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Archive for the ‘Bacon’ Category

You know how you start the weekend off with a bang?

Pizza.

For breakfast.

No, not that cold, congealed stuff–though that has a special place in my drunken little heart, too.

Real pizza.  Hot pizza.

“It’s pizza.

For breakfast.”

Couldn’t you just see a commercial or a full page magazine ad like that?  There’s also:

“Pizza.  That was easy.”

Oh, wait.  Staples already did that.  How about:

“Pizza for breakfast?  Way radical!” with a picture of a spiky-haired kid skateboarding past, grabbing the pizza out of his mom’s hands while she wears a half-shocked, half-bemused expression.

Nah.  Too nineties.  We could do:

“Rich.  Satisfying.  Smooth.  Pizza.”

Nope.  Sounds like a pizza-flavored cigarette.  Oh, oh, I know:

“Same great taste.  Now for breakfast!”

Didn’t McDonald’s do something like that?  Like, when they tried to market something that looked like a quadruple-pounder with cheese and three buns as a great way to start the morning?

But let’s get real.  The point of this post isn’t how to create a pizza advertisement.  It’s how to make a damn fine pizza.

“For breakfast.”

Last weekend I wanted to surprise The Boy with something special on Saturday morning.

You know.  Aside from the usual something special.

Since he’s a fiend for my homemade pizza–on the stone, but of course–I figured that was the way to do it.  You know, keep the spontaneity alive.  Well, it would’ve kept the spontaneity alive, except halfway through our movie on Friday night I lunged for the remote, paused the DVD, turned to him, pressed my face right up against his, and went, “OHMYGOD, OHMYGOD, GUESS WHAT, I’M MAKING PIZZA FOR BREAKFAST TOMORROW ANDAREN’TYOUSOEXCITED?!”

I never said I could keep a secret.

I usually use Chris Bianco’s recipe for pizza crust, which is excellent, to be sure.  But seeing as how I have a sourdough starter just lounging around, I used that instead.  WHICH WAS THE GREATEST IDEA EVER.  I didn’t measure.  Didn’t weigh.  Didn’t consult any recipes.  Just went with my gut.  And my gut told me to feed and proof the sourdough starter on the counter for 8 hours, then toss in enough flour, wheat germ, and salt to make a nice, soft dough.  Then my gut instructed me to knead the dough until it was firm and elastic-y, let it rise, punch it down, and let it rise again for another half hour.  Bingo–sourdough pizza dough.  And as we all know, sourdough bread makes THE BEST toast, and therefore is perfectly suited to tangy, crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside, makes you go “Mmmm” pizza.

“For breakfast.”

My gut is so smart.  And strangely specific.

Anyhow, I did all this during the afternoon on Friday.  Then I just stuck the dough in the refrigerator and prepped all the toppings so that the next morning would be effortless.  I don’t think I have to tell you how flexible pizza is, so just use whatever’s on hand, whatever appeals to you.  But in my case, I halved cherry tomatoes, snipped up a bunch of fresh sage, cooked and crumbled a few slices of applewood bacon, shredded some aged mozzarella, and painted my nails.  Oh, the nail thing was for me.  Not the pizza.  But I highly recommend it.

The next morning as I stumbled out of bed and zombied my way to the bathroom, I made a quick detour to put the oven on full blast at 500F degrees and take the dough out to rest on the counter.  About 45 minutes later, I dusted my pizza peel with cornmeal, stretched out my dough, and began piling it all on.

Mmm, piling it all on.

Ooh, this would be a good place to mention that I topped the pie with a raw egg carefully cracked on top.  I LOVE doing this.  When the pizza comes out the oven, the egg will be fully cooked with a still-runny yolk, so you can break it and spread it out all over the pizza.  Don’t give me that look, you know you want it.

Into the oven, on top of the pizza stone, it went and baked for about 8 minutes, with a brief run under the broil setting to give the cheese that…oh, you know, that golden, crusty, but still buttery and oeey-gooey quality.  When it came out, we indulged while emitting the most graphic “oohs” and “aahs,” probably causing our downstairs neighbor to think we had the other kind of Saturday morning surprise.  Nope.  Pizza.  Yum.  Of course, I had enough dough for two pies, which was one more than we could handle, so we flash froze the other one, already baked, and reheated it at 400F for dinner last night, which means it was:

Pizza.  For Breakfast.  For Dinner.

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Have you ever had a day when you just felt lucky?

This happened to me a little over a week ago.  The Boy and I decided to put off work and play while the sun was out, so off we headed to our favorite thrift store, Brown Elephant, for adventure.

To pick through old, dusty stuff indoors.  Hey, I never said we wanted to play IN the sun–just while it was out.  Does your BMG LOOK like the kind of person who can handle UV exposure?!

So while we were there, The Boy and I found an espresso machine, a bread machine, and a pasta/sausage mixer/extruder (come now, you know you want to say it–just put your lips together and coo: “extruuuuuder…”), all in barely-used condition, for a grand total of $10.  You may think us strange for buying previously-owned kitchen appliances.  I say, mayhap we are, but we are also the kind of simple folk who have a worm composting bin and make our own wine.  So there.  Take us or leave us.

But please take us.  We’re very sensitive.

And by the way, such thrift store “luck” is usually the kind you make yourself.  Sometimes you have to play dirty.  By giving the evil eye to that domesticky gay male couple, for example–they look like they’d just loooooove a bread machine.  Sure, the fashionista is over there snooping through a pile of neckties and looking quite absorbed in the silk cravat he just found.  But the other one–with the picnic basket–he could be trouble.

“What’s that over there?” I say a bit too loudly.  “An exquisite ceramic bust of Diana Ross?”  I grab the bread machine fast.  Suckers.

And as I christened my machine that night (bread from a MACHINE? How exotic!  And also, sort of apocalyptic!) while we folded laundry and watched the Chappelle show, I felt completely at peace with everything, cozy in my domestic bliss, my nesting instinct rolling at a continuous, slow burn.  Ah, that Dave Chappelle–always up to some new and hilarious hijinks.  What’s that you say, Dave?  You’re Rick James, bitch?  Oh, Dave, you DO beat all!

This bread is FANTASTIC toasted with a fried egg for breakfast, or as the base for BLT’s–bacon already included!  No bread machine?  Go kill yourself.

Kidding!  You can do this by hand and with a regular ol’ oven.  Or, you know, go kill yourself.

Bacon-Scallion Bread

Go Get:
1 3/4 cups water
1 Tablespoon active, dry yeast
5 3/4 cups flour (I use a mix of white whole wheat and white, but I’ve also done all wheat and all white with good results)
3 Tablespoons creamed honey
1/4 cup butter or oil
1 Tablespoon salt
12 oz. bacon (measured before cooking), cooked and crumbled
3/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 Tablespoon dried onion flakes (NOT onion powder!)

Go Do:
Place all ingredients in the bread machine in the following order: liquids on the bottom, dry ingredients on the top, ending with yeast.  Hold the bacon and scallions back for now.  Close the machine and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for setting it to basic (for white) or wheat (for wheat and wheat-blended doughs), with light crust color.  Start the machine.  Keep an eye on it during the first knead to make sure it isn’t too sticky or too dry.  Towards the end of the first kneading cycle, add the bacon and onion.  If they’re not mixing in very well, try adding a teaspoon or two of flour to aid the incorporation process.  If it still doesn’t work, remove the dough, knead in the mix-ins by hand, and return it to the machine.  But with a little patience, the machine should do it just fine.

To make this dough by hand, start with warm water, and let the yeast sit in it with the honey for about ten minutes.  Slowly incorporate the butter or oil, then the flour, then the salt (adding salt directly to yeast can sometimes kill it or inhibit the bread’s rise), and then the bacon, scallions, and dried onion.  Knead until smooth, about five minutes, form it into a ball, and place it in an oiled bowl under a light towel to rise until doubled, about an hour.  Punch it down, knead it for another minute, then form it into two small loaves on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Cover it with a towel and let rise until doubled again, about 40 minutes to an hour.  When almost doubled, preheat the oven to 400F.  Right before placing them in the oven, slash the tops maybe a half-deep with a very sharp knife, about two slashes per loaf, and place them in the oven.  Sometimes I bake my loaves with a pan of water on the rack underneath (to keep the top from drying out before the “puffing” is complete), but you could also just spritz the loaves with a bit of water after you slash them.  Bake until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped (usually 25-30 minutes for me).

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Hey, misfits, have I ever told you guys about the time I accidentally got covered, head-to-toe, in fresh risotto?  And then, how I shamefully ate a full cup of it off of myself before trying to clean up?  And after that, how I used to dab myself behind the ears with risotto before going out for dates and special occasions, just to duplicate the scent?!  No?!  I haven’t?!

Well, thanksfully, that never happened.  But I not-so-secretly wish that it had.

I’m a big fan of risotto, especially now that I’ve devised a few shortcuts for when you’re dog-tired, don’t feel like a trip to the store (time that could be spent drinking, people!), and aren’t fussy about making risotto the “real” way.  First, I start with rice that I’ve pre-cooked in seasoned broth.

Calm down, you purists, you!

Second, I do not use arborio rice, as plain old brown rice works just fine.

Oh, relax!

While these two steps are not authentic and will probably not please the risotto authorities that be, you will end up with a damn fine dinner, and if they help you to consume larger quantities of risotto, then by golly, who do these risotto purists think they are?!  Who?!

No, seriously…who are the purists?  And where do they hang out?  I always wanted to meet one.  (Are they different from Puritans?  Do they not dance?  Dance a little?  Dance only by the book?  Is there a dancing book?)

This isn’t to say that recipes and cookbooks and rules and such don’t have a place–of course they do.  I have what the DSM IV would probably call a clinical addiction to cookbooks.  And if you don’t approach a new food with a bit of humility, you won’t learn something new, and it’ll be harder to strike out on your own with confidence.  But if you have a tendency to let perfectionism paralyze you, you’ll have to make a conscious effort to keep your sense of fun and adventure about you as you cook.

After all, no one ever shed serious tears over a cookie that had way more than the recommended dosage of chocolate chips in it.  Or if there are such people…they must be way boring to party with, no?

And remember, you can just forget what the purists say about risotto–it can, and does, make one hell of a perfume!

Shortcut Pumpkin Bacon Risotto
Makes about 4 servings if you don’t ladle it over yourself, substantially fewer if you do

Ingredients:
3 cups cooked rice
3-5 cups seasoned broth (or do as I do and use half broth, half wine)
olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
3 thick slices all-natural, nitrite-free bacon, diced
About 1 cup pureed pumpkin (I roasted and pureed my own pumpkin, but canned will work fine as well)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. Jamaican Allspice (preferably from The Spice House)
1/4 tsp. Saigon Cinnamon (preferably from The Spice House)
1/2 Tablespoon dried parsley
salt
pepper

Directions:
Put the broth in a pot on the stove and keep it at a nice, gentle simmer.  In a large saucepan, heat a small splash of olive oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and bacon, and sautee, stirring occasionally, until the bacon begins to render its fat, but before it’s crispy or dark.
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At this point, stir in the rice and cook it, stirring constantly, until the rice takes on a golden color.  Add two ladles or so of hot stock, and stir constantly until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid.  Add another ladle-full and repeat the process.  When the rice mixture is just short of creamy (see picture; you may or may not have to add another ladle to get it there, depending on the rice you used), add your pumpkin and another ladleful of stock.

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Stir gently to combine, and add the allspice, cinnamon, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to stir until the risotto has a creamy and tender (though not mushy) consistency.  You’re done!  We actually topped this with a drizzle of black truffle oil, but it’s delicious as is, served along with a bowl of delicate greens.

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