Random Moment of Delight

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Random Moment of Delight

Random Moment of Delight

This week’s Random Moment of Delight is two photos:  one of my husband’s face when he saw the Monster Apple Dumpling I made for breakfast on this National Pie Day, January 23, 2014, the other of the little monster itself.  I love the idea of cataloguing random moments of delight in one’s life because I think it can transform one’s mind into a state of expecting, looking for, and then creating delight and wonder.  When I look at the photo of my husband it makes me happy because I remember how happy and surprised he was.  Cooking as a means of showing love, affection and all things good and cozy runs deep in my family; with some it may go underappreciated, but with my husband, not so!  Since he didn’t grow up in a food-centric household, he is amazed at every turn when good homemade food appears.  As for the subject food, the photo of the dumpling engenders all kinds of fond feelings from me because once upon a time in 2005 I worked in a booth at the Kern County Fair making, among other delights, Apple Dumplings.  I stood for hours in the sweltering dusty heat of Bakersfield baking and serving dumpling after dumpling after dumpling, boiling caramel sauce, whipping and dolloping fresh cream, but boy was it worth the work when the day ended and me and my fellow booth workers dived into the leftovers!  As former food jobs go, it sure beat my days in a supermarket deli impaling raw chickens and frying chimichangas!

Finally, the recipe I used for the dumplings I adapted from Jun Belen’s wonderful food blog which is, in a word, delightful.  Not an ounce of snobiness or rarified air going on in his blog! And when I say adapted, I mean loosely adapted.  His recipe calls for 2 pie disks to make 8 dumplings, I used 1 disk to make 1 dumpling.  Yes, the apple was giant, but we like a thick crust at my house. That’s one whole pie crust my husband got this morning. Here’s my recipe:

Dumpling:

1 giant apple (I used Kiku, but you can use Fuji, Granny Smith, any apple, really)

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1 recipe pie dough (see below)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1.  Peel and core the apple

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2.  Sprinkle apple with 1/4 tsp cinnamon

3.  Roll out pie dough into a large circle, place apple at the center and fold pie dough over and around the dumpling, pinching at the top to secure.

4.  Bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees, then bake for another 20 – 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

5.  Pour sauce over dumpling and enjoy!

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Sauce:

4 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp sugar

4 dates, pitted (preferably Barhi, but you can easily use soft medjools), mashed with the back of a spoon

1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon and nutmeg

pinch water, plus more as needed

1.  Melt butter and sugar gently over medium heat

2.  Add dates, water and spices and whisk to incorporate into a semi-smooth paste.  Pour over dumpling!

Dough:

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted chilled butter, or a combination of butter and lard

3 Tbsp ice water or more as needed

1.  Add flour, sugar and salt together.

2.  Chop chilled (frozen works very well) butter into small pieces and add to flour.

3.  Slowly add the ice water into the flour and butter mixture, stir with a spoon, and gather up with your hands and form into a ball.  Work quickly and don’t handle too much in order to keep butter chilled.

3.  Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour for a couple of minutes.

Do the challenge yourself!

Make Your Own Bacon

Make Your Own Bacon
Pork Collar

You’re about to make the most delicious bacon you will ever taste.

Making your own bacon is not difficult, and the effort is absolutely worth the difference in flavor. We are fortunate to have many purveyors of artisan bacon nowadays and I have found many of them beyond tasty . . . and costly. Homemade bacon will not only save you money, but also empower you . . . and most importantly, yield serious deliciousness.

I adapted my recipe from Michael Ruhlman’s. Michael is my favorite food blogger, and one of my favorite writers in general. His recipes are sound, researched, practical and have been successful without fail for me, and his writing is witty, irreverent and funny. In my recipe I omit the preservative (mostly out of laziness) and the garlic, and tweak the herbs. I also use the collar cut of pork rather than the belly called for in Ruhlman’s and almost every other recipe you find for bacon. I got this idea from my friend and rising chef/baker/fermenter star Rose Lawrence, whose cafe Red Bread serves collar bacon. The first time I tasted it I swore there were 4 pork chops worth of flavor packed into one slice of the bacon, so I had to try to recreate it at home.

Pork collar is not commonly available at the supermarket, or even specialty butcher shops, but you can special order it at higher end grocery stores such as Bristol Farms, Gelson’s and Whole Foods. But my local farmer’s market features a butcher, Peads & Barnetts, who regularly sell the collar.

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His collar comes from the curly haired Mangalitsa pigs

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Homemade Bacon:

Ingredients:

1 pork collar (approximately 4 lbs)

2 ounces (1/4 cup, kosher or coarse Sea Salt)

4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

2 bay leaves, crumbled

1 tablespoon fennel seed, crushed

1/4 cup brown sugar

5 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme

1 sprig fresh rosemary


1.  Mix all ingredients (except the collar of course) together in a bowl.  Rub the salt and spice mixture all over the collar.  Really massage the mixture into the pork.  

2.  Place the collar in a large ziploc bag and close the bag .  Alternatively, wrap it in heavy duty saran wrap. Place the collar on a flat surface (plate, board, cookie sheet) on top of a couple paper towels in the refrigerator for 7 days.  Once or twice during the 7 days massage the pork collar (there is no need to take the collar out of the bag/wrap). 

3.  Unwrap the collar and “cure” in a 200 degree oven for 90 minutes.  Let collar cool to room temperature, rinse off the salt and spice mixture, pat dry and place back in the refrigerator.  This will firm up the collar so you can easily slice it.

4.  After the collar has been in the refrigerator for 2 hours, take out and slice.

Collar Bacon fanned

Fry up and serve with a poached egg.

Eggs & Bacon

Hawaii Trip

Kenji’s Blue Label Burger Blend

Smashed Potatoes Fried in Duck Fat

This weekend I took Kenji Lopez-Alt on and hand-ground some oxtail, brisket and sirloin.  Kenji is a mad cook scientist with super-hero caliber creative powers . . . the stuff he comes up with is magnificent and over the top . . . just my style!  Who could think to freeze burger “juice”/drippings and then insert/stuff said frozen disk between two fresh burger patties in order to effectuate the sublime combination of a crispy burger and a flat burger and a juicy burger? (the “Flood Burger”) His Blue Label Burger Blend is easily one of the tamer projects on his site The Burger Lab so I set out this weekend.  The results were flavorful, although what did not work so spectacularly was using my hand grinder.  The oxtail begs to be ground by a machine because the fat just destroyed my little grates not literally, but I do not know how I am going to clean them.  Fire hose?  I also lamented that my wonderful guests preferred their burgers medium to medium well, so there were no juiciness fireworks or applause.

In typical overachieving fashion I decided to make my own burger buns, even though I always say I am not a baker and every trial proves me right . . . . I have such a hard time measuring and following recipes!  Sometimes I don’t even want to employ the correct equipment. Thus…

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The buns were based on a pizza dough recipe and again, the flavor was good, even if the size, whether too small or too large, made the burgers rather cumbersome to eat!

Accompaniments?  Once again I turn to Kenji.  Crispy smashed potatoes. Fabulous.  Potatoes cooked, smushed, fried in duck fat.

Taking my bike for a train ride

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From Santa Monica to San Juan Capistrano & Dana Point via Big Blue Bus, Amtrak & bike: 2 hours no traffic. The world feels small & friendly– you really can get around without a car in LA!