Bacon Unwrapped

Monday, September 17, 2007

Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin

With summer winding down, the remaining Bitch and BBQ sessions I have planned for the season are also numbered (mostly because I'm about out of Bitch).
This past weekend we had another session. On the menu was bacon wrapped pork loin, corn on the cob, rice, and molten chocolate cakes.

To prepare the pork loin, I seared it for a couple minutes on each side, and then put it in a roasting pan and covered it with strips of Kansas City-style bacon (the bacon pictured here was actually the leftover bacon I fried for breakfast the next morning - I did not cook the bacon prior to wrapping it around the pork loin, but I just wanted you to see a close up photo of the delicious meatiness that is KC-style bacon). The pork loin and bacon were acquired on our recent trip to The Pork Shop (I will write more about that adventure later this week). I poured a mixture of chicken stock, minced garlic, rosemary, sage, and thyme over the top, and then placed some sliced pearl onions in the pan. I baked the loin for about 90 minutes at 300 degrees, occasionally basting it with the liquid mixture.

The only casualty of the evening was the back of my hand which now features a nasty burn mark due to my laziness in using the oven. But fortunately I had enough Bitch on hand to numb the pain.


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Monday, September 03, 2007

Petit Verdot isn't Bitch, but it's good with BBQ

I'm in Idaho visiting family for Labor Day weekend, and Saturday afternoon we went across the street to my uncle's house to grill some hamburgers for lunch. We also had fresh corn on the cob and peach cobbler made from peaches that were purchased at the local produce stand.

When I was in Idaho earlier this summer, I drank the last bottle of Bitch I had stockpiled at my parent's house when I was in town for Christmas last year. So instead of Bitch, we had a 2004 Petit Verdot from Sawtooth Winery, which is located just a few miles from where my parents live and that was founded by family friends.

For the bacon portion of the meal, my uncle went all out. We had beef bacon, Canadian bacon, AND pork bacon to choose from for topping our hamburgers or to eat on the side. Of course I had a piece (or two) of each kind.

After lunch was over, we sat on the porch (or in my case, laid in the yard, thanks to the onset of food coma) and enjoyed a warm summer afternoon in the Idaho desert.


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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Bitchin' Roast

The idea of sweating and slaving over a grill when it’s 110 degrees in Phoenix just doesn’t appeal to me, so once again our Bitch and BBQ session this past weekend was moved indoors. Instead, we did a Bitch and Roast.

(I forgot to take photos while I was preparing the meal. So here are some photos of the leftovers for you to enjoy.)

Despite the heat, which tends to curb my appetite this time of year, I’ve had beef tenderloin on the brain for the last week. So I needed to satisfy my craving. I also just purchased a new All Clad roasting pan that I wanted to test drive, so I headed over to Hobe Meats on Saturday afternoon to pick up a 2.5 pound tenderloin. For the bacon portion of the meal, I visited my friendly neighborhood AJ’s for the ingredients required to make a bacon, lettuce and tomato salad, and a bacon mushroom risotto.

As much as I love AJ’s, I had one unfortunate discovery while I was there. They are out of Bitch. And I’m down to my last 3 bottles. So unless I find another source, Bitch and BBQ 2007 could be coming to an end sooner than planned!

For the BLT salad, I stacked a couple heirloom tomato slices with arugula leaves layered in between. I then drizzled olive oil over the top and garnished each plate with crumbled Swiss Meats bacon (my last 2 slices!), fresh ground pepper, and sea salt.

For the bacon risotto, I sauted some onions, garlic and crimini mushrooms in a skillet. In a separate saute pan I fried a few strips of applewood smoked bacon from AJ’s. When the bacon was crispy, I placed the strips on a paper towel lined plate to drain the excess grease. When the bacon was cool to touch, I crumbled it into the mushroom, onion and garlic mixture and set it aside. I added the risotto to the leftover bacon grease in the saute pan, added a couple splashes of white wine, and cooked it for about a minute until the rice was opaque. I then began the process of gradually adding warm chicken broth to the risotto until it had all been absorbed. With the last ladle of chicken broth, I added the mushroom and bacon mixture to the risotto. When the risotto was done cooking, I sprinkled it with some fresh grated parmesan cheese and let it sit on low for a couple more minutes while I finished cooking the beef tenderloin.

To prepare the beef tenderloin I first rubbed it with some sea salt. Using a grill pan, I seared each side for 2-3 minutes. Then I brushed the meat with a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, mustard seed, rosemary, and oregano, placed it on a rack in the roasting pan, and put it in the oven on the convection roast setting at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, bringing the temperature of the meat to about 135 degrees. I removed the pan from the oven and let it sit for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

This particular meal is something I’d normally be more inclined to prepare once the weather starts to cool off, but fortunately I have air conditioning so I didn’t have to wait until Fall to deal with my beef tenderloin craving! We cooled the house down to 72 degrees, poured a few glasses of Bitch, and enjoyed our delicious tenderloin with bacon-enhanced accompaniments.


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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Bitch and...Stroganoff

It was unseasonably cool in Phoenix yesterday (only 98 degrees...) and we have also been experiencing unusually humid and rainy weather for the last several days. So the Bitch and BBQ I was planning for the evening was moved indoors and I decided to whip up some Beef and Bacon Stroganoff instead.

There are many ways to make a stroganoff sauce, but the easiest and least time consuming way is with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup. This is one of my favorite "quick meals" to make after a long day at work. First I fried a few strips of bacon. When the bacon reached the point of being crispy, I removed it from the frying pan and put it on a paper-towel lined plate to drain the excess fat. When the bacon had cooled enough to touch it, I ripped it into small pieces. I left the remaining bacon grease in the frying pan and used it to cook beef tenderloin cubes to medium rare. I then added some mushroom slices and cooked them with the beef for about 2 minutes before adding a can of Cream of Mushroom soup and the bacon. I stirred the sauce well and let it simmer over medium heat for 8-10 minutes. I served the stroganoff sauce over egg noodles. We also had some delicious corn on the cob, along with several glasses of Bitch, of course.

For the bacon I used Swiss Meats hickory smoked, honey cured bacon. It is a really beautiful bacon with a very distinct flavor. It is one of the best bacons I've had in a long time - you can purchase it on The Grateful Palate website.

As we were finishing dinner, there was a beautiful sunset happening and the rain had let up, so we spent the rest of the evening relaxing on the patio while enjoying a few more glasses of wine and listening to Jack Johnson.


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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Bacon is totally Meat Candy

Happy belated 4th of July!

Unfortunately I spent most of the day on an airplane traveling to the east coast instead of grilling hot dogs and drinking beer like a good American. But there are two upsides to flying on the 4th of July...1) no one else at the airports and half empty planes and 2) fireworks from the air are pretty cool. Otherwise, it sucked.

But because of my travel schedule, I did some grilling at my brother's house the weekend before (my youngest brother that is, not the brother without a grill). My youngest brother has both a gas grill and a Traeger Wood Pellet Grill, so we were totally set on the grill front.

The primary reason for grilling was our desire to experiment with caramelized bacon. But since you can't make a meal out of just caramelized bacon - no matter how delicious it is - we also grilled some salmon and prepared a few other side dishes.

But first, about that caramelized is fantastic. And here's how we made it.

We used Burger's Smokehouse Hickory Smoked Sliced Country Pork Jowl for our bacon. It comes in small strips that are perfect for caramelized bacon.

To prepare the bacon, we placed a few pieces on some aluminum foil and we covered one side of the bacon in brown sugar.

We experimented with making the caramelized bacon two different ways. The first time we warmed up the gas grill and put an aluminum foil ball of hickory wood pellets on the grill to add some smokiness to the flavor. Once the grill and pellets were hot, we put the bacon on the top shelf of the grill and closed the lid for 20 to 25 minutes. The second time we cooked it on the Traeger grill, smoking it at 200 degrees for about an hour and then cooking it at about 320 degrees for another 15 minutes. Both ways were good, but regardless of how the caramelized bacon is prepared, I suggest cooking it to the point of being pretty crispy for the best result.

Once the bacon is removed from the grill, let it cool for about 10 minutes to harden the sugar. And then eat it just like you would eat a piece of candy! You can also store the leftovers (if there are any, which there probably won't be) in a sealed container for a couple days.

The main dish for our dinner was Copper Creek salmon, which we cooked on the Traeger grill. We also had a steamed artichoke, macaroni salad, and asparagus which we steamed initially and then grilled to finish. My brother marinated the salmon in soy, olive oil, Chardonnay wine, dill and dijon for about 30 minutes (longer is preferable, but we were short on time). We smoked the salmon on the Traeger for about 60 minutes at 200 degrees, and then we cooked it for another 15 minutes at about 320 degrees.

Everything was delicious, but the caramelized bacon really was the hit of the night. Caramelized bacon proves that bacon really is meat candy.


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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

BLT Salad "B&B"

I hosted another Bitch and BBQ event at my house last weekend for a couple friends. On the menu this time was grilled mesquite marinated filet mignon, BLT salad, and, of course, Bitch.

I got the idea for this particular BLT salad at BOA Steakhouse in Las Vegas. It was one of the best salads I've ever had. This was the first time I recreated it myself, and the results were pretty fantastic if I do say so myself - the ingredients and prep are pretty simple afterall!

The contents of the salad were: chopped romaine lettuce, chopped iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, sliced avocado, wild boar bacon, and Hidden Valley bacon ranch dressing.

Even though it had been 112 degrees earlier in the day in Phoenix, the evening temperature was tolerable (probably around 100 degrees...) so we sat on the patio and enjoyed a few glasses of wine after we were done eating. It was a nice relaxing night with good food.


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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Beach and BBQ

I'm at a friend's house in Bethany Beach, Delaware this weekend. With evening temperatures still dipping into the 60s, and a nice cool breeze coming off the ocean, we decided to spend the evening on the patio. And we did Bitch and BBQ for dinner.

My friend lived in Hawaii for a period of time a few years ago, so we decided to make Hawaiian burgers. And she is originally from Canada, so our bacon of choice was Canadian bacon.

We fired up her charcoal grill. Once the flames had died down, we grilled the hamburgers (with the lid on but the vent open) for 5 minutes on one side. When we flipped them over, we also put the Canadian bacon on the grill. After another 5 minutes, we added pineapple slices, turned the pieces of Canadian bacon over, and added swiss cheese to the burgers. We served them on grilled hamburger buns with Jack Daniels BBQ sauce.

Fortunately the liquor store we stopped at on the way to the beach sells Bitch, so we were able to purchase a couple bottles to get us through the weekend.

The Hawaiian burgers were delicious and a nice addition to a relaxing weekend at the beach. Aloha, eh.


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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Bitchless "BBQ"

I mentioned in a previous Bitch and BBQ post that I would cover all of our adventures - including the misadventures - as we BBQ our way through the world of bacon this summer.

It sure didn't take long for the first misadventure to occur.

I was in Idaho visiting family last week. After spending a few hours driving and fishing in the mountains with my brother, I suggested that we BBQ for dinner when we got back to his house, despite the fact that we didn't have any bottles of Bitch to make it a proper Bitch and BBQ session. He thought BBQing sounded like a good idea. But even though we were in general agreement about dinner plans, little did I know we were far from being on the same page.

I decided we would have bacon wrapped cheese stuffed chorizos for dinner. Boise has a large Basque population, and most grocery stores carry delicious authentic Basque chorizos (which is second only to getting fresh handmade chorizos from Basque friends). So we stopped by Albertson's on the way home to pick up the goods. Then we picked up our other brother so he could join us for the evening. Once we were back at the house, my brothers stayed in the garage to unpack the truck while I went inside to start preparing dinner.

Knowing that I needed to get the grill fired up before I started working on food preparation, I began my search for the grill since I wasn't sure where my brother had put one since moving into the house last Fall. I started by looking on the back patio. And then the side patio. And then I went out to the which point I was informed that my brother in fact does not own an outdoor grill (except for a small thing he occasionally takes camping, but he didn't have any charcoal at home anyways). Apparently when I had suggested earlier that we grill for dinner, he had it in mind that we would just use his indoor electric grill - something he failed to mention at the time.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you wonder how it is possible that you are related to someone? Well this was one of those.

After recovering from the disappointment and shock due to the discovery of my brother's deficiency (at least I know what to get him for Christmas now), I went back into the house and began to familiarize myself with the indoor grill. Even though I had my doubts about it's ability to step up to the challenge, I decided to give it a go anyways.

In preparing the chorizos (which need to be pre-cooked, by the way), I sliced each chorizo in half, stuffed it with shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheese, and wrapped each chorizo in bacon (it actually took 1 1/2 strips of bacon per chorizo).

With the grill set to medium-high, I placed the chorizos on the rack. But after a few minutes it was clear that the attempt at an indoor BBQ was going to turn into a disaster, as the grill just couldn't heat the chorizos fast enough before the bacon started to fall off, and it was difficult to control the level of heat. So before things reached the point of no return, I decided to abort the mission and moved the chorizos to the oven to finish the job.

By this point, both of my brothers had joined me in the kitchen. All of us were pretty hungry and cranky, and of course each of us thinks we know more than the others, so the process of moving the chorizos to the oven almost resulted in an all-out sibling brawl. But it wasn't anything that couldn't be fixed by a few cans of beer (as evidenced by the case of Coors Light on the counter in the photos), so meal preparation continued.

I baked the chorizos in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, and then broiled them on high for another five minutes since it was going to be difficult to turn the chorizos without cheese melting all over the place.

The rest of the process was relatively disaster-free, except for when we discovered that the baking sheet I grabbed in a rush to move the chorizos to the oven didn't have a lip on two sides, and bacon grease began to run over the sides after a few minutes of cooking. After moving the chorizos to a more appropriate baking sheet, we had much smoother sailing until dinner was finally ready.

So despite a few challenges, a lack of Bitch (the liquid form anyways), and no outdoor grill, we still managed to piece together a pretty decent meal. Because when all is said and done, it's pretty hard to screw up chorizos, cheese and bacon. And boy were they tasty and worth the wait (even if they would have been better prepared on an outdoor grill).


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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Bitch and BBQ: Bacon Wrapped Steak Kebabs

For our inaugural Bitch and BBQ session in Phoenix last night, we prepared the following menu:

-Bacon Wrapped Beef Tenderloin Kebabs
-Grilled Corn on the Cob
-Basmati Rice with Tomatoes and Zucchini

And of course, we drank Bitch.

By the way, it was still 95F degrees outside at 7:00 pm, which means I literally sweat over the preparation of this meal. It also didn't help that my grill was being a 'bitch,' and wouldn't fire up for some reason. I knew my gas tank was low, and Carole ended up running over to Walmart to get a new tank, but even the new tank wasn't firing up at first. But we finally got it working and what was originally going to be a 7 pm dinner turned into an 8:30 pm dinner. After that debacle things got better, helped by a few glasses of wine.

We used applewood smoked bacon from AJ's Fine Foods, which is truly some of the best butcher bacon I've ever had. We also got the beef tenderloin from AJ's. I wrapped each beef cube with 1/2 strip of bacon and put 5 on each skewer (with a few smaller pieces of leftover beef in between the bacon wrapped pieces). The kebabs were grilled over medium heat for about 17 minutes, turned once at the 10 minute mark.

The corn was left in its husk and wrapped in aluminum foil. I grilled it for 30 minutes, with rotation every 10 minutes.

To keep things easy, and to maintain my sanity after the drama with lighting the grill, I decided to just cook the rice on my kitchen stove. I soaked the basmati rice in water for 20 minutes, then brought the combination to a boil. I then covered the pot and turned the burner down to low to allow the rice to simmer for 15 minutes. After about 7 minutes, I added chopped tomatoes and zucchini to allow them to be steamed and absorbed into the flavor of the rice. When the 15 minutes was up, I turned the burner off and let the rice steam for another 10 minutes.

The always addictive smell and taste of grilled beef and bacon, the sweet juiciness of the corn, and the intoxicating aroma of the basmati rice made for a great combination. So despite the initial challenges, this was a delicious meal and a great way to kick off our summer of Bitch and BBQ.


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Bitch and BBQ

For the last couple summers, my friend Carole and I have selected a "drink of the summer." It all began when I spent my 30th birthday in Hawaii a few years ago and declared the "summer of the mai tai." Other recent DOTS have included the mojito and huckleberry vodka. That's not to say these are the only libations we drink all summer long, and you can't always find some of these drinks at your average neighborhood bar, but when we can't decide what we want or we encounter a bar where our DOTS is one of the bar's specialties, or when we are drinking at home, the DOTS is the drink of choice. It also makes for an interesting topic of conversation and leads to fun adventures (like 'borrowing' fresh mint from a farmer's field near my parent's house in Idaho to make a fresh mojito).

Two weeks ago, I was excited to discover that my favorite grocery store in Phoenix, AJ's, has started carrying my current wine of choice, which I had previously only been able to get through the mail (a challenge given Arizona's absurd protectionist laws about shipping wine). Bitch, co-produced and imported by the geniuses at The Grateful Palate (creators of the Bacon of the Month club), is an incredible Barossa grenache that I discovered at one of David Greggory's Bacon Aphrodisiac dinners last year.

Don't just take my word for it. Here's what Robert Parker had to say:

“90 points - A spectacular bargain, this 100% Grenache (from 40-year-old vines) has nothing "bitchy" about it. Gorgeous kirsch liqueur intermixed with pepper and soil undertones result in an Australian Grenache that tastes like a Vacqueyras on steroids. Medium to full-bodied, supple-textured, and silky, this is a stunning example of a value-priced Barossa red. The good news is that there are 4,000 cases, and the packaging was designed by someone with considerable imagination. Drink it over the next 1-2 years. – Wine Advocate (October 2006)

I've been obsessed with this wine lately, have purchased several cases of it over the last few months, so it is highly appropriate (on a few levels) that it would be our 2007 DOTS.

But this summer we've decided to take a slightly different angle (and throw bacon into the mix, of course). Carole and I always talk about how we should barbeque more often, so we are going to indulge our primal instincts and brave the unbearable summer heat of Arizona as we do a deep dive into the world of barbeque. And everytime we barbeque, at least one of the things we cook will involve bacon. So the summer of "Bitch and BBQ" has begun. As you can see from this photo, I'm in the process of stocking up on Bitch before AJ's sells out (I'm sure they're wondering what the hell is going on with their inventory since I buy at least 3 bottles everytime I go to the store).

We will chronicle our adventures (and misadventures) here on Bacon Unwrapped. There are sure to be some fun and interesting twists and turns in store. Hope you enjoy.


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