Tag Archives: Greens

home cured bacon and frisée aux lardons {charcutepalooza}


It seems as though charcuterie has officially reached an apotheosis- the food world has been incessantly abuzz of late about all things cured, smoked, salted and brined (to the chagrin of some and the delight of others). Although several adventurous food bloggers like Matt Wright and Hank Shaw have been dabbling in meat curing for some time now, things recently reached a fever pitch in the blogging world and on Twitter with the advent of Charcutepalooza, a challenge in which a different type of curing technique is explored each month.

I missed the first challenge, duck prosciutto, but was told that I could “make it up” at a later date (as I write this, the duck is hanging in my basement pantry). The second challenge was something that my friend Kim has been making for a while now, home-cured bacon. I decided to go for it, so I hit up the Bucu family’s stand at Eastern Market and had this gentleman hack me off a 5-lb piece of pork belly.

The cure was simple- just salt, pepper, aromatics and pink (curing) salt, rubbed on the belly and left to work its magic for a week. The belly was then rinsed, patted dry and put in a 200° oven until it reached an internal temp of 150°. This stage was the only “problem” I had with the recipe- it stated to cook for 90 minutes or a temp of 150°, and it took me over 2 hours to reach that temperature, unless my thermometer is really off. But I figured it was better to err on the side of overcooking than undercooking.

As Charcuterie guru Michael Ruhlman suggested in his blog post on bacon, I went ahead and fried up a small piece as soon as it was done (well, after I removed the skin… I’m a pretty die-hard meat lover, but seeing nipples on my bacon was a little freaky). It was saltier than commercial bacon, but I figured that might have been due to it being an end piece.

In the past couple weeks, we have eaten the bacon on its own and incorporated it into several dishes such as Cuban-style black beans and this venison & porcini ragú. Since it’s not smoked, it’s a great stand-in for pancetta. I also made the French bistro classic frisée aux lardons, a salad composed of bitter frisée (a green in the endive family) tossed with vinaigrette, fried cubes of unsmoked bacon (lardons), and topped with a poached egg. There are versions that don’t use the egg, but to my mind it’s the best part, and really makes it a meal. The store Marvin went to didn’t have frisée so we had to use curly endive (possibly the same plant but more mature?), but it was a suitable stand-in. The salad with a glass of Beaujolais and a nibble of Roquefort was a pretty perfect Sunday afternoon lunch.

Frisée aux Lardons
printer-friendly version

serves two; recipe can be multiplied to serve more

2 small heads of frisée, washed, cored and torn into pieces
3 Tbs sherry vinegar or good quality red wine vinegar
about 3 oz. unsmoked slab bacon, cut into ½-inch batons
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1-2 Tbs olive oil as needed
2 eggs
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
optional if you have on hand: 1 Tbs minced fresh herbs such as parsley, chervil or chives

Notes: This salad is great with homemade croutons if you’re so inclined. Add them when you toss the salad so they absorb a bit of the dressing. Also, oil & vinegar amounts are a starting point and will vary according to your volume of salad and how lightly or heavily dressed you like things. Please adjust as needed! Last but not least, although I encourage you all to cure your own bacon now that I know how easy it is, you can substitute cut-up strips of regular bacon and have a less traditional but still delicious salad.

Wash and spin-dry the frisée and place in a bowl large enough to toss. Bring a small pot of water to the boil and briefly blanch the lardons; drain. Heat a small skillet and fry the lardons over medium heat until they begin to brown and render some of their fat. Add the shallot and cook until softened. Stir in the vinegar and deglaze any brown bits from the skillet. Remove from heat. Whisk in olive oil to taste until the dressing tastes balanced (this will depend how much fat was rendered from the lardons). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fill a medium-sized pan halfway with water and bring to a bare simmer. While waiting for the water, toss the salad with the dressing. Taste and tweak as needed with additional oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Distribute onto two plates or shallow bowls.  (A note here for people like myself with ADD tendencies: poached eggs wait for no one, so make sure to have the table, drinks etc. ready when you put the eggs in.) Poach the eggs for four minutes, until the whites are set but the yolks remain runny. Retrieve the eggs with a slotted spoon, gently shaking off as much water as possible. Place an egg on each salad and garnish with the herbs, if using. Serve immediately.

b.l.t. salad with mayo vinaigrette

Man, I feel like Rachel Ray about to post this… ACK!  I promise not to use the words “yummo” or “sammie” though (and please feel free to shoot me if I ever do).

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Last night I didn’t get home until 9PM- I had worked late and then gone to get groceries afterwards.  I needed something fast for dinner and somewhat on the lighter side, since I was eating so late.  I had bought some Niman Ranch bacon (pretty much the only bacon I’ll buy anymore after reading this article in Rolling Stone) and a couple bags of greens, and had some little grape tomatoes on hand, so I thought “BLT”- only I didn’t want to eat all that bread.  So I took two pieces of bacon, cut them into small pieces and fried them up while I made a mayo-based vinaigrette dressing.  I then tossed the dressing with some baby spinach and wild arugula, drained the bacon bits on a paper towel and sprinkled those over the top with the tomatoes.  I ate it with a small piece of toast, and it was a perfect meal.  I’m sure this idea of BLT salad has been done before, but I so enjoyed my take on it that I thought I’d share anyway.  The fact that the main ingredient is leafy greens makes it miles healthier than a BLT sandwich, but yet all the classic flavors are still there.  I would actually venture to say that at least to my taste buds, this was much tastier than a BLT sandwich, but then I’m a big salad and greens fan.  You could even cut back on the bacon and use only 1 slice, or three slices between two salads.

For the dressing, I didn’t measure, but I’ll try to approximate for you.  You won’t usually find me putting mayo in my salad dressings- I usually prefer a “clean”-tasting vinaigrette- but I wanted to approximate that classic BLT flavor, and mayo is pretty integral to that.  I made a large-ish individual salad, so adjust amounts if you’re cooking for two, or if you want smaller side salads.  In the bowl in which you’re going to toss your greens, put a blob of mayo  (about 1 tbs) and a much smaller blob of dijon mustard (maybe 1/2 tsp) and whisk together.  Add a small amount of olive oil, about 1/2 to 1 tsp, and stir that in too.  Whisk in some red wine vinegar, about 2 tsp.  Season with a little salt (not too much- don’t forget your bacon will add salt) and freshly ground pepper.  Taste for acidity- I like mine on the acidic side because it cuts through the richness of the bacon, but add a smidge more olive oil (or mayo) if it seems too tart.  Toss in your greens (feel free to substitute other types of greens- the spinach-arugula mixture was pretty darn good though) and top with the bacon and tomato.  This will make enough to dress a good-sized dinner salad for one.  I plated mine for photo purposes; otherwise I would have saved a dish and just eaten it straight out of the bowl!

chinese-style kale, and variations on a dumpling

kale-ingredients-crop-11In my potstickers post, I had mentioned that I would post my recipe for Chinese-style kale as well as some variations on the potstickers.  In addition to the pork potstickers, Kathy also made some with a really great seafood filling.  She was hard pressed to give me an exact “recipe” since she was kind of winging it, but I’ll try to approximate it for you all.  Also, although the browned plate of potstickers looks awfully impressive, Kathy tells me that her favorite way to prepare them is actually boiled, so I’ll give instructions for that too.  I think there’s just something more “comfort-food”-ish about eating them boiled, and they soak up the dipping sauce a little better than the pan-fried version.  In regards to the kale, it was something I came up with on the fly several months ago, and it was so addictive that I’ve made it several times since.  I hesitate to call it Chinese, since I only have a vague impression whether they would combine these particular seasonings, but the use of the dry mustard powder called to mind that sharp Chinese hot mustard, so I’m running with it.  I’ll try to give amounts, but honestly I usually just eyeball everything, so you may want to add the spices in increments and taste as you go.  Also, the kale cooks down a lot so you may want to double the recipe if you’re feeding more than a few people or want leftovers. (I wouldn’t necessarily double the spices though- try increasing them by a third and see how it goes.  You can always add more, but you can’t subtract once they’re in there!)

Chinese-style Kale (printer-friendly version)

1 large bunch kale
2 tbs vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder, or more to taste
1 tsp dried red chili flakes or Huy Fong chili sauce (the kind with seeds)
2 tbs soy sauce
1/4 tsp toasted (dark) sesame oil
optional: 1 tbs rice wine or Shaoxing (Chinese cooking wine)

Optional garnishes: toasted sesame seeds or fried shallots or garlic (these are available at Asian markets… try them and you’ll soon find yourself garnishing anything & everything with them!)

Remove the large stems from the kale.  Chop into strips about 1 1/2″ wide; wash and set aside in a colander to drain.  In a large, heavy-bottomed pot (such as a dutch oven), heat about 2 tbs of vegetable oil (add more if it doesn’t cover the bottom of the pan) and 1/4 tsp (a few dashes) sesame oil over medium-low heat.  Add the minced garlic and cook GENTLY until the garlic is browned, turning the heat down as necessary so it doesn’t burn.*  If you are using the dried chili flakes, add them to the oil and cook them for about 30 seconds to bloom the flavor.  Add the mustard powder and stir out any lumps.

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Add the kale to the pot and stir to coat with the seasonings.  It’s ok if the kale is a little wet; the moisture will help it steam and cook down.  The kale probably won’t fit all at once, so cook it for a few minutes until it cooks down and then add the remainder.  You can cover the kale to assist the steaming process; just make sure to stir it often enough so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.  When the kale is tender but still green, add 1 tbs soy sauce and the chili sauce, if using.  Stir and taste for seasoning, adding the remainder of the soy sauce as you see fit.  You may also want to add a dash or two more sesame oil, chili sauce, or more mustard powder to taste.   Sometimes I add a small splash of rice wine or Shaoxing as well (increase the heat for a moment to cook off the alcohol).

*A note on browned garlic:  I know that most cookbooks advise you NOT to let your garlic brown, as they claim it acquires a “bitter” flavor.  However, in some Asian and Indian cooking, cooks do brown their garlic and enjoy its characteristic flavor.  If you do it gently and make sure not to over-brown or burn it, you’ll be fine.  But feel free to sauté it for a shorter time if you disagree.

Filling for Seafood Dumplings (Gyoza)

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14 oz. raw shrimp, peeled & deveined
6 oz. mild, white-fleshed fish such as sea bass or rockfish  (you can alter the ratio of shrimp to fish if you like, as long as it totals 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs)
1 small bunch Chinese leek (available at Asian markets; see photo above)
2 tbs soy sauce
2 packages round gyoza wrappers, thawed if frozen

Roughly chop or snip the Chinese leek (you should have about a cup).  Process with the shrimp, fish and soy sauce in a food processor until almost smooth (a little texture is OK, as long as the mixture holds together).   Pan fry a tablespoon or so to check the seasoning.  The filling will be a lovely pistachio green color when cooked.   It should have a delicate flavor and not be over-salted.  Wrap the dumplings as specified in the recipe for pork gyoza.

Boiling Instructions for Dumplings (courtesy Kathy Lee)

Bring a large pot of water to a fast rolling boil.  Add dumplings to boiling water.  When water comes back to a boil, add a cold 8oz glass of water.  Repeat 2 more times; then remove from water and toss around to keep the dumplings from sticking to each other and enjoy!