Archive for October, 2009

The Search for Pork Belly

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Pork Belly

The first challenge I ran into when making my own bacon was finding the most import element/ingredient, the pork belly.  I think I’ll spare you the specifics on where on the pig this comes from, because really it is pretty self explanatory.  What I did find surprising was how difficult it was for me to find fresh pork belly at a reasonable price without having to order 30 lbs or haul it clear across the city.

The first place I tried was McKinnon’s in Davis Square.  After a brief talk with a woman who worked there who swore up and down that their “pork shoulder” was really pork belly, I went home only to discover that I should have trusted my instincts and asked to speak with someone else.  It was indeed pork shoulder and it also had a really unappealing smell to it.  Well, lesson learned.

Next stop Market Basket in Somerville, but when I discovered that several packages of meat were leaking into the case, I fled in horror.  This left me having to expand my horizons a little more.  The problem was that if I had to buy my pork belly from a shop that doesn’t always carry pork belly, that means that there can be a minimum amount you need to order.  In the end, a co-worker helped me get some fresh pork belly (bone-in, skin still on) from a different Market Basket location.

Since I am all about encouraging people to try new things and support their local butcher shops (two of my uncles are currently and my grandfather was a butcher), I am going to supply a list of other places you can check out:

Meat Again
Dom’s Sausage
The Butcher Shop
Sulmona Meat Market
DiPaolo & Rossi Meat Market

Basically, you are looking for is a 5-7lb piece of pork belly, skin on. You can either leave the bones in or ask the butcher to remove them for you. In retrospect, I should have asked for the bones removed because in ended up taking too much meat off in a few places when I tried to remove the ribs myself. Still, eating the ribs was part of the fun too.

Let me end this section with one word of the wise to the squeamish. The attached skin is from the underbelly of the pig, tiny translucent hair and nipples and all. You won’t be eating the skin in the end, but I just wanted to throw that out there. You are gonna have to get your hands all up in raw meat and I know that can be a bit challenging for some.

Next time: preparing the cure.

The Quest for Bacon – Part 1

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

And so the saga begins…

Around my birthday a friend/partner in crime of prime gave me two amazing books. One was all about making cheese at home, and the other was Charcuterie the quintessential book about home curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. Honestly, google it. I promise you that mention of this book occurs on almost every omnivore foodie blog this side of the universe. Oh, and while you’re away, Michael Ruhlman’s blog is pretty darn nifty too. Way more shiny than this here blog, though I would like to mention that he has a link to Kitchen Aid mixers under his “favorite kitchen tools” section. Damn Skippy, my culinary kindred. Damn skippy.

Back to the task at hand however. Not long after receiving the book, I spent a day reading the thing from cover to cover. And while my mind could not completely wrap around some of the more complex projects, there was one thing that stuck out the most. With very little extra effort, I Smalerie, could cure my own bacon.

The good news is that the bacon recipe is found quite early in the book and is suggested as a starter project for newbies. It requires few extra tools, and nothing that is too hard to find so long as you are willing to put in the effort. Best of all, I am planning on even providing resources for those of you in the Boston area. Sadly, you are going to have to wait until the next post for that.

Next time: Getting what you need while the gettin’s good!

Leftovers, yet again.

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Lazy, again.

This bento was made with ingredients that I bought for other purposes. The Boy and I ate BLTs the day before, and I had the eggs from making my cheesecake. The result was pretty obvious: a bacon and tomato mini-frittata on a salad. The tortellini salad was pre-made and also a leftover from a potluck. Not a bad lunch for very little effort if you ask me.

Pumpkin, 2 ways

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Pumpkin All Around

This weekend my friends and I hold another one of our Iron Chef battles. Well, perhaps “battle” isn’t the best word to use here. Really they are more like themed ingredient potlucks. Each time we try to challenge ourselves with an ingredient that is going to be a stretch for us without it being something that (in the end) we realize we had no desire to eat that stuff with or without the wacky fun of the event. Trust me, we learned this the hard way with the Spam night that most of us went home hungry or nauseous from.

The ingredient this weekend was squash, any kind you like. Since I was chomping at the bit to give my KitchenAid a go, my contributions were both a pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin spice martini’s.

The cheesecake was made using a Paula Deen recipe from the Food Network website. It was one of the easiest ones I could find, and since I was new to making cheesecake, I didn’t want to push myself over the cream cheese covered cliff.

The “Pumpkin-tinis” were really like drinking candy. So unless you like things like Appletinis and booze that doesn’t take like booze, you best steer clear. But, if you are one of those people who has been wondering why you can’t find more drinks that are the color of traffic cones, then this stuff is for you.

An Aid for My Kitchen

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

This week has been one filled with adjustments for me.  As I tried to shake off the last of my jet-lag, this sudden chill in the air has left me a lot more interested in hiding under multiple blankets than actually creating a bento with any visual appeal.  Lazy girl bentos do not interesting postings make, so I think I am going to focus on something else tonight: my KitchenAid mixer.

Those of you who know me in real life know that my sister got engaged around this time last year.  As her Maid of Honor / Wolf Master General (don’t ask, just be jealous) the only real advice I could give her was the following – “There are two things every couple should have on their registry: a KitchenAid mixer and Correlle dishes.”  While I think that the wonder of Correlle dishes speak for themselves, the KitchenAid mixer has always had this sexy allure for me.  And for some strange reason, I have always promised myself that no matter what, I would finally be able to convince someone to buy one for me when/if I ever got married.  In fact, 6+ years of dating The Boy and I will still snarkily tell people “Well, sure, we are going to get married someday.  I need that mixer dammit!”

Yes, yes, I know that I could have bought this mixer for myself like tens of times over now that I am an adult with my own money.  To be completely honest, at first it was a space issue in my tiny old apartment, and after that, i guess other things got in the way.  Regardless though, every time I went to my mother’s she would find me sniffing around her mixer.  I would express my interest with ever-so-subtle comments like “Not for nothing ma, but when was the last time you even used this thing?” or “You know, I’ve often heard that if you love something you should set it free…besides, I bet this hussy of a can opener isn’t very good company for him anyway.”

Well finally the kitchen gods have heard my incessant whining because my dear angel of a mother caved.  As I write this, my very own Empire Red KitchenAid mixer is resting peacefully in my kitchen cabinet, cuddling up next to my immersion blender and rice cooker.  This weekend, I bake with a new sense of purpose.

So, I only have one question for whoever is still reading this trash:  Who’s ready for meringue BITCHES?!

Back to the grind

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

The trip to London was so great that I’m almost sad to announce that I have returned to my usual schedule. The good news is that I have returned with lots of goodies and a few new projects in mind.

But rather then spend all my time posting pics of my sightseeing, I give you what might have been one of the best things we ate our entire stay in London…Jam Roly Poly:


Jam Roly Poly is a traditional British Pudding made with suet dough. The dough is rolled flat, spread with jam, then rolled into a log shape. I believe our Roly Poly was baked, but in the past it has also been steamed in men’s shirt sleeves, giving it the nickname Dead Man’s Arm.

This Roly Poly was served with a warm custard sauce and a bit of extra jam. The dough itself was chewy rather than spongy. My sister described it best when she said that the dough reminded her of a soft pretzel.

I’m hoping to recreate a reasonable copy of this dessert sometime in the future, though I will need to figure out if this was made with suet or not. Because something tells me, suet might not be all that easy to find. Either way, I am sure that I will be able to find people willing to taste my first few efforts. The hardest part for me is going to be deciding on a jam flavor, unless I can get my hands on some boysenberry preserves this fall.

I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane…

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

Happily, I do know when I’ll be back again.  Tomorrow night I am leaving for a week in London.  I know I’ve been a slacker about updating this past week, but it looks like it’s gonna be another week before I update again.  On the plus side, you can look forward to pics of London pub goodies and loads of tea.