Sunday, April 26, 2009
Sorry that I am the most annoying blogger in the world. I have decided to concentrate on this blog again as opposed to Mr. Dave's Pantry. Henceforth, you shall be redirected from there to here. Don't worry, I have carried over all of the newer content. Hope I have not confused anyone too bad.
I know that I have been trying to keep this blog fairly bacon free, but when I saw this I had to purchase and review. This is Price Chopper brand precooked bacon. I have never actually bought precooked, convenience bacon before so my viewpoint could be somewhat skewed by not having a basis for comparison.
The stuff was fairly cheap, I don't remember exactly, but it was under 3 bucks. The packaging is pretty drab and institutional with kind of a Warsaw Pact feel to it (In Soviet Bulgaria bacon buys you!). I opened it up and was greeted by a plastic pack of bacon slices separated by wax paper.
The bacon slices appeared very long and skinny and were virtually paper thin. Following the instructions on the box I placed six slices on a paper towel and microwaved for 45 seconds.
Verdict: This was the strangest bacon that has ever passed by my grease drenched lips. As I stated before, this stuff was very, very thin. Kind of like bacon paper. It was rigid and "crisp." I put crisp in quotes because it was not a normal bacon-like crispness, but more of a strange brittleness. Sort of reminiscent of some veggie bacons that I have had. The flavor was very surprising as well. I expect inexpensive bacon to have a certain saltiness. This bacon was almost bland! There was none of the aggressive salinity that you would expect from a cured pork product. It was nearly flavorless, it was like having odd, greasy, communion wafers in your mouth.
I know that this stuff is probably contract produced it some far off bacon plant (probably in Mexico). Price Chopper very likely has little to do with the production, but if you are going to slap your logo on a product you have to take some accountability for its quality. This stuff is nasty, for shame Price Chopper! I expected more from you.
I saw these Kasia's brand sauerkraut pirogies at the grocery store (Guilderland P-chops on Western) the other day. Sauerkraut and pirogies are two of my favorite food groups, so a mash up of the two I had to purchase. They were a little more expensive than other frozen pirogi brands (these were sold unfrozen), a little over five bucks.
I fried them up in some butter (this has been a very fattening weekend) until golden brown. I detected a nice sour aroma from the kraut while they were cooking.
Fried onions are a requisite pirogi accompaniment in my world.
I threw a couple on a plate with some onions and good mustard.
Verdict: I was a little surprised when I bit into one to discover that the filling was entirely comprised of sauerkraut, sans potato. I don't know why, but I expected some sort of kraut/potato mixture. The pirogi dough crisped up nice and was fairly tender, a little noodle-like for my tastes, but pretty good. The sauerkraut filling was just a touch bland, not as tangy as you would expect. With the onions and mustard they were good, not great. I expected a little more considering the price, these really were not any better than Mrs. T's which are like 2 bucks a box.
It always seems that the first couple of weeks of summery weather make me crave produce. I was entirely too lazy this weekend to make a foray to one of our local farmer's markets so I had to make do with Price Chopper's. Luckily, it seems that the grocery stores anticipate my cravings and offer some good sales. I picked up the above pictured peck of peppers. I decided to make some good ol' stuffed peppers as an excuse to make use of my new meat grinder (see here for more on this). With some of the left over pepper matter I made a simple Hungarian sauce/condiment called Lecho.
I started by lopping the tops off the peppers and throwing them into some salted and boiling water for about 5 minutes. Any peppers that were to ugly to be stuffed, I chopped into large pieces and threw in as well.
Next I prepared the meat. I got a nice piece of chuck to grind up.
Here she is after being ran through the coarse plate on my grinder.
I am a huge advocate of grinding your own meat when I recipe calls for it. This way you can control the quality of the end product. It is you who chooses the meat and controls the fat content. Who knows what icky bits and ends the grocery stores are throwing into their industrial grinders. Plus, it always adds a fresher quality to your dish.
I sauteed up a medium onion and a few cloves of garlic.
When this is done I take it off the heat and add the ground beef (eyeball how many peppers you have to judge this amount), one can of tomatoes that have been hand squished, plenty of salt and cracked pepper, and an amount of cooked white rice roughly equal to the amount of beef (I cheated here and used some white rice left over from Friday's Chinese take out). I don't want to cook the meat at this point as some recipes do. I like the meat/rice mixture to cook in situ, kind of like pepper robed meatloafs.
Stuff the peppers and place them in a baking dish that will not allow to much space between the peppers, in this case I used a bundt.
I cover these in some canned tomato sauce. I have found that good old, cheap, canned Hunt's tomato sauce works best for both stuffed peppers and glumkies. I don't know why, it has that certain thin sweetness that I find hard to replicate in my own kitchen. Sprinkle some bread crumbs on top and throw into a 350 degree oven for a little over an hour. They come out looking very tasty.
Invariably, when making stuffed peppers, you are left with an assortments of odd bits and tops. Some people simply chop these up and throw them into the stuffing, but I like to whip up a little lecho. This is a very simple, paprika based, Hungarian, pepper dish.
Start by heating some oil and butter. Normally, I am pretty anti-butter but the original dish would have used lard (I didn't have any on hand) and I wanted to add a little richness.
Simply peal and chop the remaining parboiled peppers and throw into the grease with a little chopped onion and garlic. There should be a good amount of oil in the pan because you kind of want to fry the vegetables.
After about 5-7 minutes add some good, hot paprika. About this much.
When you start to smell the paprika, season, and throw in a can of whole tomatoes. Crush up the tomatoes with a spoon and let it cook for about 30 minutes.
The lecho is great spooned over the stuffed peppers, on some noodles/rice, or slathered on whatever else you can think of.
There you have it, stuffed peppers and lecho. Good, simple, sloppy, home cooking. Me and the wife gorged on these and then went for a pleasant after dinner stroll with baby Giblet. I love warm, late April, New York evenings.
My birthday is coming soon so the lovely and ever generous wife procured for me a Cabela's meat grinder/sausage stuffer. Here it is-
See here for Cabela's selection of grinding/sausage making products. This is one of their mid range models, it was recently discounted to almost half price! The discount enticed me to request of the wife an upgrade from the KitchenAid mixer attachments I have been using previously (for past sausage making experiments see Bacon Sausage and Red Wine Pistachio). Something that amused and excited me about the Cabela's grinder is that it came with a Kibbeh making attachment (see here for my kibbeh recipe). Kibbeh is a distinctly middle eastern (national dish of Lebanon for one) food, so it is pretty funny that the down home, outdoorsy, Cabela's brand slapped its name on it. You figure that they would have balked at associating their name with a maker of "terrorist" food (that is a joke lest you think I am being serious).
I decided to christen the new appliance by making some of what I call Tiger Sauce-age. Tiger Sauce is one of my favorite hot sauces. It has a spicy, tamarind fruitiness that is absolutely delicious. Look for a bottle at Hannaford's, I think they have it.
The tiger sauce will provide much of the flavor and spice for this sausage recipe. For the meat I am using about 5 pounds of cubed pork loin.
Pork loin is a rather lean cut of meat for sausage, so to bring some fat to the party I am going to also use about 2 pounds of pork belly.
It is important that all of the meat be very cold, almost frozen, before grinding so the fat does not melt. I passed all of the meat chunks through the grinder with the coarse plate installed. I seasoned the approx. 7 pounds of meat with an entire bottle of Tiger Sauce, 2 table spoons of hot paprika, 1 table spoon of sweet paprika, 6 or 7 teaspoons of salt, lots of cracked pepper, some red pepper flakes, 4 table spoons of sugar, and a can of chicken broth.
For just a little more fat and flavor, I am going to throw in my sausage secret. I partially freeze and than finely dice (not grind) about another bound of fatty salt pork. This gets mixed in by hand prior to stuffing. I find the fatty little chunks add a nice textural component to the sausage
I attached the stuffer tube to the meat grinder and filled up some 32 mil. hog casings. I didn't do links here, I kind of like the looks of a giant sausage coil on the grill.
I was very satisfied with the performance of the Cabela's grinder. I would say that it cut about 25 to 30 percent off the prep time as opposed to the KitchenAid setup. It has much more horse power and can grind partially frozen meat with no problem. I love making sausage, so I don't mind putting out the dough for something that is purpose built. I think when all is said and done, the 70 dollars I paid for the new grinder is cheaper than what the KitchenAid rig cost anyways.
I love this sausage recipe. It produces a nice, spicy product that is equally good grilled or smoked. You can replace the Tiger Sauce with your hot sauce of choice to mix it up a little. I am thinking of doing a green chile pork sausage using some of the green Tabasco that I have been seeing around.
I am a big condiment guy. I love mustards, relishes, and hot sauces of all varieties. Because of this, the door of my refrigerator is usually a mess of tightly packed jars and bottles. This fine Saturday afternoon I decided to tackle this situation and attempt to toss out anything that has been living in there for more than a year or two. Does one man really need 5 kinds of mustard? Absolutely I say, but the wife is of a differing opinion.
When I had thrown out anything that might have been slightly toxic or spoiled, I was left with the above pictured selection (some ketchup too, I forgot to put it in the picture). When I was looking at all of this stuff an idea hit me! I always wanted to have my very own "special sauce." I decided to mix a little of everything up in equal amounts and see if it came out any good.
I used 1 tablespoon of each of the following items-
P-Chops Italian Dressing
Boar's Head Horseradish Sauce
KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce
Grey Poupon (Country Dijon)
Grey Poupon (Dijon)
French's (Spicy Brown)
It didn't look so scary when I mixed it all up.
I dipped a spoon in and gave it a taste. Not bad, not bad. Very sweet and vinegar tasting with a lot of smoke flavor (I assume from the BBQ Sauce?). It kind of reminded me of the mustard based barbecue sauce you get down south. I actually think this would make a pretty good chicken marinade. In any event, it was interesting and I decided to call it "Refrigerator Door Special Sauce." Now, I think it would be a funny and interesting experiment if all you other fellow food bloggers out there tried this yourself to see if your particular blend of randomness comes out at all palatable. Then you can foist it on all of your friends, all the while alluding to some ancient family sauce secret.
I have always been intrigued by the concept of Pottage. Pottage was the cornerstone of many an English serf's diet during olden times. The concept is fairly simple, you would have had a constantly bubbling cauldron of a pease or oat based porridge boiling away over your kitchen hearth. Whatever odd bits of meat that you could afford, or whatever herbs or vegetables came from your kitchen garden would have been added on a constant basis. One pottage would often have cooked away for a couple of weeks at a time. I decided to make my own pottage of sorts, albeit with somewhat more exotic and expensive ingredients than what would have been available to our forefathers.
For the veg component I used some hot pickled cherry peppers, onion, garlic, and a couple poblanos. This dish was pretty much born of the fact that I had a bunch of languishing ingredients in my fridge that I needed to utilize.
I rendered off some cubes of salted pork belly for the cooking lipid.
When there was a good amount of fat in the pan I sauteed the roughly chopped veg until just soft. I then added some cubed pork loin.
A note on the protein: The day after a holiday, in this case it was Easter, is the best time to buy large amounts of a given "traditional" protein. You will find great deals on ham and pork roasts at your local grocer, trust me. I picked up this lovely, eight pound, center cut, pork loin at P-chops. I used about a pound of this for this recipe and froze the rest.
For the legume portion of this pottage I used some Bob's Red Mill 13 bean soup mix. It is not really soup mix, just a bag of 13 different kinds of beans, lentils, and peas (they expect you to add your own soup fixins' and follow a recipe on the back).
I soaked a couple of cups of the beans over night and then drained and washed. I don't know why, but I found the colorful beans to be somewhat beautiful. Don't you think?
The beans, pork, and, sauteed veg went into my modern day cauldron, i.e. the enormous crock pot that me and the Misses got for our wedding. If you ever need to braise a full size turkey, let me know. Note that I used nary a spice save some salt and pepper. I love the simple heartiness of the flavors given off by the pork, legumes, and aromatics by themselves. You don't really need any other spices or herbs mucking everything up. I let the pottage simmer for about ten hours on low. When done it looked deliciously ugly.
I served my self a bowl of this over a nice scoop of plain white rice.
If there was a dish that summed up everything I love about food, this simple stew would be it. It is simple, unpretentious, hearty and plainly good. A bowl of this makes me want to go hitch up some oxen, or hoe some fields or something. I thank anyone reading this for indulging my historical food fixation, but you really should try your own variation on this theme.
Normally, I am not a big Burger King/McDonald's type of guy. I am pseudo-health conscious so I tend to avoid fast food restaurants. However, I have a serious soft spot in my heart for White Castle Sliders (see here for my Castle Casserole on the RFS blog). As we don't have a White Castle locally they are a rare treat. I saw the burger shots reviewed over at Dave's Cupboard a while ago (see here) and decided to give them a whirl.
Upon purchasing the box I was shocked at the size and weight of the package. It was probably about 5 inches by 8 inches. I got the six pack.
They looked kind of big for sliders, but otherwise they didn't look too bad. The Burger Shots looked like normal BK burgers but smaller. They didn't have the steamed bun look of a Castle slider. My first surprise was when I went to grab one. All of the buns are kind of connected like in a package of grocery store hamburger buns. But this isn't all. The burgers are also connected in some sort of weird binary-burger formation! See below-
***If you are offended by immature humor of the lowest sort please stop reading here***
Ok, I immediately started giggling when I saw this weird burger shape. I have the sense of humor of your average 12-year-old boy and I immediately decided that the burger-thing looked kind of like a wrinkly brown nutsack. Wolfman's nards perhaps (Go watch Monster Squad if you missed this reference).
As far as taste goes, if you have ever had a BK cheese burger you have had a burger shot. The only noticeable difference is the size.
I mean, come on Burger King. Is it saving you that much time not having individual sliders? If you are going to try to steal the popularity of another venerable fast food chain's product, do it right. This is almost as bad as when Dennie's had sliders on the menu that were really a patty melt cut up into smaller pieces. Shame on you Burger King.