Monday, September 28

Bacon sausage

Oh crumbs. We got linked from Mr. Baconpants's blog, due to my post about the Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour. I guess we have to get back on the ball and start updating more often. And since we'd like to retain readers, let's start with some more bacon!

Now then. I would like to make a bold proclamation. I am a god.

Not buying it? Can I get at least a saint?

Why? Did you not read the title of this post?

I have made bacon sausage. Think about that for a second. Roll those two words around in your mind for a bit.



Okay, enough self-congratulatory babbling, let's talk procedure. Remember that $70 Kitchenaid doohickey I bought from the pasta trilogy? Well, one of the things it comes with is a grinder. Use a coarse grind on slightly frozen bacon. That's about 3 pounds sitting in the $10 feeder tray attachment. Grind it, in case you haven't figured that out yet.

Next, you'll need some sausage casing. This may be a little tricky to find. I got mine from Wholey's, the crazy high-end wacky grocery store that has just about any obscure infrequently used ingredient you could ask for. And if they don't have it, someone in Pittsburgh's Strip District will. Follow the directions. Soak it in water first to untangle it and rinse off some of the salt. Clamp it on to your $10 sausage stuffer with a bit of butcher's twine, then tie a knot in the end to keep it from escaping.

Twist the links about 1/3 longer than the length of your bun. That's because you'll lose about 1/4 of its length to shrinkage.

Now, isn't this a thing of beauty?


A little precaution: Yes, it's bacon. Yes, it's greasy. If you grill it, do so with a piece of aluminum foil, or you'll have grease fires and flareups out the ying yang.

But to be honest, I'd recommend against the grill for that reason. Go with a half an inch of water in a frying pan to steam the sausages through, then let them develop some color once the water all evaporates. If you must have grill marks, may I suggest a grill pan?

Serve on a hot dog bun or sausage roll. Add some mayo, lettuce, and tomato to create a cylindrical BLT. Or hell, just eat it straight up.

How could you not love that?


Ya heretic.

Saturday, September 26

Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour

My good buddy Dave found this event coming to Pittsburgh, and decided to get me my birthday gift early. He asked if I was interested, and just thought, "C'mon, it's called a Bacon Tour, how could it be bad?"

Now that's a welcome sight if I've ever seen one.

Let me explain something about the Harris Grill. It's not really a hole, in fact, it's got a pretty nice restaurant upstairs. The main feature is that instead of those little baskets of peanuts most bars have, during Steelers games, the Harris Grill has little baskets of bacon. Oh, and every Tuesday night from 6:30 to midnight.

You are not imagining things; that is a pitcher of bacon in the upper right. They use it for their bacontini. You are not imagining things there either; they have a bacontini.

We're immediately greeted by Mr. Baconpants, a guy who wears red pants with pink bacon stripe pattern painted on them. He hands us two tickets for drinks, plus a "Man Bait" maple bacon lollipop.

That disclaimer, if you can't read it, goes: "Not valid with any other specials, offers, or after the above date. Not to be used by minors, miners, ditch diggers, or elves. Void where prohibited, including Wisconsin. Drink responsibly, or else we will."

But we're not here to snicker at the drink tickets, we're here to get our bacon on! And right when we get into the back room that I've dubbed the Hall of Bacon, we are greeted by our first treat, bacon sushi.

They're actually really well made sushi rolls. Some had avocado, some were cream cheese, but the ones that were really good were the ones with tomato and lettuce. Oh, and the unadulterated bacon nigiri, there's no stopping that.

Up next, a quartet of bacon hors d'oeurvuerrs (I have no idea how you spell that, and I'm too lazy to look it up.)

Bacon and shrimp is a classic you can't go wrong with. Pierogies are Pittsburgh local favorite, these had a little bacon in the mashed potato filling, but they were dressed with bacon bits and sauteed onions, very, very nice. After that were the bacon wings, which were basically wings seasoned with bacon salt. Not very impressive. But then they ripped off our deep fried bacon! Damnit! We should have patented that!

And what meal would be complete without dessert?

On the right is a tray full of bacon brittle, or more accurately, maple brittle with bacon bits. It's okay, but they didn't boil the sugar long enough to get to the hard crack stage. Either that, or the grease from the bacon interfered with the brittle setting up. On the left are bacon cupcakes. Or more accurately, maple cupcakes with the lightest maple frosting I've ever had, with a chip of maple candied bacon on top. Oh so good... And I won a door prize $25 gift certificate to the cupcake shop that made them. Score!

Last, there was a bacon eating contest. With no entry fee, I figure, what the heck, why not? Maybe all those Nights of Bacon could finally pay off.

Ha! No. We all started with about 3 pounds of bacon, and I probably ended the 3 minutes with 2. Three spots down from me was a guy who's apparently a competitive eater, since he plowed through all 3 pounds. He's eaten 6 pounds of chili in 10 minutes. And after all three pounds, he finished off the trays of the four guys around him. That's when I started trying to goad him into shooting the grease. Ha! No.

All in all, a lot of fun. Look up Vande Rose Farms if you get a chance -- they make some really fantastic bacon.

Saturday, September 5


Welcome to the first installment of What The? Theater, where we investigate the rare, quirky, and sometimes downright weird food we find in the grocery store. At the one near my office building has in its opening a display for "Flavor Grenades", at $1.99 per pound. What the...?

The stickers say "Dinosaur Egg", and the receipt says "Pluots". Pluwhats? Turns out it's some kind of plum. So what the heck, let's buy some. It'll be interesting.

So... it peels kinda nicely, or delicately. The sticker ripped of a bit of skin when I tried to take it off. And that's a nifty color stryation (?) when you slice it across the meat. Biting into it? Well, you better have a plate handy. These things are juicier than the worst office gossip. This thing shot juice across my cheeks and created a big honkin' puddle on the plate.

So what's it taste like? Unsurprisingly, it's got the consistency of a really wet plum. It tastes kinda like a plum with tangy acidic, mildly citric tones, and then the sweetness is turned up a notch. The flesh does its best to disintegrate when you put your teeth through it. Surprisingly, it holds together okay when you take a serrated knife to it.

Speaking of which, that gave me an idea of what to do with them. St. Alton makes a neat individual peach upside down cake, so I thought I'd adapt the recipe to take pluots. The recipe calls for four individual 6 oz. ramekins. Seeing as how I was really broke at the time, I decided not to drop $8 on a new piece of kitchen equipment and made one big cake in a 6" cake pan.

That's some butter and brown sugar at the bottom of the pan. It's supposed to be followed up by some candied ginger, but I couldn't find any. The batter you mix up as normal, and you pour over the pluot slices artfully arranged in the bottom of the pan. (Image of batter accidentally not taken.)

Because you're going from little ramekins to a [comparatively large] pan, double the cooking time.

It's got a nice color, and a toothpick will come out clean when inserted. Well, the pluots are gooey, so it won't be completely clean. Run the knife around the edge, put a plate on top, and flip the whole thing over. Use a big plate because the pluot's juiciness will cause it to splut out as it's freed from its 6" prison and into a wide world of horizontal space.

Cut the cake in quarters (so it would be the same serving size as the ramekins) and serve. The buttermilk in the cake makes a nice tangy counterpoint to the pluot's now almost excessive sweetness. But overall, it's very nice. I strongly recommend it.

Remember folks, just because it's foreign to you, doesn't mean it doesn't deserve an audition in your kitchen.