Monday, January 26, 2015

Homemade Bacon

This is probably the most emotionally invested I've ever been making food. Jess got me a "Bacon" issue of Food Network Magazine in March 2014 (with a Homemade Bacon recipe by Michael Symon) and It took this long for me to work up the nerve to cure and smoke my own bacon. I would have been crushed if it didn't work out and ruined my perception of bacon.
It turns out even a fool can't mess this up because:
a) I am a fool
b) the bacon was easily the best bacon I have ever eaten
My good friend described it as "Goldilocks" bacon... it was just right.
There actually isn't too much work involved in making bacon. You pretty much just get things together and wait for up to 10 days before you can finally reap the benefits of your labours.


  • 5 lbs pork belly (skin on or off, I cut the skin off because it was too creepy to look at and made me feel like Hannibal Lector for having it in the apartment)
  • 1/4 cup sea salt   
  • 1 tsp pink curing salt mixed with a small amount of cold water (also known as Prague Powder #1, check the amount required for the amount of meat you have)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin


  1. Remove the skin if desired.
  2. Rinse the pork belly and pat dry.
  3. Cut the pork belly to fit in a couple Ziploc bags (I cut mine into 4).
  4. Mix the rub ingredients in a bowl and coat the pork belly in the bags.
  5. Refrigerate for 7-10 days flipping once a day.
  6. Remove from the bag and rinse thoroughly then pat dry.
  7. Refrigerate on a wire rack (uncovered) for a couple more days.
  8. Smoke or bake in the oven at 200 F until the internal temperature reaches 150 F (I tried both and preferred the smoked bacon, I used pecan wood-chips).
  9. Refrigerate until firm then slice and cook.
  10. You can apparently store this for a week in the fridge or a couple months in the freezer but it will disappear quickly.

This really was perfectly seasoned bacon. It had a great balance of sweetness, heat, and salt. I found that it is best cooked in the oven at 350 F to caramelize some of the sugars in it and render some fat out without burning the bacon. I tried to cut it evenly but ended up with some thick ends that I diced up and fried to top salads. I will be making this again...and again...and again

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cuban Fritas and Special Sauce

Here are a couple quick recipes to take burgers or sliders to another level without much effort. On New Years Eve I made a bunch of wings along with around 20 sliders. To make the preparation easier I decided to go with an assembly line preparation of the burgers similar to McDonald's or White Castle. It allowed me to quickly grill the patties and get them in peoples mouths without having them top their own burger. I figured that there was enough food that picky eaters could find something else.
They ended up being a hit and I have made the special sauce a few more times for other burgers or dipping sauce for fries.
I was watching "You Gotta Eat Here" (A Canadian food show), that was actually set in Miami for an episode and saw a burger place where they topped the burgers with crispy fried potatoes. I didn't see the full episode but was captivated by this old guy that manned the fryer station at his family's restaurant and stubbornly refused to believe anyone else could fry a potato with his expertise. It turns out that it is pretty easy and well worth the effort if you want to get that burger and fries feel without actually serving a burger and fries.
For the sliders I took a couple bags of buttery white dinner buns, sliced them in half, started with special sauce, burger (beef, pork, garlic, and smoked paprika), cheddar or jalapeno-jack cheese, pickle slices, special sauce, a handful of fritas, and finally the top of the bun.
 I'll start with the fritas (they can be prepared in advance and stored in a container):

  • 1 potato
  • 1 liter canola oil
  • salt

  1.  Scrub your potato clean under cool water.
  2. Grate the potato with the larger holes on a box grater into a bowl of cold water.
  3. Rinse the starch from the potato shreds in the bowl until it runs clear. 
  4. Pat them dry with a paper towel.
  5. In a high sided pot or deep fryer heat the oil to 350 F and lower the potatoes into the oil (I fried mine in 2 or 3 batches).
  6. Fry them for around 6 minutes stirring slightly to keep them from sticking together.
  7. Remove from the oil and season with salt.
  8. They should be good for a few days in a container.

The "special/secret" sauce is just a mixture of a few things you might put on a burger anyways. I was excited to make it because Jess/Santa had given me a nifty squeeze bottle in my stocking for Christmas and I was looking for something to put in it. This is probably better if you make it at least 6 hours before you eat so that the flavours have a little time to blend.

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp hot sauce
  • salt and pepper

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with a fork or whisk. 
  2. Taste test with some fritas and readjust the seasoning if needed.
  3. Line a tall drinking glass with a sandwich bag and pour the sauce into the bag.
  4. Cut the corner off the bag and transfer to your squeeze bottle (this is easier than a funnel because the sauce is pretty thick).

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Lemon Buffalo Wings

We had a few people over for a New Years party and made a couple things to feed us without being locked in the kitchen while we could be celebrating. To start off the night I made a huge plate of wings.
Chicken wings were something I missed in New Zealand and Australia and were one of the first things I ate as soon as we arrived home. The recipe is really easy to prepare because it is based off a store bought wing sauce that I modified to amp up the flavour.
The most time consuming part was frying the wings because my deep fryer died and I ended up frying these in a big pot, the apartment had a distinct fried poultry smell for the party but it faded as we had more and more food.
The lemon was the extra kick that added some citrus to cut through the buffalo wing sauce.


  • 4 pounds of wings
  • 4 lemons
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic chopped
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp honey 
  • 3 cups buffalo wing sauce


  1. Marinade the chicken in the juice of two lemons, the lemon carcass, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 cup of wing sauce, cayenne, and a pinch of the pepper flakes. Over night or at least a few hours.
  2. Pat the marinade off the wings with paper towel.
  3. Deep fry the wings at 375 degrees F for eight minutes until they are crispy.
  4. Put the wings in an oven safe glass dish.
  5. When all the wings are fried put them in the oven to keep warm while you make this sauce (this will ensure they are cooked through).
  6.  On the stove top add the remaining garlic and oil to a sauce pan and soften the garlic.
  7. Add the juice of the other two lemons.
  8. Add everything except the butter and cook for around 5 min.
  9. Add the butter and stir until the sauce is the consistency you desire.
  10. Toss the wings in the sauce and devour.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Vodka Gimlet

We can thank my brother (in a very round about way) for this recipe. I am an avid reader and try to devour as many trashy paperback novels/series as I can get through in a week. I average at around one and a half per week and usually finish 75 books a year. One of my major frustrations is authors who do not write fast enough for me to stay interested in their work. To ease my frustrations I now give them a 10 book head-start to make sure they finish what they start and hopefully don't die before the series is finished (It is surprising how often this happens).
The most recent series I have been reading is the Archy McNally series by Lawrence Sanders, Lawrence died but the series has been carried on. It also happens to be one of my brothers favourite book series from when it was originally written in the early 90's.
Archy is a private investigator working "discrete inquires" for the upper crust in Palm Beach, Florida. He is a bit of a womanizer that has affinities for fine food and numerous drinks. One drink that he regularly guzzles is a Vodka Gimlet.
I had to look it up because I wasn't familiar with it but is is basically vodka and some form of lime juice. It is great for avoiding scurvy and tastes delicious as well. It is probably more suited for summer but I didn't want to wait another 6 months before I tried it.
Gimlet's are traditionally a made with gin but like Martini's are probably better made with Vodka.
In my research I also found that they are made with "Rose's Lime Cordial", something that I have never heard of but is popular in England. I ended up making my own lime juice and it was worth the hour I spent squeezing limes.

This makes about a cup of finished lime cordial.
  • The juice of 20 - 25 limes (2 Cups)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Vodka
  • The zest of 10 limes
  • drop of green food coloring (optional)
  • sparkling water (optional)

  1. Clean the lime thouroughly.
  2. Zest 10 of them and set aside.
  3. Squeeze the juice into a measuring cup until you have two cups of it (don't worry about pulp being in the juice because you will strain it later).
  4. In a small sauce pan gently boil the juice until it reduces by half.
  5. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
  6. Remove it from the heat and add the zest and drop of food coloring then let is steep for 15 minuets.
  7. Strain and bottle for use (I am not sure what the consistency should be - mine wasn't thick but still juicy/runny).
  8. Store in the fridge.
  9. For the drink I went with 3 jiggers of Vodka to 1 jigger of juice shaken and strained into a martini glass. If you want to lighten it up you top it up with sparkling water.
 I think this is my new favourite drink and will probably end up looking crazy more often when buying 20 or more limes at a time.