Monday, April 25, 2011

Home Cured Bacon

Home Cured Bacon by CaptainShen
I accidentally deleted my post on home-curing bacon without a smoker. Sad day! Any questions?

edit: Alright, since DeusInvictus so quickly (and desperately!) replied, I'll give a synopsis of The Baconing. And first, to answer the question of description: Meaty, spiced, peppery, smoky, and mildly sweet. It will indeed make you sway. It didn't uniformly crisp up like I like, but that can be easily solved by getting it cut more thinly.* Unfortunately, since I cannot recover that post, it won't be exact-- but I can remember the gist of it. 

Essentially, home 'curing**' bacon is simply marinating pork-belly in salt and spices until it is 'cured,' in the same way that one (if one were smart and wonderful) would make salted salmon for Lomilomi Salmon (salt, wait, wash). If you didn't understand the things that I just mentioned, just move on. There is still hope for you. 

My dad is a genius of smoking. Not that my father has a cigarette between every finger or a special cigar-smoking device-- not that at all. Silly-wicket. My father built a magnificent smoker out of a propane tank long long ago, welding huge sheets of steel into a magical sculpture that transforms raw meat into charred treasure. My favorite times, as a child, involved being treated to 'the heel' of the brisket, in its black crusty goodness, with a tender line of pink meat just underneath. He'd fire it up only when he'd stocked up on an entire petting-zoo worth of meat and could fill it (and the oven on the end) to the brim. I have fond memories of a clean bathtub full of raw briskets thawing in the front bathroom (how very strange). It fed us, and many other family and friends, for months. 

However, a smoker I have not. It would be efficient for me, at least right now. A few years ago, I shared my knowledge of liquid smoke making with my dad and he bestowed unto me a bottle of home-made liquid smoke. OK, we're back to bacon. Seriously, I took the scenic route to get here. Simply purchase pork belly from your meat market and place it flat in a ziploc bag with a 1/2 cup (ish) of liquid smoke, some small cinnamon sticks, whole black peppercorns, salish alderwood smoked salt, fennel seeds, and SO importantly: ground Fenugreek. Fenugreek is an intoxicating, mellow spice, reminiscent of maple syrup. Lay this bag of goodies (after mixing well) flat on a shelf in the fridge and flip it every day for seven days. When you're done, take the pork belly (we can start calling it bacon now!) bacons out of the bag, wash them under cool water to get all the excess salt off, and dry them like mad. Dry them really, really well. Crack black pepper over them and let them sit in your fridge, uncovered, on a paper towel, for another day. 

Now, there you have it. Place sheets of wax paper between them and put them in a baggy to use or freeze! Congratulations, bacon-maker. You win breakfast. 

Happy eating!

*I'm going to try this next time using unsliced pork-belly. This time I used slices, as seen in the picture below. 
**I don't claim to use the word 'curing' in any sort of scientific way. I don't know what that actually entails, alright? Back off! 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Stuffed Zucchini

I've just 'met' (well, sort of) the owner of Paleo Middle Eastern and am right now excitedly waiting for this beauty to emerge from my oven. I rarely make full-scale casserole-pan recipes unless I have guests, but this looked too good to pass up. I rode my bicycle to an Indian shop in hopes that they'd have a vegetable corer (not because I'm ignorant of the differences between 'Indian' and 'Middle Eastern,' but because the next-most-ethnic thing we've got is Kroger. As in, nothing.*) but they had one not (though I did get some good Garam Masala <3). Moving on, this brings us to tonight and my kitchen, where my little vegetable peeler with its little blade sat in its jar** mocking me. Also, I was faced with the fact that my favorite Moroccan*** casserole dish is an odd/small shape. As such, I cut the squashes all in half and made super mini little ones. Perfect! Also, the meat I happened to have thawed in my fridge was my favorite red-meat of all time: Lamb. New Zealand ground lamb. hhhhhhnnn....

* OK, mild lie. There is a little Mexican shop where I stopped and bought fresh pork rinds (sooo good dusted with cinnamon), and misunderstood them as '$1.59 a pound,' then asking for a pound. The kind lady began scooping and didn't stop until she'd essentially filled a small trashbag and labelled it $6 something. I stared in a moment of blank confusion, rarely stumped by language barriers, and began to laugh. I somehow explained what I'd thought and she happily put them back and gave me a little bag of around $2 :). Delicious.

** Who keeps a peeler in a jar?!

*** Seriously. Not a cultural dunce.

Friday, April 15, 2011


The modern world is one of stress and deadlines, the abundance of work and the absence of play, and a tension that seems to be constantly cranking just a little tighter. We can be happier and healthier if we just go play-- literally, go frolic, hike, swing, or play sports-- but sometimes these natural things elude us. We must make a conscious effort to balance our stress with release, our tension with relaxation, and our contracting with lengthening. Stretch. Walk. Breathe.

Sometimes check yourself. How are you sitting? Sit up, allow yourself to align. How are you standing? Relax your shoulders, bring them down. Stretch your back out, spread your toes, and twist yourself until your tension dissipates.

I have to have a clean house to relax. I turn all lights off but the string-lights, light candles and burn insense, and experience a cup of tea. I'm way, way into tea.

How do you relax?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


P1010667 by CaptainShen
P1010667, a photo by CaptainShen on Flickr.

I had thawed out some ground grass-fed beef, but suddenly came to the realization that it wasn't ground beef at all. It was super-succulent, silky grass-fed thin deli meat, house-roasted at a store near my house. However, it wasn't what I wanted at all-- I'd had the same in a basil salad for breakfast.

Utterly hopeless, I fell to the floor and began to pound my fist on the refrigerator. What on earth could I make?! The only meat I had that wasn't frozen was tinned tuna! All I had in the fridge were bizzare, random things! An open tin of anchovies, two eggs laid by a coworker's own beloved chickens, dry-cured olives, a half of an organic roma tomato, and these darned spring onions, bulbous glossy purple-white and crisp green. Not to mention the remainder of those pesky capers and the last little serving of some vinaigrette.

Cough, cough. Apparently, my refrigerator had converted to a gigantic Niçoise salad holder.

I love this salad dearly. The startling saltiness of the anchovies, olives, and capers is soothed by the cooing coolness of refreshing tomato, spinach, and olive oil. Of course, the crown jewels of this bowl were the voluptuously creamy little orange-yolked cups, creamy beneath nutty sparks of cracked black pepper.

I tend to agree with the old school thought that a proper Niçoise salad (thats Nii-Swas) utilizes tinned tuna and does not contained the cooked vegetables (potato and green bean) that are popular in mondern times.

Perfect salad for a sunny meal on the lawn before work.

Aaaah... how... ...Nice...

Bò rừng bizon lá lốt: Green Bison Morsels

Alright, So I've moved! The new address (uhm, look up) is That makes sense now, doesn't it? I know, I know, I haven't held up the rest of my birthday declarations yet, but I am working on it. I already gave you an ode and a drawing, alright? 

I have these little lovely morsels to share with you on moving day. These are bite-sized crispy salty little morsels of tender meat baked in grape-leaves, Vietnamese style. As per my city of origin (Arlington, Texas), I feel deeply connected to Vietnamese cuisine and flavors. You think thats funny? You think that's strange? You must not be from Arlington.

(Seriously, we have the 15th highest Vietnamese population in the United States, and we're better for it.)

Anyhow, these are typically made out of beef, but I had some incredible bison in the fridge, so these are "bò rừng bizon lá lốt." Mine turned out insanely, unapologetically green because of the amount of herb and spinach I added. Dear Vietnamese readers: I totally just dictionaried 'bison' in place of 'beef.' Correct me if you please ;)

I served this with a quick 'papaya salad,' but used a finely chopped endive instead of green-papaya (Oh! How I love Gỏi khô bò) because Denton is absolutely void of any market that is even remotely a little bit Asian, much less any place providing the papaya and beansprout bulk-bins of my youth.

I just searched for some good recipes (you really don't need one) and found a great one here. I was surprised to see that she, too, put spinach in! I don't think that is very traditional. I served it with my Dakine Dressing.

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sea Bass! Glorious Sea Bass!

Seabass! by CaptainShen
With my great love of salmon as my unquestionable favorite fish of all time, I've been trying to explore white fishes with a little more dedication.

For the most part, they bore me. I love rainbow trout and turbot, but other white fishes that I've tried just seem so... listless. Dull.

However, a few weeks back, I fell upon the holiness that is Turbot with weakened knees and a pattering heart. It has taken its place among my top ranks. Of course, it is blasphemously expensive.

I was talking about this with a good friend of mine, a fishmonger, and my disdain for non-oily whitefishes, and he realized with shock that I couldn't recall seabass. (Previous to this, my closest association to 'sea-bass' was a giant stuffed fish that a group of high-school friends of mine had, periodically making appearances in movies or conversations. Who knows...)

Anyhow, friend-the-fishmonger gave me a bit and I had it tonight. OH sweet delight, it is succulant and silky. I simply steamed it with cracked black pepper and red pepper flakes. White fish! You have hope, yet!

...still, blasphemously expensive.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Eat Safe, Use Condiments.

Oh, how uncomfortably stupid, the title of this post. Sauces and dips of all kinds have been on my mind as of late, and while insubstantial to really make up a post (or meal) I believe I've accumulated enough to create a little substance (or meal).

Dakine Dressing
This 'Asian-esque' dressing is one of my favorite little creations! It is an amazing, thick, light tasting dressing that is translucent and beautiful. I usually just make salad dressing on a whim for my meal, eat, and move on-- but this was so good that I scrambled to remember what went into it and how much--ish. I'm glad-- because it has definitely become one of my favorite refrigerator staples. And, wonder of wonders, it doesn't separate!
1 TB Sunflower Butter
1 TB Mac Nut Oil
1 tsp Ginger Juice
1 tsp Coconut Vinegar
1 tsp coconut Shoyu
1/2 tsp Sesame Oil
Big Pinch of White Pepper
Big Pinch of Orange Zest
Big Pinch of Dulse Flakes
Big Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
Small Pinch of Strong Cinnamon
Whisk together and store in an adorable glass jar in the fridge. This makes two or three...ish.. servings.

Hamburger Dressing
Assuming that your mom (swell lady that she is) has gifted you some home-made bacon-mayonnaise, you're ready to go. Otherwise, make it. I didn't like bacon mayonnaise much before I tried it in this way-- then things got REAL. Mix 1 part mustard, 1 part ketchup (check out the link at the end!), 1 part bacon-mayo, 1 part olive oil, and 1 part (apple cider or white wine is good) vinegar. Add a little bit of dry dill leaf (or pickle relish). Whisk it together... aaaand done.

Tahini Dressing
Easy dressing that I learned from the owner of Milk And Honey, my favorite little Israel shop in Dallas. Eh, Richardson? Hm. I remember when I was younger cooking a big passover dinner for my family that we all enjoyed on tables out back, and I remember how jazzed I was-- delighted, really-- that my dad seemed to really love this dressing. Anyhow, back to the shop and Richardson and the recipe. They said simply say to mix tahini with water. That's it. Thats all, and you know, some lemon juice. Thats all it takes, with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. That's all. That's what they said, that's how they said it. And they are right. You want I should make it?

Coconut Sour Cream
I really just didn't have sour cream and had a lot of coconut powder laying around. Why not make coconut cream and sour it with vinegar?
4 TB Powdered Coconut Milk
1/2 TB Coconut Vinegar (or White Wine Vinegar)
1 TB whey (I used raw goat's milk whey from yogurt-making)
Good Salt
A bit of warm water (1 or 2 TB)
Put the powdered coconut milk in a mixing bowl and add just enough warm water so that you can start whisking it with a fork. Using an actual whisk at this stage makes it lumpy and messy, so use your fork and make it metal. Stir and whisk until it is really thick-- thicker than sour cream-- and add your vinegar and salt. Whisk together and leave out on the counter overnight. This tastes VERY coconutty-- in fact, I added some olive oil before putting it in the fridge to bring down that natural 'sweetness' a bit-- but its delicious and adds an entirely exotic whirl to anything you'd add sour cream to. I added the whey with the intention of allowing it to ferment, but I don't think it did anything and it probably isn't necessary. 

A Little Lagniappe:

Mustard Vinaigrette.  The salad itself is AWESOME too-- Bacon and Egg salad? Rugged ingredients, yet elegant presentation. Its a classic French salad, the Salad of Burgundy. Between the glory that is a Burgundy Salad and the heaven that comes in the form of Niçoise salad, methinks the French know their salads. (Me also thinks that the rest of the world knows their salads perhaps a little bit better than America, the beautiful.)

Fermented Ketchup. I omitted any added sweet (duh?) as tomatoes have enough sugar on their own. I used raw goat milk whey that was leftover from my yogurt making. I didn't bother straining it, so it does have a spreadable pastiness to it. I am probably going to use this recipe next time, as I think that the anchovies/fish sauce are a very important part of making ketchup.