bacon explosion

obviously i feel obligated by my love of all things pork to re-post this wonder of the modern mind. by now you've already seen it; somehow it's holding the top spot on the nyt most emailed list (really, people? instead of lily ledbetter?), and its renown on the web is the subject of the article.

my only comment is total awe, and reverence for these brilliant men. to be honest, most bacon novelty foodstuffs are not that super delicious (i'm looking at you vosges), but this actually looks like it would taste good, primarily because they knew better than to involve bacon that is not totally crispy. and the addition of crispy bacon bits to the sausage is incredibly inspired. i've seen some versions of this with cheese, and i'm marginally disgusted by this variety. the meat-on-meat has a purity, and heartiness, that the cheese version doesn't have. it is more traditional feeling, like it would be right at home on a thanksgiving table.

oh and thank you to all the people who alerted me of this. i know it is you who have my best (worst?) interest at heart.

brighton beach

it was my first time seeing snow on sand. walking from the still, snowy bank to the roaring mass of water, i'm surprised at how alien it is to go to the beach in the winter, like walking on the moon. with only the company of seagulls bleating overhead, i feel not unpleasantly at the edge of a lost, lonely planet.

afterwards, we ate dumplings of meat, mushrooms, potatoes and drank sweet cherry compote. from the subway you could see the ocean, and all the cars were empty.


i've been hinting about a juicer for years, and this holiday, i finally got one! (thanks gracie!) my new breville juice fountain sits proudly on my kitchen counter, ready to whirl.

according to some, juicing has amazing health benefits. jay "the juiceman" kordich believes it cured him of cancer. after being diagnosed, he started a daily regimen of carrot-apple juice. "Two and a half years later," he says in his book The Juiceman's Power of Juicing, "I was a well man." while i'm hesitant to believe every claim about juicing's power, i do know that drinking fresh juice in the morning is delicious, and better for you than drinking nothing.

thus far i've experimented with carrots, apples, pears and beets. these are the called the "beginner" fruits and vegetables for a reason; they are sweet, mild, and very yummy. soon i'm supposed to graduate to heartier things, like kale, cabbages, and cilantro. i'm a little nervous about drinking lettuce, but it is said you get used to the taste quickly.

my one complaint about the juicer is that you are left with an awful lot of pulp from the juiced items. theoretically, you could make muffins or bread with the pulp, but i'm sure the majority of the time it just ends up in the trash. if i had a compost pile, the pulp would surely be beneficial. would the squirrels be a bother if i started one on my fire escape?

breakfast sandwich

i've noted my general dislike for breakfast foods here before, but never mentioned what i consider to be the breakfast gold standard: bacon, eggs and toast. growing up, this was my father's sole contribution to our family's mealtimes, but he made up for lack of quantity in exactitude. the eggs were sunny side up, with yolks runny but whites set and almost browned. bacon was nothing less than crispy, but never so much that it was burnt, and the toast was warm, but never crunchy. even eating it followed a prescribed ritual -all parts had to be equally rationed so that the last bite would be warm toast sopping up the dregs of your spilled yolk, followed by the last 1/4 of a slice of bacon.

as an adult, i've found it extremely difficult to get the timing right on this meal, not to mention the stress involved in the rationing of the parts. so, when grace offered to make me a breakfast sandwich and this beauty turned up on my plate, i knew the gold standard had been replaced. putting all the parts together in sandwich form served the dual purposes of eliminating the timing issue and the rationing issue in one fell swoop. and grace did my dad one better by adding cheese, which i think was particularly inspired. while this is no daily breakfast (i don't think our hearts could take it), it is certainly my favorite way to start the day.

bacon, egg + cheese breakfast sandwich

in a large, cold pan, place strips of bacon so that they don't touch. cook over medium low heat for 10-12 mins, turning frequently. remove from heat and drain on paper towels.

drain pan of 1/2 of bacon fat. fry eggs in bacon fat, until whites bubble and brown at edges. add salt and pepper to yolks immediately before removing from pan. while heaing bread to just warmed in toaster, cut thin slices of cheddar cheese and melt on warm egg. assemble sandwiches, adding a dollop of mayo if you're grace and don't mind dying a little early.

oysters and pearls

i come from a family of adventurous eaters, but surprisingly, it took long time for me to call myself one. my childhood was filled with sunday trips to chinatown, live crabs from local fishermen crawling on the kitchen floor, and dingy hole-in-the-walls. my father would entertain us by telling outrageous food stories, like the time he ate live monkey brains from a live monkey. (wtf?! dad, is this true?!) clearly, they would stop at nothing for a good meal, and a good story.

while i loved my parents stories, i didn't always appreciate the food. i was 8 or 9 when i first encountered oysters, cautiously trying them out of curiosity over my parents delight in these alien, watery lumps that sat orderly in their silver platter. as i slid the oyster into my mouth, i was immediately regretful. my small mouth was full of briny, gooey, seawater. the texture was wrong, the flavor appalling, and the thought of enjoying it beyond comprehension. while choking the oyster down, i saw my parents through my tears, clearly savoring their own oysters. at that moment, the adult world seemed so foreign, unattainable, and confusing. would i ever become an adult who enjoyed these tastes and understood these mysteries?

it took me many years to eat another oyster. as the memory of that night faded, the repulsion i felt toward oysters started to fade as well, and was gradually replaced by the same curiosity i felt as a child. as i grew less repulsed, i grew more nervous, thinking that my reaction would determine my membership in the club of sophisticated tastes. finally, and with much fanfare, i tried another oyster. while not as repulsive as the first, it was nothing terribly exciting. the lack of fireworks was disappointing, i'd hoped that my tastes had miraculously changed. after that, i stopped thinking about oysters. i'd eat them when available, but wasn't too terribly excited. and then slowly, i began to like them. their raw oceanic taste morphed into something no longer gross, but sweet, clean, and evocative. a good 15 years later, i'm an official oyster lover, fully initiated into the club.

what is most fascinating about this experience is not the fact that my tastes have evolved, but that i've finally become that mysterious adult i misunderstood for so long while still being young enough to remember that 9 year old who felt betrayed by her parents pleasure. being caught between the image of what you imagined adulthood to be and the fashioning of that life feels like playing dress up, where all the clothes suddenly, and terrifyingly, fit.

northern neck

the northern neck of virginia is home to many treasures. this ginger ale is one of them. clean, crisp, dry and not too sweet, it is the perfect antidote to to sticky-sweet variety you might get in the airplane or grocery store. keeping a constant supply of it in the fridge causes me to sometimes feel like a drug smuggler; we're always having to make random detours when we're in virginia to horde up the stuff and then squishing all our luggage to one side of the trunk to make room for the stacked containers. all this for a ginger ale? yes, its that good.

mushroom risotto

in these dark, slow days of winter it is easy to feel down. for me, the lack of sunlight, and the bitter cold combine to eek away any happiness i manage to store up during the warmer months. much of this is probably due to common winter blues, but knowing this only convinces me to never live in those countries with longer winters and higher suicide rates, but doesn't really make me feel any better. feeling the sun on my face on a rare quiet afternoon at home, while panes of glass and a fortunately positioned radiator simulate the heat of sunshine, does a much better job of lifting my spirits. so does this creamy, fragrant risotto; the mindless stirring while the individual rice kernels undergo their transformation from toasty grains to creamy collective smoothness is very soothing, as are the warm gusts of earthiness you get from sauteing the mushrooms. risotto, along with a good book (or a partner for cards!), and a glass of wine is all i need to bring some warmth to those bleaker nights.

mushroom risotto, adapted from america's test kitchen

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed in mesh strainer under running water
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups mushroom broth
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 pounds cremini mushrooms, wiped clean with a paper towel, stems discarded, and caps cut into fourths
2 oyster mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped roughly
5 shallots, chopped fine
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 pound arborio rice (2 1/8 cups)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, finely grated
ground black pepper

bring broths to simmer in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. cover and keep warm on lowest flame possible.

melt 4 tablespoons butter in large dutch oven- i used a 3 1/2 quart dutch oven. add shallots, 1/2 teaspoons salt, and the porcini mushrooms. cook until onions are lightly browned, about 10 mins.

stir in rice and cook until edges begin to translucent, about 3 mins. add lemon juice and 1 cup of broth, stirring frequently until it is completely absorbed, about 2 mins. add three cups of broth, and bring to a simmer. cook, stirring occasionally until liquid is absorbed, about 11 mins.

continue to cook, stirring in roughly 1/2 cup of broth every few mintues, until rice is cooked through but is still somewhat firm in the center, another 11 mins or so.

while rice is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in separate skillet, over medium high heat until bubbling. add in mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. cook until mushrooms and browned and have released all their liquid, and liquid has evaporated. stir in garlic for 15 seconds. remove from heat and keep warm.

stir in Parmesan cheese and warm mushrooms to rice. season with salt and pepper to taste. serve with slivers of Parmesan in warmed bowls.

broths: $5.78
mushrooms: $5.43
rice: $2.29
other: $2.00
total: $15.50 for 6 servings, about $2.50 each serving. pretty cheap!

ps. did you know, according to mark bittman in a recent NYT article, you can keep Parmesan in your fridge for a year?!

new years

what better way to usher in the new year on caketime than with cake? i'm sorry to have missed you yesterday, but true to my late december promises, i was busy relaxing. watching movies, taking naps and making dinner all required my complete attention. it was a very promising start to what i hope to be a year full of levity, love, and lots and lots of cooking!

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