Sunday, January 18, 2009

In the future, On the horizon. Down the pipeline. Coming up.

After curing the bacon, I promised myself I would post something non-pork based in the near future. The timeline for that future has been extended - see below for explanation. Someday there will be non-pork (and maybe even non-meat!) posts.

Today I took a Butchery for Adults class through a local butcher shop. It is unclear why 'Adult' has to be specified, as I don't think/doubt they have classes for other age demographics. Reardless, one of the coolest things I've ever done. Our class of 7 broke down a suckling pig and whole lamb.
Lamb shanking (thank you Bellos, for the pic)

Each classmate walked away with about 15 lbs of meat, and this meat will be the foundation of many near-future posts.
Meat grab-bag.
I wonder what's in the unlabeled one??

On the (tentative) menu:

-Suckling pig belly bacon. Savory, cured with black pepper, garlic and bay leaves. The instructor asked who wanted the belly, and I really couldn't resist the thought of trying my new found curing 'prowess' on a mini-belly. Mini bacon! This is the only item on the menu that is not tentative - I started the curing process about 20 minutes ago.
-Lamb sausage (merguez again?)
-Braised Lamb Shanks
-Roasted pork shoulder
-There should also be a Cobb salad with bacon from the original cure left
-we'll see what else

So until next time...
This is where pork comes from!
-I chopped off the head-

Monday, January 12, 2009

Uno Dos Tres... Spaghetti Carbonara

1. As easy as one, two, three.
2. Three ingredients.
3. Three times better than ... pretty much anything.
Three... reasons (above) why I made it.

At this point, I'm on the verge of 'way too much bacon in the past week' status. However, dramatic increases in reader demand have made it a necessity to stay strong and keep posting (two in one day!!!). I'm pretty sure that at this rate I will be able to make a solid full-time income off of proceeds from this blog in the next... month or so.

So. I'm trying out the Italian path and making some Spaghetti Carbonara. I've made it before, but with thin-sliced tree hugging Whole Foods bacon. As you might expect, it was just ok. The classic version uses guanciale - cured Italian pig jowl. I used muh-bacon, cut into lardons (little ~1/2 inch x ~1/2 inch x ~1 1/2 inch rectangular cuts). Let's just restate the obvious: Thick cut bacon rules.

-2/3 cu grated parmesan reggiano cheese
-2/3 lb bacon
-1 package spaghetti
-4 eggs

**This recipe is adapted from a combination of Ruth Reichl and Mario Batali. Both of whom take a minimalist approach. This is the easiest/cheapest recipe, and what both of the above claim to be the most traditional.

Cook the bacon.
Yea Yeaaaa.

Cook the pasta --> al dente.

Dump pasta + 1/4 cup pasta water into bacon and bacon grease.

Add black pepper, eggs, and cheese. Mix.

Easy, Quick, Delicious dinner.

This bacon is going down.
Just act like the picture isn't blurry.

Bacon Chronicles: The Sandwich Trilogy

'Das Wassup.

"A sausage is an image of rest, peace and tranquility in stark
contrast to the destruction and chaos of everyday life.

Consider the peaceful repose of the sausage compared
with the aggressiveness and violence of bacon."
Tom Robbins
Another Roadside Attraction

So what do I do with 5 pounds of bacon. Some doubt it can be finished in a reasonable amount of time. But don't you worry. It can/will be done.

The opener. Bacon: A New Hope. The morning after the cure was done, I made a Bacon Egg and Cheese sandwich. Sure there are more epic creations possible, but the BEC has a special place in my heart - I basically lived off of them at school in Philly. I used cheddar, but if I was really legit I'd go with some American pre-sliced single wrapped. The redness is Sri Racha and a dab of ketchup.

The second in the series. The Bacon Strikes Back. In celebration of my 8th follower (a 33% increase in the last week - creeping closer and closer to that second digit!) I also made some BLTs and ate them with two loyal Pork Pilers... the winners of a secret poll I held... with myself. SEE what you can get by being a follower?!

Shoutout to Emily and Alex (the loyal Porkers).

The finale: Return of the Bacon. A bacon 'wrapped' hot dog. Mission style. My bacon was too thick to wrap so I just threw it on with the dog. If I was going to write a theme song for this bacon escapade, it would be titled "My Bacon Can't be Wrapped"... think about it. Green chiles, sauted onions, Sri Racha (yes. again.) and a smidgen of ketchup.

I'm speechless...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Six Degrees of ... Bacon - A Running Diary

Over the last week I cured 5 pounds of pork belly using a pretty basic (read: boring) dry cure. This was my first time dry curing, my only other similar experience was a few months ago when I brined some beef into corned beef. So keep in mind that I'm not some curing afficionado, and really I have no idea what I'm doing. For these reasons, I've decided to write about this initial bacon experience in running diary format (copied from a certain sports columnist I read). After the date I am throwing in a single emotion that summarizes what I'm feeling at the time.

1) The week-long curing process is responsible (or I'm using it as an excuse) for lack of postings recently. However, since I now have 5 pounds of bacon to play with there should be a lot more posts in the next two weeks. So all 6 of you reading this should be more than entertained for the forseeable future. YAY!
2) Dates and times are approximate.

December 19th, 5:27PM. Boredom.
I decide it's time to get my ass in gear and order really the only necessary ingredient for basic bacon curing: pink salt/sodium nitrite. Don't listen to Whole Foods tree huggers. A little won't hurt you. Plus it kills pork-loving bacteria, and I don't feel confident enough in my 'curing prowess' to trust the belly sitting in my fridge for ~7 days without spawning some harmful microbes (see link above).

December 26th, 12:00PM. Indifference.
UPS attempts to deliver the pink salt. Surprise... I'm at work. I go pick it up. I don't have the pork belly yet, or an extra pound of kosher salt, so the project is put on a temporary hold.
**The recipe I use, which seems to be a running theme in this blog, was 'borrowed' from Michael Ruhlman/Brian Polcyn's Charcuterie.

December 31st, 11:57PM. Action (finally).
Got the pork belly. Complete with a San Francisco-organic mark up courtesy of a not-to-be-named butcher shop in the Ferry Terminal market. I swear a silent oath on the spot never to buy specialty meats from this location again. Ruhlman says $2.50/lb for belly. I pay twice that here. Next time: Chinatown, maybe the Mission. Definitely somewhere cheap.

Beauty. Don't mind the prescription drug packet.
Don't know how that got in there.
(Pork Pile does not condone the abuse of Rx drugs..)

December 31st, 1:12PM. Action (II).
I buy an unnecessarily overpriced ice chest, thinking it the perfect vessel for this curing process. Some other blogger had mentioned makin' bacon in an ice chest. I also buy a plastic container (common name: tupperware) thinking it might come in handy, in case the ice chest doesn't work. Ruhlman says use the fridge. The ice chest is banished to a distant corner of my room. Plastic container + fridge it is. Mental note: check recipe before purchases.

December 31st, 1:44PM. Action (III).
As you can see, December 31st was a day of extreme action. I crack open the pink salt, make one 'batch' of the basic dry cure, and throw it in a resealable plastic bag (common name: Ziploc). I realize that I've purchased enough pink salt to last me the next 20 years, even if I cure bacon and corned beef10+ times a year. (I bought 40 ounces -> two ounces were needed for one 'batch' -> roughly one tenth of a batch was used for the curing).
5 lb pork belly

1 lb Kosher salt
2 oz pink salt
8 oz sugar**

**In Charcuterie, the authors stress that pretty much any spices/herbs/variations of sugar can be subbed into this cure, making badass and unique bacon types. I went with the basic (again. read: boring) cure to use as a stepping stone.

The cure!

December 31st, 1:58PM. Puzzlement.
I shake just over 1/4 cup of the cure over the belly (after trimming some of the fat) in a Ziploc bag. Then I place the meat (covered uniformly) into the plastic container.

The Meat posing with the Cure.

Covered in the Cure - in its beautiful plastic home

That's pretty much it. Cover and throw it in the fridge.

January 1st, 1:58PM. Excitement.
Some liquid has seeped! The cure is working! Flip it!

This is actually a picture from a later day,
but it looks the same for pretty much the whole curing process..

January 2nd, 1:58PM. Waning Excitement.
A little more liquid has seeped! The cure is still working... Flip it.

January 3rd, 1:58PM. Indifference.
Meh. I forgot to flip it.

January 4th, 1:58PM. Waxing Excitement.
Past the halfway point! (looks about the same as day 2) Flip it.

January 5th, 5:58PM. Budding Doubt.
Maybe there should be more liquid? Flip it. Then I add about 1 tbsp more curing mix sprinkled over the top. That'll fix everything.

January 6th, 5:58PM. Doubt.
What if there wasn't enough pink salt? What if it's not curing? What if it's not bacon? Flip it. Sprinkle 1 tbsp curing mix for symmetry.

January 7th, 5:58PM. Fear.
BAH! It's done. Time for a quick low temp roast (I don't have a smoker). I take 'er out of the container, rinse in cold water for about 5 minutes. Dab all the moisture off with some paper towels, and put it on my ghetto version of a roasting pan (some little wire trays on a cookie sheet).
Ready for roasting
Roast for ~2 hours at 200 F. Internal temp is 'supposed' to hit 150 F. At 2.5 hours it is only at 140!! Something must be wrong with the bacon!

January 7th, 8:28PM. F*ck it.
This is as hot as it's going to get. I take it out, let 'er cool down (still on ghetto roast pan).

Post-Roast (see what I did there?)

January 7th, 11:15PM. Morbid Fear/Managed Excitement.
Top Chef is over. Time to try it. I slice two pieces of the meatier end and fry 'em up. Low-medium heat so fat renders off (and any harmful bacteria... are killed off).

It was super easy to slice. Three possible reasons:
1) bacon is tender
2) I have rocking-badass knife skills
3) I have a really new sharp knife

January 7th, 11:36PM. Partial Relief.
The pieces are really good. Not typical bacon since they lack that smoke-y flavor, but they will definitely do. Plus it will be around 10^6 times better once the basic (boring!) cure is modified/enhanced. Overall: easy and totally worth it. Time for some experimenting!

I ate part of the right one.

Apologies for the novella-length post. Sometimes it just has to happen.