Tag Archives: Nueske’s

of bacon & bloodies & scheezeballs

I’m absolutely not fronting when I say that, in all that pertains to food and drink, I have the most amazing bunch of friends EVER.  In a mere 6 months, we’ve gone from small, loosely organized gatherings, to  cider and Bordeaux tastings, to full-on day-long bacon-and-bloody mary smorgasbords that get mentioned in the New York Times.  Holla!



The inspiration for Bacon & Bloodies came when I received a package from the generous folks at Nueske’s which included, among other goodies, 3 different types of their bacon!  I suggested to the gang that this might be a good excuse to throw a bacon-tasting, and because bacon is sort of a breakfasty morning item, why not throw some bloody marys in the mix?  My friend and business partner Molly gamely agreed to host at her lovely Lafayette Park condo.



We sampled several varieties of bacon, including the aforementioned Nueske’s (regular, “uncured”*, and pepper bacon), Niman Ranch (2 kinds, I believe), Benton’s, Link 40, J&M (a local bacon), our friend Kim’s homemade bacon, and probably a couple more that I’m forgetting.  Each had their own qualities to recommend them- some smokier, some meatier, some nutty and mild.  We didn’t do anything as scientific as to take notes; the bacon was just passed around like hors d’oeuvres as it came off the grill (courtesy of Jarred the grill-meister, who had a couple cast-iron skillets going for a few solid hours).

*Megan, the lovely PR person from Nueske’s, explained to me that although the USDA requires them to label the naturally cured bacon as “uncured”, it actually is a cured product.

Because the party started at 1pm, it ended up being more of a grazing/potluck type thing rather than a brunch.  I had little trouble deciding what to bring, based on a Twitter conversation with Todd in which he made fun of Molly and I for our nostalgic enjoyment of Win Schulers’ Bar-Scheeze.  I remember loving the stuff as a kid, bright orange and fake as it was; while it certainly pales in comparison to real cheese, it tasted absolutely complex when Velveeta was your benchmark.  I decided, naturally, to make a homemade cheese ball in homage to the Scheezeballs of my youth.  The funniest thing was that although I used top notch, all natural ingredients, people at the party admitted that they had initially avoided it thinking it was fake cheese!  Hehe, more for me.



How to sum up a gorgeous October day in a few words? I’ll let the photos do most of the talking, but some of the highlights were the homemade pickles several people brought for bloody mary garnish, Todd’s pan-fried Cajun chicken livers, a wonderful Georgian cheese tart made by our friend Megan, and the steaks Molly and Jarred busted out around hour 6 of the party, with a phenomenal chimichurri sauce Molly made (she lived in Argentina and I will definitely be getting that recipe to share with you all!).  I also made a cinnamon-honey ice cream which I hope to post about soon.  Meanwhile, scroll past the remaining photos for a cheese ball that will please even the scheeze-haters.





Win Schuler’s-inspired Scheeze Ball

1 lb good-quality sharp cheddar, shredded
8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
2 Tbs prepared horseradish, or more to taste
few dashes hot sauce such as Cholula or Tabasco
few dashes Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup chopped pecans (other nuts may be substituted as desired), or a bit more if needed
5 strips bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled (optional)
milk, as needed

Notes: This recipe is very loosely based on a Paula Deen recipe, but I modified it to taste more like Win Schuler’s. Paula calls for 1/2 cup milk; I didn’t find it necessary to achieve the texture I wanted, but if you feel the mixture is too firm, you can add milk a tablespoon or two at a time as you mix the cheeses.  If not using the bacon, you may need more nuts to completely cover the cheese ball.  The recipe yields a fairly large cheese ball, but can be halved if necessary.
Directions: Place all ingredients except the nuts and bacon into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until completely smooth.  Place the mixture onto a large piece of plastic wrap and form it into a ball.  Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

About 15-20 minutes before you want to finish the cheese ball, prepare the coating: in a dry skillet, warm the nuts and bacon (if using) over low heat to gently toast the nuts and re-crisp the bacon.  Transfer to a paper towel and let cool.  Put the nuts and bacon in a bowl or pie plate and roll the cheese ball in the mixture, pressing it into the cheese until the ball is fully coated.  If not serving immediately, wrap again in a clean piece of plastic wrap and chill up to 24 hours.

bacon-wrapped meatloaf! (the venison diaries, part III)

With the exception of the occasional kofta or vat of chili, it’s not often that you’ll see me using ground meat as a base for recipes- no Hamburger Helper-type menus in this household.  But my dad gave me several pounds of ground venison a few months ago and I’ve been working my way through them, trying new things and expanding my ground meat repertoire.  My first two installments of the Venison Diaries were more experimental, but this time I decided to go thoroughly retro and make a meatloaf.

A typical “meatloaf mix” usually consists of 50% ground beef, 25% pork and 25% veal, giving a good balance of fat and flavor.  For my meatloaf mix, I used 50% venison and 50% pork.  I wanted to make sure the leanness of the venison was balanced out with the fattier pork so I didn’t end up with a dry loaf.  However, I definitely think I could have used some veal and gone with a 50-25-25 mix as well.  The recipe I used, from Cook’s Illustrated, uses a sweet and tangy (almost like BBQ sauce) glaze on the meatloaf, and also has you wrap it in bacon *drool*.  To make this meatloaf extra-special, I bought some Nueske’s bacon to do the job.  I first heard about Nueske’s via Matthew Amster-Burton in his book Hungry Monkey, and then my local grocery store started carrying it so I gave it a try.  I wondered what could be so special about it to justify an almost $9 per pound price tag… until I tried it.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is no ordinary bacon.  I typically buy Niman Ranch bacon because of their sustainable practices*, and their bacon is certainly good quality, but Nueske’s is on another level- it has a different texture and “feel” than most supermarket bacon, and it doesn’t shrink up nearly as much as other brands.  Finally, the flavor is nothing short of sublime.  (And no, I didn’t receive any freebies from Nueske’s to write this blog post… but if someone at the company is reading this, I’ll be glad to take anything you send my way!! )

I figured as long as I was making meatloaf I may as well go totally traditional in my side dishes as well, so I made some mashed potatoes and peas.  I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve made mashed potatoes, but I do own a potato ricer, which I put to use on some white Michigan potatoes for an unbelievably light and creamy result.  The potato ricer is, yes, an extra step and an extra item to wash, but the difference is well worth it.  I wish I had made a bigger batch!  Even though this wasn’t a typical type of menu for me, Marvin and I both really enjoyed it and I would definitely make it again if and when I get another venison windfall.

*I was disappointed not to find anything on the Nueske’s website about how their pigs are raised.  The only info I could find online was that the pigs Nueske’s uses are “raised to their specifications” in Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Canada (not in Wisconsin, where the company is located) and fed a diet of a barley and corn mixture.

Meatloaf with Bacon and Brown Sugar-Ketchup Glaze (adapted from American Classics by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated)
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For meatloaf:
1 lb ground venison or beef
½ lb ground veal
½ lb ground pork
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large eggs
½ tsp dried thyme leaves (or use fresh and increase to 1 tsp)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
few dashes Tabasco or similar hot sauce
½ cup plain yogurt or whole milk
cup crushed saltines (about 16) or quick oatmeal, OR 1 ½ cups fresh bread crumbs
cup minced fresh parsley
6-8 oz thin-sliced bacon

For glaze:
½ cup ketchup, preferably organic/ without high fructose corn syrup
4 Tbs brown sugar
4 tsp cider vinegar or white vinegar

Make the glaze: Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and stir over medium low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 350°.  Heat the oil in a medium skillet.  Sauté the onion & garlic over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Mix the eggs, thyme, salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire, milk or yogurt, and hot sauce in a medium bowl.  Put the meats in a large bowl and combine with your hands (if you didn’t buy a pre-mixed meatloaf mix).  Add the egg mixture, onions, parsley, and crackers or breadcrumbs; mix until evenly blended and mixture is not sticking to the bowl.  If mixture sticks, add more milk 1-2 Tbs at a time until it no longer sticks.  (Note: I chose to go a different route and blend the meat in my stand mixer with the paddle attachment.  This gave a totally different texture to the finished meatloaf, but one that I personally prefer.)

Place the meat mixture on a work surface.  Wet your hands and pat the mixture into a loaf shape, approximately 9″ x 5″.  Place the loaf on a foil-coated rimmed baking sheet.  Brush the loaf with half the glaze (be sure not to double dip your brush since you’ll be serving the remainder of the glaze).  Arrange the bacon slices crosswise over the top of the loaf, tucking the ends underneath.

Bake until the bacon is crisp and the internal temperature registers 160°, about 1 hour.  Let rest 15-20 minutes before serving.  Warm the remaining glaze and serve on the side.