23 December 2011

Bacon Bourbon Pecan Pie

When I was 11 years old, a friend and I got individual snack sized pecan pies. His looked exactly like a miniature pecan pie should. Mine looked like a fuzzy mix between a science experiment and a Chia Pet. Pete was a year older than I, and being older and wiser, it made perfect sense when he suggested I just scrape off the mold and eat it anyway.

It was 20 years before I could eat pecan pie again.

Fortunately, much like my aversion to whiskey which was achieved by somewhat similar methodology, I eventually overcame my repulsion to pecan pie. Pecan pie is an American tradition of southern cooking that is widely popular during the holiday season. Like many American traditions, its origins are somewhat murky and romanticized with advocates refusing to believe it could possibly be a recent innovation designed as a marketing scheme for product promotion. All evidence suggests Pecan Pie was a 20th century innovation designed to sell Karo corn syrup. Sorry. That doesn't make it any less delicious though.

So if Pecan Pie is so delicious, why the need to constantly modify ingredients and ratios? Why are there so many different recipes? Two reasons. 1. Some people are just plain wrong. 2. Adding bacon and bourbon makes just about everything better.

1 1/4 cups of AP flour
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup of cold solid fat (butter, bacon grease, lard, or {shudder} shortening)
3 tbsp of cold water

Start with the bacon. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and pre heat your oven to 400f. Lay in 6 slices of bacon. Cooking time will vary depending on how thick your bacon is, how streaky it is, and how big your baking tray is. A good rule of thumb is to flip the bacon in the tray and rotate it every 10 minutes. 20 minutes is usually enough. Don't completely crisp the bacon up as you would for breakfast, otherwise your pie will get a slight burnt bacon flavor.

Lining the tray with foil makes for easy cleanup, and allows you to easily pour off the grease to save for later use. Cooking the bacon in the oven allows the bacon to cook evenly without curling up. If you really prefer to fry it, do so, I'm not your mother.

I use a scratch made pie crust because I think Pillsbury is part of an international conspiracy to make me fat and stupid, and because it tastes better. You can use a pre-made crust if you hate yourself, America, and good pie. Making your own crust will take about 30 extra minutes and allow you to tell everyone how you made the whole thing from scratch. Feel free to use a superior tone of voice, you've earned it.

In a big bowl whisk together the AP flour, salt and sugar. Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut the fat into the flour until the mixture comes together in small nodules from the size of a pea to the size of meal.

A word on fat. Shortening sucks. It is scientifically proven to make you obese. Bacon fat, lard and butter, on the other hand, are pretty good for you as long as you don't snack on them by the spoonful. Also, they are much more tasty than shortening. Each will yield slightly different textures. I like to use a half and half mixture of cold butter and cold bacon grease.

After the fat is cut in, sprinkle on the cold water in small amounts while tossing the dough with a spoon. How much water you'll need depends entirely on the humidity where you are. Start with 3 tablespoons, add more as needed until the dough starts to form together and clumps easily when squeezed. This is something you'll get better at the more you do, but is really hard to explain in text.

Dust your rolling surface with flour, and roll out your dough until it's large enough to fit in your pie pan with about an inch of overhang. Pat the dough gently into the pan, and trim the edges. Pinch along the rim to make a decorative edge.

Cover with aluminum foil and lay in some pie weights. If you don't have pie weights, you can use dried beans. Bake in your 400f oven for 20 minutes.

While the pie crust is baking, start on the filling.

2 cups pecan
1tbspn bacon grease
6 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped.
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Maple syrup
1 cup corn syrup
5 tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz bourbon

Roughly chop the pecans. Mix the pecans with a tablespoon of bacon grease in a large non stick skillet. Heat over medium heat, to toast the nuts. Keep an eye on them, they will go from toasted to burnt very quickly.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, salt and sugar until well combined. Melt the butter and whisk it into the eggs. Chop up the bacon you cooked and mix it, along with the rest of the ingredients into the egg mixture. When the pecans are toasted, set them aside until the pie crust is baked.

If you're a vegetarian, or for some other inexplicable reason don't want bacon in your pie, feel free to omit it. The real secret to the flavor here is the bourbon and the maple syrup.

When the pie crust is done, pull out the pie weights, and reduce the heat to 375f. Mix the pecans with the rest of the filling, and then pour it into the crust. Bake until the center quivers but is set, about 35-45 minutes.

Merry Christmas, you're now the most popular person you know.

01 May 2011

The Shooter's Sandwich

Considering the title and objectives of this blog, it's perhaps surprising that I've never before spoke of the Shooter's Sandwich. Let's remedy that, shall we?

The Shooter's Sandwich first came to my attention sometime in the late 90s by way of an episode of Two Fat Ladies. If you're familiar with the show, then you likely know that what follows is unlikely to be considered diet food. If you're not familiar with the show, you could probably deduce the same from the title which accurately described the two hosts. Fun Two Fat Lady fact; the surviving member of the pair's full name is Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmerelda Dickson Wright, and prior to spending time homeless and as an alcoholic, was the youngest woman called to the Bar as a barrister in the United Kingdom.

According to the history I've heard, the Shooter's Sandwich was created in Britian as a hearty meal that could be easily transported and serve as a meal, or two, for a hunting party. The sandwich is, at it's most simple level, meat and a sauced mix of vegetables, crammed into an entire loaf of bread and then smashed for hours under a heavy weight and wrapped in layers of paper. You can use any meat that can be safely prepared raw, but as I understand it beef is traditional.


A loaf of bread
4-7 oz of butter
2 yummy steaks
Stone ground mustard
Prepared Horseradish
Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper

Start with a crusty loaf of bread approximately the same size as the cuts of meat you'll be using. You want a strong bread, because we're going to be abusing it. I've selected a large sourdough boule. Lop off the top of the loaf and scoop out most of the interior. Hooray! You've made a bread bowl. Save those crumbs if you want, we won't be using them. Set your steaks out to warm up on the counter, and give them a good sprinkling of salt. I'm using rib eye steak because it's the most flavorful of all the beef bits.

Prep the loaf

Time for your mise en place. That's a fancy French culinary term for getting your shit together. It helps. Mince up the shallots, and garlic, and roughly chop the mushrooms. I'm using about 6 cloves of garlic, 4 large shallots, 6 mini portabellas and 6 of whatever variety of generic white mushroom every grocery store seems to have on hand. There's also 2 teaspoons of tarragon, 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire, 1/3 cup of bourbon and an Armscor 1911 chambered in .45 ACP. The pistol isn't strictly necessary I guess.

Mise en place

Melt the butter in a medium hot skillet and toss in the shallots and mushrooms. Don't add any seasoning yet. Cook the veggies until the volume is reduced considerably and most of the liquid is cooked off, stirring frequently. About 10 minutes. Toss in the garlic and Worcestershire sauce, and continue to cook until the liquid is mostly cooked off. Deglaze the pan with the bourbon, being careful not to set yourself or your kitchen on fire. The traditional alcohol to use here is cognac, but I'm not French and I drink bourbon. Continue to cook until most of the bourbon is cooked off. Take the pan off the heat, stir in the tarragon and give it salt and pepper to taste.

Soften the veggies

Get a skittle, preferably cast iron, and very hot. Don't screw around, you want that thing as screaming hot and dangerous as a junior varsity cheerleader. If you don't have a cast iron skillet, you can use an aluminum or stainless pan, as long as it isn't a non stick pan. Get a nonstick pan this hot and it releases toxic fumes. No, really.

If you don't have an appropriate skillet, cook it on the grill. If you don't an appropriate skillet or a grill, stop reading this article and go reflect on the errors you've made in your life.

Get pan smoking hot

Give your steaks a light rub of olive oil, you won't need a lot. Slap the steaks in the pan, and don't touch them. We're going for a high heat sear and we want the steaks to be about as rare as a unicorn on roller blades at a taco stand. If you're uncomfortable with that, I suggest you stop being such a whiner. If you're the kind of person to get squeamish about a rare steak, this sandwich may be too much for you. The more the beef is cooked, the less it will compress in the sandwich and more tough it will be when you eat it. About 90-120 seconds on a side should be enough. If you have an exhaust fan, now would be a good time to turn it on.

Sear steaks

Look at that rich brown crust on those steaks. Now, this is important. Using all your will power, DO NOT eat those steaks. Also, don't let them cool or rest. You want them oozing juicy goodness into the sandwich.

Begin prep

Cram the first steak into your bread bowl. There's no cause to be gentle. Treat it like the guy who dinged your car door at the grocery store.

Pack in the first steak

Layer in the veggie mixture. Hopefully you worked fast enough and it's still hot. At this point, the bread bowl is probably going to be looking a little full. That's okay. We're going to smoosh it all down later. That being said however, don't feel like you're compelled to use all of the veggies.

Pack in the veggies

Now jack in that other steak. It might take some work. Don't be afraid to show it the back of your hand.

Slap on the second steak

Smother the top of the steak with a thick layer of prepared horseradish. Slather the inside of the top of the loaf with mustard. Lay it on thick, like a Saturday morning lie.

Spread em

Place the top back on the loaf. Try to match it up so it's even. See? It all fit.

Replace cap.

Wrap the load up in several layers of waxed paper and then bundle it up with butcher's twine. Tie it up tight, you want the pressure contained as evenly as possible.


Put some heavy weights on top of the sandwich. I'm using a cast iron dutch oven filled with half a dozen cans of refried beans. That's about 16lbs. Heavier is probably better. Books also make good weights. I would advice against using anything filled with water, as the balance may shift and spill water everywhere.

Weigh it down.

Now comes the really hard part. Wait at least six hours. At least six hours, but you can press it for longer if you desire. It doesn't need to be refrigerated, it's still cooking. When I cut into this one after six hours, it was still warm.

Slice and enjoy

Once you're done pressing the sandwich, cut through the entire bundle, string and paper and everything, and slice the sandwiches into wedges. Revel in the delicious aromas that fill your head. Luxuriate in the earthy sweet flavor of mushrooms and beef. Don't forget to chew. Chewing is important. I recommend serving this delicious monster with beer, and for god's sake, don't try and eat it by yourself in a single seating. Remember, it is an entire loaf of bread stuffed with two steaks and a giant handful of vegetables and fungus.

02 February 2011

Creamed Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts get a bad rap. To be fair, that's because Brussels Sprouts are generally pretty damn terrible. At best they are bitter, at worst, damn near inedible. Generations of children have gone to bed hungry on the pointed threat of Brussels Sprouts. This is because Americans are terrified of undercooked food and tend to cook the living hell out of everything. When you over cook Brussels Sprouts, they release glucosinolate sinigrin which yields a sulfur odor and flavor. Unless you are Mestipholes, chances are you don't care for the odor or flavor of sulfur. Just between you and me, I think even he's getting kind of tired of it.

Brussels Sprouts don't have to taste like crap though. They can be delicious, and I'm going to show you how. Granted, I'm going to use some bacon and cream to do it, but you shouldn't argue with what works. If you're a vegetarian, and don't want to use bacon, that's cool, you can substitute crispy herbed croutons, or fried sliver of sweet potato, or, you know what? You can figure that part out yourself.

  • 2 tbs Apple cider vinegar
  • 8 slices of bacon
  • 4 slices of bread
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 large shallot minced
  • 10-12oz brussels sprouts. trimmed and shredded
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese for garnish

This recipe calls for two prepared ingredients that tend to give some people trouble, poached eggs and crisp bacon. Poached eggs can be tough, so many of the preparations sound like mystical nonsense, demanding you create a whirlpool of just the right rpm, or add precise measurements of acid to the water bath. Bacon, for all it's loved, is difficult to fry evenly in most pans, yielding curly strips that are burnt in the middle and soggy at the tips. Before I get into the nitty gritty of making the main dish here, I'm going to break down these two preparations in a way that is damned near foolproof.

Bacon. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Lay out some bacon. Put the pan in a 400f oven for 10 minutes. Flip the bacon over and rotate the tray, toss it back in for another 10 minutes. Bam. Done. You just cooked awesome bacon that is evenly crisp and straight as Sergeant Joe Friday. Bonus: once the drippings cool off, gently pull up the foil and pour the grease off into a washed out tuna tin. Not only do you now have a handy reservoir of bacon dripping for future sautes, but chances are, you don't have to wash that tray at all. How's that for handy?

Poached Eggs. Using some cooking spray, butter, or some of that awesome bacon grease you just made, slick up some condiment bowls and then crack an egg into it. Put the tiny bowls in a steam basket, cover it, and get it over some boiling water. Put on the lid and in 2-5 minutes, depending on how cold the eggs are and what elevation you're at, BAM, poached eggs. They slide right out. Don't have condiment bowls? Use a coffee mug or a saucer. No steam basket? Put em right in the bottom of a sauce pan with just enough water to get some steam up. Don't be afraid to experiment, eggs are cheap. Careful when you take them out though, they were in boiling water, so whatever you put the eggs in is probably hot.

Now that we got that out of the way, here's how to handle the rest of this recipe.

Prep your Brussels Sprouts by rinsing them off under cold water and pulling off the loose outer leaves. Cut them down the middle from stem to head, then shred the halves into ribbons. This is easy, but if you really hate chopping, you have terrible knives, or you lost all your fingers in a tragic kitchen accident, toss them in a food processor after cutting off the stems and pulse it a few seconds. You want ribbons, not Brussels Juice.

Mince up that shallot nice and fine. You'll notice that this photo does not feature a shallot. I thought I had a shallot. I was mistaken. I was very stern with myself when I discovered this. It's okay though, maybe you don't have a shallot either? I hear Sandusky banned shallots last year, so it's possible. Substitute half an onion and 2 cloves of garlic, minced really fine. It's not going to fool James Beard, but it will probably fool Rachael Ray.

In a 12" skillet saute the shallot in 2tbs of butter until soft. If you saved some of that awesome bacon grease, use 1tbs of butter and 1tbs of bacon drippings. This will take 2 - 3 minutes. No rush.

Cut that bacon up into 1/4" strips. Yummy.

Drop in the Brussel's Sprouts and toss to coat with whatever delicious fat you're using. Add in the vinegar, water, cream, and tarragon, mixing well to combine. Season with salt and pepper to your taste and cook for about a minute over medium heat. Cover and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Do not overcook. Remember that part about Brussels Sprouts smelling like the devil's backside, that happens after 7 minutes. Don't do that. In the last minute or so of cooking, mix in half the bacon.

Butter up and toast your bread under the broiler while the sprouts cook. I'm using sourdough bread here because it's awesome. If you were planning on serving this to A. A. Gill, then you should probably choose a more square type of bread, something fresh made with a subtle nuttiness that evokes harvest grains, and then cut into diagonals removing the crust.

Gently transfer a poached egg, with the yolk still runny, onto each piece of toast. Cover with the egg with the Brussels Sprouts, then garnish with the remaining bacon and the Parmesan cheese. Serve hot, let the yolk run.

Give that a taste.

And you thought you didn't like Brussels Sprouts.