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Dinner Tonight, Food + Recipes

Happiness is…Breakfast Udon Noodles

February 18, 2012
breakfast_udon_noodles_recipe

I tend to eat things in phases. One week, I’m totally into salty foods like potato chips or popcorn. The next week it might be dark and sweet French hot chocolate or salted caramel ice cream.

This week, probably because I’ve been super busy, I’ve gotten into building meals around poached eggs. Eggs are such a lovely and complete food, a quick way to get protein and get on with the day.

And I think eggs are just beautiful, especially if you can get ones from a farmer’s market or a friend who has chickens. The yolks on those are such a fantastic shade of marigold orange, like the label on a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. But even grocery store eggs are pretty, with their cheerful yellow yolks surrounded by soft, chalk-colored whites.

To make my Breakfast Udon Noodles, I started with a reheated bowl of leftover plain udon and broth from Geta, my super-cute neighborhood Japanese restaurant. I ate half of them last night and of course when all the toppings were gone, I sort of lost interest.

My favorite Japanese noodles are topped with pork belly a la Momofuku or Daikokuya Ramen in LA. Since I didn’t have a slab of that lying around, I cut up a piece of thick-cut bacon and tried to cook it slowly, so it stayed tender.

Poach an egg by adding 1 inch of water to a shallow pot or frying pan with a light bottom. Turn it on high, and once it starts to simmer, but not quite boil, add a splash of vinegar. This keeps the egg yolk from spreading all over. Now carefully drop in the egg. It will start turning white as it cooks from the edges to the middle. Spoon a little water over the top of the egg, and use the spoon to move the egg around a bit, so it releases from the pan. When most of the white is opaque, it’s done.

I topped my noodles with the bacon and poached egg, along with some chopped green onions and a few shakes of shichimi togarashi, a Japanese seven-spice powder.

It’s brothy, spicy, bacon & eggy and easy: I’m happy.

Cocktail Recipes, Drinks

Warm up the Winter with Four Roses Bourbon – Plus a Fat Washing Primer

December 5, 2011
bourbon_cocktail_maple
 Of all the brown spirits, bourbon is the one I’m warming up to the fastest. I guess it must be the warm flavors of caramel and vanilla and the hint of sweetness from the corn mash that makes it easy to appreciate. I’ve sipped it on the rocks, but love the way it works in cocktails. I’m not the only one apparently: this spring, an organization called Bourbon Women had their coming out party in Kentucky. Founded by Peggy Noe Stevens — the first female master bourbon taster — the group celebrates the heritage of bourbon and educates women about it through tasting events around the country.

I got a personal lesson in the versatility of bourbon this fall when I judged a Four Roses Bourbon cocktail contest at Bourbon & Branch.The Four Roses legend starts with Paul Jones, Jr. who was in love with a local belle. He asked her to marry him and coyly suggested that if her answer was yes, she should wear a corsage of four red roses to the next dance. She did, and the rest is history. These days, Four Roses is admired by connoisseurs for Jim Rutledge’s careful blending five yeast strains and two grain mixes to create 10 distinctive bourbon recipes. Each blend is aged in new white oak barrels, and only Rutledge’s favorite is selected as their Single Barrel bourbon.

For their annual cocktail contest, creative Bay Area mixologists made diverse cocktails with their own corn milk punch, rootbeer and combination of amari and other brown spirits. But in the end, we were most taken with the way the bourbon was enhanced by a combo of bacon, apple cider and a spicy 4505 Meats chicharron in a drink called Autumn Rose by Christina Cabrera.

Autumn Rose

2 ounces bacon-infused Four Roses Bourbon
1/4 ounce Gran Classico
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce apple cider
1/2 ounce honey
1/2 ounce maple syrup
2 dashes chocolate bitters

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well-chilled and strain into a coupe style cocktail glass. Now take a bite of the chicharron before sipping the cocktail.

Now Christina’s recipe used maple-bacon-infused honey. Since I didn’t have any of that around, I decided it was time to make some bacon-infused bourbon. This is a simple version of the technique called “fat-washing” that mixologists and chefs use to add the flavor of a fatty food like bacon or foie gras to a spirit.

Bacon-Infused Bourbon

4 pieces thick-cut, old-fashioned bacon, ie  applewood smoked
1 bottle bourbon

Basically, all you do is pour the fat released by cooking the bacon into the bourbon, or whatever spirit you’re infusing. Let it sit for a day or two and then freeze it before pouring the bourbon back into the bottle through a cheesecloth or strainer. The bacon fat will have transferred flavor into the spirit.

For a more involved description of fat-washing, check out this post on Blender Booze blog; I also like this profile of fat-washing pioneer Eben Freeman in Food & Wine Magazine.  I learned the lard …er hard way that it’s important to let your bourbon sit in the refrigerator while it’s infusing with the bacon fat. I let it sit on the counter as one recipe suggested and the bacon fat took on a rancid odor, not the sort of thing one wants to drink. I also think the effect works best if you use a more smoky style of bacon.

© 2011 Maria Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl.

Food + Recipes

Dinner Tonight: Bistro Salad with Brioche Croutons

October 13, 2010
poached-egg-bacon-salad

I could eat a Bistro Salad with real brioche croutons for dinner almost every night.

There’s something fun about eating foods at the wrong time of day. Pizza for breakfast or cereal for dinner is so much more interesting than eating either one in their typical time frame. Of course, eggs are one of those elemental foods that transcend the confines of time. What would Vietnamese com tam and grilled pork be sans oeuf? Or a big bowl of ramen noodle and pork belly soup from Momofuku Noodle Bar without the egg?

My favorite way to eat eggs at night though is on a Bistro Salad, the simple dish of frisée lettuce, bacon, croutons and a runny poached egg in a tangy vinaigrette. Some people call it Frisée Aux Lardons or Salade Lyonnaise. But the latter can also refer to a salad that comes with a tasty surprise of chicken liver, lamb trotters or offal that’s popular in Lyon. No matter, once you taste it, you’ll be calling it one of your favorite salads ever.

Bistro Salad with Brioche Croutons

3 cups mixed baby greens, like frisée
1/4 cup vinaigrette
salt and pepper, to taste
4 soft-poached eggs
3 slices thick bacon, cut in 1/2 inch sections and cooked
12 Brioche Croutons, recipe follows

In a large bowl, toss the baby greens with the vinaigrette. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. To assemble the salad, divide the salad greens between two salad bowls. Lay two of the soft poached eggs on the greens in each bowl. Sprinkle half the bacon pieces on each of the bowl. Top with the Brioche Croutons and serve.

Brioche Croutons

Makes 1 cup
3 one-inch slices brioche
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the crusts from the brioche slices and then cut them into cubes that are about 1/2 inch square. Put the brioche cubes on a baking sheet. Reserve the crusts for another use if you like.

Combine the melted butter with the olive oil. Drizzle the butter mixture over the brioche cubes, tossing them lightly to make sure they are well-coated.

Put the cubes in the oven and let them brown for 15 minutes. Halfway through, using a spatula to turn them over. After 15 minutes, the croutons should be a golden brown and fragrant with a toasty buttery smell.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with sea salt. Let cool and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Note:
Make more of croutons than you think you will need; you’ll eat a bunch of them before they ever hit the salad.