Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sweet, Salty, Crunchy, Chewy, Spicy, Smooth and Cool

All in one bite? Well, maybe two, but it's all here. Certain occasions call for a little extravagance and even a bit of decadence. I've been working on this recipe to make as a little cocktail nibble for an event coming up, and I believe this version is worthy of at least trying to write it down as a recipe. 

Sweet, Salty, Crunchy, Chewy, Spicy, Smooth and Cool

Spicy Candied Duck Bacon with Mango/Sriracha Hummus*

*this is a very specific sort of recipe, calling on very specific ingredients. If you have access to my same ingredients, I highly recommend trying this. If not, I highly recommend using what you have available and making your own interesting version. This recipe is also based on creating a tasty tidbit for about 25 people, so adjust as needed for your own consumption. :)

a test run with pork bacon - also good!


1 pound thinly sliced duck bacon*
   *from Katuah Market if you're local to Asheville, NC, but it's been tested with 'regular' bacon too.

1 cup raw cane sugar
1 cup maple sugar**
3/4 TBSP cayenne (or more or less based on your own heat index)
1 1/2 TBSP ground ginger
1 TBSP freshly grated ginger
2 TBSP blackstrap molasses

Roots Mango Sriracha Hummus***

Preheat oven to 375F.

Line a large sheet cake pan with parchment paper, then place a cooling rack on top. Make sure the paper is well below the rack and not touching the top bars.

**I know maple sugar isn't easy to find everywhere (I also found that at Katuah), but using it over maple syrup gives a nicer candy texture, and less moisture as it cools. If you are using maple syrup, I suggest a higher ratio of the cane sugar to the syrup.

NOTE: Duck bacon shrinks. A lot. That was a bit of a surprise, so if you want 'cocktail' portions, keep your strips at about 4" long, as they'll shrink up a good bit but will provide a nicely concentrated bite of flavor!

If you need to cut down your bacon strips, so that and set aside.

Combine the dry sugars, gingers and cayenne in a shallow bowl and mix thoroughly to combine and coat the grated ginger with the sugars. Drizzle the molasses on top, and again using your fingers, quickly combine to distribute the molasses throughout. 

a touch of molasses adds a nice richness

ANOTHER NOTE: You might want to keep a damp towel on hand, as you're about to cover your hands in sugary fun. And if you have any small cuts on your fingers, the cayenne pepper will find them. :)

Take each bacon slice and coat each side with the sugar mix. If it doesn't stick well, get one side coated as much as possible, then place the slice on the cooling rack that's placed on the parchment lined sheet cake pan. Add more sugar mix to the top in an even layer. Repeat with remaining slices (you may have to do a couple of batches - you can keep the slices close, but don't let them touch).

I should have taken the "after" picture to show the shrinkage

Place in the pre-heated oven and check after 12 minutes. Rotate the pan, then check again in another 5 minutes. The bacon will get darker, and the extra sugars will drip down onto the parchment and will, just at the moment the bacon is perfectly cooked, start to scorch and might even smoke. Be patient to make sure the bacon is cooked well, but watch it carefully because you don't want burnt sugar bacon!

Remove from the oven when done, and move the bacon rack onto a clean piece of parchment. Use tongs to loosen the bacon from the rack, and let cool completely.

To serve, place a small dollop of Roots Mango Sriracha Hummus*** on one end of each bacon strip. You can serve on a platter, or place each strip in a mini-muffin cup.

***a new flavor from Roots, currently available via Whole Foods and eventually in other stores as well. If your WF store doesn't carry Roots yet, go ask for it! You can try another flavor/hummus for this recipe, but I can't think of one with the specific flavor combination that works as well. The light sweetness and lingering spice are actually a cooling foil to the salty spice of the bacon. 

Storing/Serving Note: You can make this ahead, and store between layers of parchment paper. While it doesn't necessarily need refrigeration, I found that the texture benefited - store it without the hummus, then take it out of the fridge at least 10 minutes before you want to serve, and add the dollop of hummus at that time.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Studio Eats: Lasagna

Why, in the (relative) heat of summer am I cooking up lasagna? I wondered that myself, and this recent curiousity and affection for what is normally a more winter dish started on chance and continues for reasons of taste and convenience. In a grocery, I spied some fresh lasagna sheets on sale. A studio mate had brought a rather large squash to the studio, and it needed to be used. I knew I had some other vegetables and bits in the fridge, so inspired by the lasagna sheets, I grabbed them up along with a jar of spicy pasta sauce.

I know not everyone creates free-form in the kitchen, and most people really, really like to see the comfort of a well thought out and tested recipe. I'm one of those people! I use recipes all the time, it's just that I might not use them to the letter. So while I can tell you what's in the lasagna, I'll have to make it several more times with the time and intention of measuring ingredients to give you a specific recipe. Many pardons for any frustrations, but I encourage you to give it a try:

Spicy Lasagna
Spicy Lasagna: For this version, here's what I had:

Fresh Lasagna Sheets (purchased from the refrigerated section)
Spicy Pasta Sauce (purchased in the jar, optional on the spice of course, and when time allows, homemade preferred of course!)
Leftover diced sweet potato
Leftover roasted corn, removed from the cob
1/2 large onion
4-5 large leaves of kale, chopped 
Leftover hamburger, broken into small bits
Goat Cream Cheese
Pecorino Romano
Goat Feta Cheese

I saute-ed the onion in olive oil, then added the leftover corn, sweet potato, and kale. As the onion and kale softened (the others were pre-cooked), I added about a half cup of the sauce and stirred to combine. 

In a small bowl, I combined about 1/4 cup of the cream cheese with about 1/4 cup grated Pecorino and 1/2 cup grated Goat Feta. This is a soft mixture.

I used one of my medium size bakers, cutting the fresh pasta sheets to fit the curve of the pot. My layers, in order from bottom up: Sauce/dots of cheese/pasta/sauce/vegetables/broken up burger/sauce/dots of cheese/pasta sheets/sauce/dots of cheese.

This pan of lasagna went into a cold oven, and then I turned it to 350F. About an hour later, you'll smell the lasagna and that's when you check it. If the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is browning, take it out of the oven and let it rest a few minutes before serving. 

*If you're paying close attention, you'll note that I completely forgot the large squash in the fridge, which was the original intent of that days lunch. But the lasagna was a very fine substitute!

I mentioned that one of the factors in my lasagna infatuation was convenience. It may seem like a lot of work, but if you do a little prep and have the right bits and pieces in the kitchen, the prep goes pretty quickly and then you can toss it in the oven and then 'poof!' you have lunch. Or dinner. And if you're really, really, lucky, like me, you have wonderful studio mates grateful for the meal who will clean up the kitchen behind you.

I like to spread the love between this blog and the website recipe blog, so if you'd like to see the 'guidelines' to the most recent pan of oozy goodness, check out my Crazy Green Studios Recipe blog.

Chicken Vegetable Lasagna