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Posts tagged ‘bacon’

Greens and white bean gratin


Don’t let the greens in this recipe dissuade you – this is not one of the healthier things you could make yourself for dinner. But even my toddler eats greens when prepared this way, and it’s written nowhere ever that greens must always be unadorned, chaste, pious. Sometimes they, too, deserve gilding, gusto, and zeal, and I’ll be the first to make that happen. Read more

Grilled fingerlings with bacon, ramps, and Dijon vinaigrette


We’re getting into the thick of farmers’ market season, at least here in Wisconsin, and folks have started asking me about my strategies for shopping there and what to do with all the fresh produce. I always try to have a few things in mind beyond a simple “throw it on the grill,” and being a little inventive with potato salad-type creations is a nice way to feature interesting produce. “Potato salad” can mean just about anything and be as simple or complex as you like – you can add bacon, sausage, smoked or tinned fish, boiled or soft-cooked eggs, pickled items, fresh tomatoes or corn, creamy or vinegar-based dressings. It’s a nice base to think about using up items languishing in the back of your refrigerator or that you picked up at the market but don’t know what to do with. Read more

Classic risotto recipe and caramelized onions (plus mushrooms and bacon)


So you’ll have to bear with me a little, here. I realize risotto probably isn’t what most of you are thinking about, as you head into the warmer part of the year. Particularly one topped with things like mushrooms, caramelized onions, and crispy bacon. (Delicious as they are.) Vienna seems to be stuck in sort of a 55-and-raining holding pattern, and our compasses are set toward soups and stews and roasted vegetables and home-baked bread and other things that help our little apartment stay warm, instead of turning toward summer. But risotto is one of those things I keep in my back pocket through the entire year, an easy way to pull together something basic but a little extravagant at the first sign of a cool evening.

Risotto itself has a reputation of being particularly finicky or difficult, but I actually find it to be pretty straight-forward. It requires a bit of mostly dedicated time, yes, but it’s mainly a series of adding things to a pan and giving it some basic supervision until it’s done. And once you get comfortable with it, the process requires less and less supervision. What you get back from that bit of work is something comforting, hearty, and lighter and healthier than restaurant versions. I actually spent many years feeling meh about risotto after eating a series of heavy, filmy restaurant versions, and it wasn’t until I started making it myself that I realized what a different sort of creature it is when it comes from a home kitchen. Read more

A weekend at the coast – sausages baked with lentils and bacon


We spent the last four days on the Oregon coast, at the house built by one set of aunt and uncle, in part so Brett would have time to focus on his applications and so that we could have a bit of time and space to ourselves. We’re long on time, these days, but fairly short on space and it’s one of the things I didn’t realize I would miss so much about not really having a home. Brett astutely pointed out that I probably was craving a bit of nesting, and if there’s anywhere to do that, it’s on the Oregon Coast.





The Oregon Coast is an amazing and sort of haunting place, with deep dark forests full of moss and ferns, and swirling gray-blue waters and gusting winds and rain that falls in a nearly constant mist, enveloping everything. It makes the warm, dry places seem warmer and dryer and cozier, and every fireplace and glass of red wine and mug of tea seem like the most wonderful, natural thing the world has to offer. Not all days are like this, of course; some are beautiful and sunny and brightly colored. But my favorite days are the ones where it’s hard to tell when the horizon over the ocean switches from the gray-blue of the water to the gray-blue of the sky, everything just swirling together in shades of blue and gray and beige and sage. It’s all shockingly beautiful, and the perfect place to hole up inside, in front of the fireplace, with a pan of something cooking low and slow in the oven and something nice to read.






And we spent quite a bit of time doing just that, along with waking up late and taking long, wet, blustery walks on the beach, going on hiking adventures in the woods, watching movies on the couch, putzing around in the kitchen, and spending as much time as possible in our pajamas. My childhood best friend and her husband (who I’ve also known since before I can remember) live in Portland and drove out to join us for one night, and for dinner I made a pan of sausages nestled into savory, smoky lentils, all cooked low in the oven for a couple of hours while we busied ourselves with a very wet walk on the beach and a few hours in town watching football (very, very good football, it should be said). When we got back to the house the entire main floor smelled of sausage and vegetables and chicken stock and bacon, all of which are fantastic smells to return to when it’s cold and wet outside and your favorite team just did something fantastic and you’re with some of your best and oldest friends in the world.

I’d actually been thinking about this meal for a long time. When we went to Paris a few years back our favorite meal was at a tiny, unassuming little hole in the wall cafe near my friend’s apartment, somewhere in the Eleventh Arrondissement. This dark, cozy little places was a one man show, and the host-waiter-chef-owner-sommelier was expressive and funny and entirely welcoming, a notable thing in that city. I ordered the lentils and sausage, and it was without a doubt the best thing I ate during my entire two weeks in France. I was awash in a sea of baguettes and cheese and wine and croissants and chocolate and escargot and duck confit, yet it is that dish of sausage and lentils that has haunted me for three years.

So I made lentils as savory and flavorful as I know how – cooked in chicken stock with more vegetable scraps, then drained and mixed with bacon lardons and a healthy dose of mire poix cooked in bacon grease and the juices from browned sausage – then nestled those browned sausages right into the lentils and baked it all at a low temperature until everything had stewed together and the sausages were cooked through. It all took a drizzling of cream before it went to the table, and a side of crunchy, lemony, salty green salad, and we drank more Oregon beer and ate every last bit of lentil and sausage and wished there was more.

Sadly, there’s no picture of this dinner, but you can imagine it pretty well – a pan full of whole lentils, studded with orange diced carrot and bits of bacon, surrounding halves of browned sausages. It’s all pretty rustic and flavorful and hearty without heaviness, and the idea of it all kind of makes me want to toast my companions with flagons of ale and a hearty fireside song, at an inn somewhere in the countryside.  Okay so that’s a little dramatic (also, please help me stop thinking about Game of Thrones), but still I like the idea of it being the perfect thing to eat at a table full of friends and laughter and an appreciation for warmth and shelter, when things are a little tumultuous outside.

Sausages baked with lentils and bacon

Serves 2-4, depending on appetite, and is easily scalable by adding more sausages and/or lentils

  • 1 1/2 cups whole lentils (brown, red, black, or French Green/puy lentils are all good options, but don’t use split lentils), rinsed
  • 4 1/2 cups stock, broth, water, or combination thereof
  • 4 medium carrots, diced (scraps set aside)
  • 2 celery stalks, diced (scraps set aside)
  • 1 medium onion, diced (scraps set aside)
  • Small bunch parsley, de-stemmed and roughly chopped (stems set aside)
  • A few black peppercorns (optional)
  • 2 thick-cut slices bacon (use 3 or 4 pieces if not thick-cut)
  • 2 uncooked sausages – any type is fine, really, but probably avoid exotically-flavored ones like Thai sausages or things like that
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • A few tablespoons white wine (optional)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. heavy cream (optional)
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 250F (can be hotter if you want to speed things up, or less hot if you want it all to cook more slowly).

Cook the lentils. Heat the stock and/or water in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Once it begins to boil, add the rinsed lentils along with the scraps from the carrots, celery, and onion, the parsley stems, and the peppercorns (try to add in only the bigger scraps, which will be easier to remove from the cooked lentils once they’re done). Add a few pinches of salt. Bring everything back up to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. The liquid should cover the lentils by at least an inch, but some of the scraps might poke out a little. Cook until lentils are tender, about 35-55 minutes (French Green/puy lentils will be on the longer side). The lentils will cook more in the oven, so take them off the heat once they’re just tender enough to enjoyably eat. Make sure to try a few to get a good sample size.

While the lentils are cooking, fry the bacon and brown the sausages. Cut the bacon into 1/4″ squares or lardons, and prepare a paper towel on a plate for draining. Heat over medium high heat an ovenproof medium dutch oven or an ovenproof skillet with a lid – something that will fit all the lentils and the sausages in one layer. (We used a 12″ cast iron dutch oven, and that worked particularly well. If you don’t have an ovenproof skillet, you can transfer the lentils and sausages to an ovenproof dish with a cover before putting in the oven.) Fry the bacon until browned, but not crispy. Remove to the paper towel for draining. Without draining or removing the bacon grease, add your sausages to the hot pan. Cooking each sausage for a few minutes, turning every once in a while so each side browns (the sausages are not meant to cook through). Remove from the pan and set aside, keeping the pan on the heat.

Cook the vegetables to add to the lentils. Add the diced carrots to the hot pan with bacon fat and sausage juices. Cook, stirring, until carrots begin to soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add the chopped celery, onion, and garlic. Cook until all are tender and beginning to become translucent, another 3-5 minutes. Add a few tablespoons of white wine to deglaze the pan, and continue to cook until most of the liquid has reduced and the steam coming off the pan doesn’t smell of alcohol. Add half of the chopped parsley and the cooked bacon, stir and cook for another few minutes, then salt and pepper to taste. (You can continue to cook all of this if the vegetables don’t seem well cooked yet – they’ll get more time in the oven though, so they don’t need to be completely tender.)

Finish the lentils. When the lentils are done cooking, drain them in a mesh strainer or colander with small holes, pouring the cooking liquid into another container (you may want some of this later).  Pick out the scraps you cooked with the lentils, using a utensil where necessary (those lentils will be hot!). Mix the lentils together with the vegetables and the bacon in the pan. Taste, and salt as necessary until delicious.

Add the sausages and bake. Depending on how you’d like to serve (and how many people you’re trying to serve), perhaps cut the sausages in half or into smaller pieces. Nestle the pieces of sausage into the lentils (they don’t need to be covered with lentils, but can be), making sure to transfer everything to an oven-proof dish if your skillet can’t go in the oven). If things look a little dry, drizzle on some of the lentil cooking liquid. Cover the pan and put it in the oven, baking until the sausages are cooked through. Timing depends on how cooked the sausages were in the browning process, the size of the sausage, the temperature of the lentils when the whole thing goes in the oven, etc., but should take somewhere from 25 to 45 minutes. At 250 degrees or less, you can easily keep it in the oven for a while after it’s done, without risk of overcooking or drying out. Because we were not in the house and didn’t know when we’d be back, I set the oven to go on automatically and the pot was in there for about two hours before we took it out. If it starts to look a little dry at any point during the cooking process, add more lentil cooking liquid.  You can also easily make this entire thing up to a few days ahead of time, refrigerate it all, then put back in the oven to heat up before serving. It would also work well at room temperature.

Finish and serve. Before serving, drizzle a bit of heavy cream over the top. It will sink down into the lentils and does not need to be mixed in. Sprinkle the remaining parsley on top and serve, preferably with a simple green salad.

A late summer birthday party menu

We’ve been based in Minneapolis for a couple of weeks now (minus a quick trip to Chicago and Madison to visit friends), which coincided perfectly with my 28th birthday last week. My actual birthday was a perfect Minnesota day – we spent much of the day walking around the three main lakes in the city and my best friend from high school joined us for a great dinner at one of the city’s trendy new restaurants (which turns out to be co-owned by the grandmother of a friend of mine from high school, because everything here is related to everything else). I’m itching to get back on the road and back into our tent, but at the same time I’m loving being in this place that feels so much like home and being around so many of the people I love that I rarely get to see. I haven’t spent a significant amount of time here since I left for college ten (ten!) years ago, but every time I come back I find more to love about it. Brett will be applying to the University of Minnesota among many other schools, and I’m happy to know there’s a chance we could end up in the Twin Cities.


On Saturday my family coordinated a little birthday party for me at my cousin’s vineyard, and I happily volunteered to make lunch for everyone. Some thought it was a little strange for me to cook for my own party, but I loved creating the menu, shopping for everything, being in the kitchen for a day, and setting everything up before the party. Brett and I went down to the vineyard in the morning to help with the grape harvest, then spent the early afternoon celebrating with my family and friends before settling in at my dad’s house to watch football for the evening (it is college football season, after all, and I have obligations).



I often get questions about party menus, so I thought I’d share what I made and a few recipes. We expected somewhere around 15 people and had more than plenty of food, but I was very pleased with how everything turned out and more than happy to eat leftovers for the next few days.



Birthday party picnic menu

  • Sliders on white rolls with sliced pork tenderloin, pickled red onions, bacon mayonnaise, arugula (recipe for all elements below)
  • Sliders on whole wheat rolls with grilled portobello mushrooms, havarti cheese, heirloom tomato, chimichurri
  • Caprese salad with sliced heirloom tomato and fresh mozzarella, pesto drizzle, balsamic reduction drizzle
  • Israeli couscous salad with fresh corn, pinto beans, cherry tomatoes, and parsley
  • Roasted fingerling potatoes and green beans with chives and lemon
  • Smoked salmon crostini with cream cheese (with salmon smoked by my dad)
  • Cubed watermelon
  • Honeycrisp apples
  • Polenta olive oil cake with cream fraiche whipped cream and raspberries
  • Almost-flourless chocolate bourbon cake (this recipe, with the bourbon alteration)
  • Assorted bottled waters and sodas
  • Wine from the vineyard






My vision for the menu started with the pork sandwich, which was what I was most happy with, so I’ll share those recipes to start. I was also particularly happy with the polenta cake, but I have a few ideas for that recipe so I’ll work on it a bit more before I share. If there are any other recipes you’d like, leave a comment below and I’ll either make a post or send it to you directly.

Roasted pork tenderloin, brined and spice-rubbed

This recipe made about 24 sliders, but would also be fantastic on its own as a main dish, serving 6 to 8 people. Note that this recipe includes 4 to 14 hours of brining before cooking.

After brining and rubbing, the tenderloin could also easily be grilled instead of roasted, skipping the stovetop searing step. 

  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. pork tenderloin
  • 1 Tbsp. yellow mustard (optional, and other mustards would work as well)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. cooking oil


  • 1 quart water
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar


  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

– Trim the tenderloin of large pieces of fat, if needed. You still want some fat to show on the outside, but depending on where you get it, it may have large pieces of fat attached to the outside.

– Mix together the brine in a large bowl, container, or sealable plastic bag, and submerge the pork (likely cutting it into two or more pieces to fit).  Refrigerate for 4 to 14 hours.

– Heat oven to 400 degrees.

– Remove the pork from the brine, discarding the brine solution. Dry the pork well using paper towels or other materials. The brine may have separated the tenderloin lengthwise along connective tissue, and that’s okay.

– Rub the pork with the mustard, if you like. It will help the rub stick to the sides but is not necessary.

– Combine all rub ingredients in a small bowl, and rub over the outside of the pork to cover.

– Heat an ovenproof skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. (If you don’t have an ovenproof skillet, transfer pork to an ovenproof pan before roasting.) When the pan is hot, add the pieces of pork. Cook on each side until browned, 3-5 minutes. Remove each piece when browned, if some cook more quickly than others.

– Return all pieces of pork to the pan and place in the oven. Roast for 10 minutes, then turn over all pieces and return the pan to the oven. Roast another 5-15 minutes, or until the interior temperature of each piece is 145F, measured using an instant-read thermometer. (If you don’t have a thermometer, roast another 10 minutes and cut a slit in each piece of pork to check the inside for doneness.) Smaller pieces may roast more quickly, and you may want to remove these from the oven before the others.

– Let pork sit for at least 10 minutes before serving or slicing.

Pickled red onions

Makes about 2 cups of pickled onions, more than enough for 24 sliders. They can be fairly strong, and just a sprinkling will do on each sandwich. These onions would also be perfect for tacos, crostini and other appetizers, and sandwiches of all types. 

  • 2 red onions
  • 1 cup vinegar (apple cider or white vinegar work well – I used half and half)
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsp. black peppercorns (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)

– Cut each onion in half from root end to top and peel. Slice thinly into small half-moon strips.

– Combine vinegar, sugar, salt, water, and optional peppercorns and bay leaf in a small pot and bring to a boil.

– Pour boiling vinegar mixture over onion strips in a heatproof container. Let sit at least 6 hours. Flavor will continue to intensify as the mixture sits, and after 6 hours you can add more sugar or salt to change the flavor as desired.

Bacon mayonnaise

Makes about 2 cups, about 1/3 of which we used for the sliders.

Note: This mayonnaise may not be as stable as other homemade mayonnaises, and could separate after a day or so in the refrigerator. You can easily mix it back together, or pour off the separated fat and eat what’s left.

– 3 egg yolks

– 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

– 1 tsp. white wine vinegar (other vinegars or lemon juice would work as well)

– 1 1/2 cup fat, combination of bacon fat and olive oil (12 oz. bacon from Trader Joe’s yielded approximately 1/2 cup filtered bacon fat)

– 6 strips bacon, crumbled

– Salt and pepper

– Cook the bacon in a skillet until crispy. I used an entire 12 ounce package of bacon from Trader Joe’s, but you can use just the six strips or cook more to get more bacon fat. You can also use bacon fat you may have saved from previous bacon cooking.

– Remove the cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Give the fat in the pan at least 10 minutes to cool, then drain through a coffee filter or comparable material. If you’re using saved bacon fat, add to the pan and heat to liquify.

– Measure your filtered bacon fat, then add olive oil to reach 1 1/2 cups fat.

– You can make this mayonnaise by hand or in a food processor/blender, if you have a desired method. If you’ve never made mayonnaise at home, many cookbooks will have a detailed explanation of the method, and these two (1, 2) New York Times articles are also quite helpful. (The second is a Mark Bittman article specifically about using the food processor.) I won’t go into detail about the process, since there’s much written elsewhere.

– Combine the egg yolks, mustard, and vinegar by whisk or by food processor. With the processor on or consistently whisking, pour a slow but steady stream of fat into your mixture, creating an emulsion. If your mayonnaise begins to resist the inclusion of more fat toward the end (up to about 1/4 cup remaining), you can stop adding fat.

– Finely crumble or chop the cooked bacon and stir into the mayonnaise.  Season with salt and pepper as desired.