, meaty-cheese bog. However, do as your conscience dictates--bog away. Also, make sure your cantaloupe is nice and ripe. The salsa will benefit from a juicy one.

1/4 lb of bacon
8 medium corn tortillas
3/4 C refried beans
3 oz thinly sliced manchego cheese
Melon Salsa
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 of a medium onion, diced
1 C fresh cilantro, chopped
1 small-medium cantaloupe, cut into small cubes
1 jalapeño
Juice of one lime

Assemble the salsa first. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

Cook bacon in a medium skillet until you obtain desired crispness (preferred crisposity?). Remove bacon from skillet, blot with paper towels, and break into small pieces. Drain standing bacon grease from skillet, but allow a coating to remain and set the skillet aside.

Evenly spread 1/4 of the refried beans on a tortilla. Evenly distribute 1/4 of the manchego and bacon on the beans and top with another tortilla. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Heat the skillet (with the bacon gloss) over medium high heat. Place one quesadilla in the skillet and cook 3-4 minutes or until the tortilla begins to crisp and brown. Flip quesadilla over and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cut into quarters. Repeat with each quesadilla.

Top quesadilla wedges with melon salsa and enjoy.

I almost forgot my shameless self-promotion for the day! Whew, that was close.
Please go vote (highly) on my enchilada recipe! I love winning!

Wednesday, May 13

Frying Times

Swine flu. Having nothing to do. A boss that is trying to deport you.
Come on, $25,000 Pyramid lovers, any guesses?
Brrrww: "The trying times Margee has had these last few weeks?"
Bing, bing! We have a winner!!!

If "Aaarggghh" (nice and phlegmy at the end) has ever been your standard response of disbelief and frustration for about a solid two weeks or longer, then I think you know where I'm coming from. Things and people that suck, just suck.

Fortunately, things have wound down. My back is feeling less and less like knotted tree roots and the "aarrrggh" sound is turning back into actual words, because swine flu scares have eased (mainly my boredom at being in my tiny apartment) and the aforementioned boss is no longer the boss. Woot, woot!

To really ease myself out of these trying times I have made a few visits to my friendly papas francesa man and turned the oil up to eleven for a little fryin' of my own.

I know there are the healthier comfort food options, but I prefer the unhealthy ones in particular trying times, because it's like a little gift. You're acknowledging that things suck and allowing yourself to partake in something you might not normally. Like your mind is saying "Yeah, it has been pretty bad. You go right ahead and eat those french fries while you stare darkly at nothing and listen to Leonard Cohen. Why don't you put a little more mayonnaise on them while you're at it?" Ahh. Thanks for understanding, mind, I think I will.

Every trick will tell you some different trick that is supposed to make the best french fries. Soaking in water, russet potatoes, chilling, draining--I have no idea. I've done it a thousand different ways and I really can't tell you what works best other than: hot oil + potatoes. Actually I don't even care if there are potatoes. Sweet potato fries (bake or fry) and these polenta fries have been some spud alternatives that I'm extremely fond of.

Regardless of what kind you want to make, I'm not going to run tests and tell you the best methods, I'm still in final stages of recovery, people! I'm leaving that part to you or you checking out Cook's Illustrated. They always have fantastic test kitchen recommendations to get "the best" of whatever. And their covers are just so dang purty.

My focus is on the eating of the fries. And what I want to be eating them with ( I mean sauce-wise because obviously I want to be eating them with beer).

My street french fries come with heavy drizzlings of mayonaise, catsup, hot sauce, and a nacho-cheesey sauce. I highly recommend recreating these. I would use Valentina for the hot sauce and maybe some Tostito's nacho cheese dip for the cheese. You though I was high class? Well, that was just a lie (but I do recommend eating these with a fork.)

If you aren't into the sloppy street-style fries, maybe make a variety of sauces to accompany your fries. Before Christmas at my family's Belgian Night, I made a trio of sauces to go with our fries.

Saffron Aïoli Bon Appetit August, 2006
  • 2 whole heads garlic
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon saffron threads
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
reheat oven to 350°F.

Wrap each garlic head in foil and roast until soft, about 1 hour. Unwrap and let cool. Peel cloves and set aside.

In medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and lemon. Set aside.

Place 2 tablespoons hot water in small bowl. In small, dry skillet over moderate heat, toast saffron for 30 seconds. Stir into hot water, then fold saffron water into egg mixture.

In blender, combine 4 tablespoons canola oil, raw garlic, roasted garlic, and salt. Blend on high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add egg mixture and blend 1 more minute. With motor running, very slowly add olive oil and remaining canola oil in steady stream, and continue blending until thick, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

Bloody Mary Catsup--I created this with store bought catsup, but added some items for a little more spice and a little less sugar, because for me, store bought catsup is much, much too sweet and this felt all fancy.
  • 1/2 C prepared catsup
  • 1/2 C tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp chopped sweet red peppers
  • 1 Tbsp hot sauce (preferably Tabasco)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Dump all ingredients into blender and blend until smooth.

Not that salt isn't a respectable and adequate companion for the fry-world, but sometimes in your darkest hours you got to jazz things up a bit. It doesn't even need to be very involved. Throw some garlic and parmesan cheese into store bought mayonaise and be thankful for those lovely Belgians that have given us possibly the most beautiful of coping mechanisms.