Archive for the ‘Charcutepalooza’ Category

I’m kinda done with bacon.

There…I said it. Quick and painless–like pulling off a band-aid. I feel a bit better now. You can understand why that was so difficult for me to get out, can’t you? I mean, I am participating in this year-long celebration of charcuterie, and to mention that I’m tired of hearing about bacon is like a cheese maker expressing their displeasure for mozzarella. Homemade bacon (and mozzarella) is a gateway into the age-old craft, so why would I say that I’m done with it?

It’s because of the bacon donuts and bacon ice cream (Sorry Mr. Lebovitz) and other bacon desserts and bacon explosions and all this bacony crap. For the past 4 or 5 years it seems that people have been talking about bacon. All the talk about bacon has turned a wonderful food into a trite, cliche, marketing gimmick. Don’t get me wrong, I do like bacon; it’s fatty and salty and, if cooked properly, crispy. But I find myself wincing every time I see people talking about it. Why?!?

Maybe it’s because I’ve had enough bland, limp bacon in my life to wonder why people go nuts over it. Maybe I’m picturing people sprinkling Bac-Os on everything (you’re choice of Bits or Chips, but don’t worry neither contain meat or animal fat!). Maybe bacon has a PR problem.

Amidst all of this confusion I started to see the word “lardon” pop up in discussions about bacon. I didn’t have the same reaction to the word lardon as I did to bacon, yet there isn’t much difference in what they are. Maybe there was hope for me after all. So I started on my February challenge with the intent to make both a sweet and a savory bacon. I followed Rhulman’s recipes and added brown sugar to the sweet cure and garlic, black pepper, juniper berries, and bay leaves to the savory one. In the fridge for a week. Flipping the belly over for a nice massage every other day. By the eighth day, the thickest part of the belly was firm to the touch, so I rinsed it off and popped it into the oven for a couple of hours.  L and I had some friends over to do a taste test between the two types of bacon. The consensus seemed to be that each type of bacon had a significantly different flavor that it was hard to compare them to each other.

During the week that the bacon was curing, I was trying to decide what recipe to use for the challenge. It didn’t take long for me to remember a recipe that Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted a while back for Asparagus Hash. I’ve made it a handful of times, and I think we made it two times within one week once because it is so tasty. The savory bacon would be perfect for this recipe. Deb’s recipe called for pancetta, but since my pancetta wasn’t ready yet the savory bacon (lardon) would work fine in it’s place.

Into the pan goes the lardons to crisp. Pull them out and place them on a paper towel to drain. Into the pan goes chopped potatoes. Next goes the onions and shallots. Last into the mix is the asparagus. When the asparagus is finished, toss the lardons back into the pan and mix it all together. In a separate skillet, fry up a couple of eggs and plop them on the top of the hash. Pour yourself a tall glass of OJ or a Bloody Mary and enjoy!

I’m glad I chose the savory bacon for this recipe; it paired so well with the asparagus and potato flavors. I think the sweet bacon would have caused a bit of pallet confusion, and that’s never a good thing. I started to make pancetta for the February challenge, but it’ll still be hanging by the 15th, so I’ll put that post up when it’s done. In the mean time, I’ll raise my fork to home-cured bacon…er, lardons….er, whatever. This taste too good to quibble over semantics.

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One of the best explanations of Twitter that I’ve heard is that it’s “a group of strangers that could be your best friends.” Sure, there’s a whole bunch of nonsense going on in the twitter-sphere, but the way I have chosen to interact with it is to find people who have similar interests, passions, focus, and ramble on about the things we love. It’s been great! (This also gives my wife a break from listening to me continually babble about varieties of squash, food trends, or new revelations in compost.)

So a few weeks ago, I started to see the hashtag #charcutepalooza pop up on a bunch of my friends’ twitter feeds. This piqued my attention because I had been toying with the idea of trying my hand at some simple charcuterie, but I didn’t know anyone (face to face) who was doing it. I started to look into this #charcutepalooza buzz and found out that two blogging friends (Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen and The Yummy Mummy) have declared 2011 “The Year of Meat,” and that they were going to use Michael Ruhlman’s book Charcuterie as a guidebook for 12 challenges throughout the year. The past 6 week have created quite the commotion on the twitter-sphere using the hashtag #charcutepalooza, and there has even been a Washington Post article about it.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to sign up and join in because I thought I had too much going on with finishing up my last semester of school while starting an urban farm that employs developmentally disabled adults. But as I thought about, I realized that no matter how busy I get I find sanctuary in the kitchen. I never tire from cooking and experimenting with food. So I realized that even though I am in a very busy phase of my life, I always find time for food!

For then next 12 months you’ll see me posting the results of the challenges and some of the recipes for the different cured meats. The first two challenges include duck prosciutto and home cured bacon or pancetta. I’m sure that at some point in the year we are going to get into pates and terrines, and I might need some extra encouragement during those challenges.

I hope you enjoy the Year of Meat as much as I will.

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