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The Rogue Estate's BBQ Bob and Street Eatzz's Chef Tom presented a cooking demo at the first Baconfest Michigan in the Royal Oak Farmer's Market on June 2, 2012. This is one of the dishes they prepared for the crowd. It started innocently enough - What can we do with our sponsor's product - Bakon Vodka - that hasn't already been done before? Every variation of savory cocktail is pretty much covered on their website and we're cooks, not bartenders. "Let's torch something... flambe' style." The answer became obvious - Detroit has a large Greek population and our exposure to their culinary culture over the decades has led to a local love with the customary flaming cheese dish: Saganaki. At GreekTown restaurants and late night coneys scattered around the Metro Detroit area the familiar shout of "OPA!" and the woosh of alcohol fueled flames have delighted diners for generations. So how to take this classic and make it our own? The traditional Saganaki uses the Greek cheese Kasseri, which is a semi soft cheese of sheep's milk. We had trouble finding a decent Kasseri that didn't disintegrate during the cooking process, so we switched to a semi soft Mexican Queso which fried up much nicer and maintained a rich, creamy consistency over it's crispy when fried skin, with the added benefits of tasting better, being easier to find and costing much less than the Kasseri. Frankly, Saganaki isn't a high art - any rich, semi-soft melting cheese will do. A word of caution: This dish does require open flame. As such, prepare it outside if at all possible. If you must cook it indoors, do so only with a very small amount of alcohol, preferably in a kitchen with very high ceilings. The Software: 1 round of Greek style (fluffy) Pita Bread 2 tblsp Bacon Jam* 4 strips of smoked bacon 2-4oz of Queso or other Semi-soft cheese 2 oz Bakon Vodka or other savory, flammable booze. 1 lemon, halved and seeded 1 tsp minced fresh chives Special Hardware: Cast Iron Skillet, fry pan or sizzler platter Long Reach grill lighter or fireplace match Procedure: Preheat Oven or Toaster Oven to 200F. Halve the lemon and pick out all the visible seeds. Heat up your cast iron and fry the bacon as desired. The point here is to render the bacon grease out to fry the cheese in. When the bacon is cooked to your liking, remove it from the pan to a paper towel and snack as desired. Slice your cheese as thick as you wish. We find 1/2 inch thick slabs to be the perfect balance of decadent and manageable as far as cook time is concerned. Place the cheese slabs into the cast iron on medium low heat until the bottom begins to brown and the top begins to melt. Remove the cast iron from the heat source and place in an area free from flammable overhead objects. Pour Bakon Vodka over the cheese, stand back and light the sizzling and highly flammable steam with your grill lighter or long fireplace match. Yell "OPA!" when the fireball erupts. Squeeze the lemon halves over the diminishing flames and melty cheese. Remove the pita from the oven and using a spatula, place the melty fried cheese on top of the Bacon Jam Pita. Sprinkle with minced chives and additional lemon juice as desired and eat immediately. *Slow Jams Jam developed our Bacon Jam for us. In time we hope it will be a regular part of their product line up. Meanwhile, their Cranberry Red Onion or Sweet Pepper Jams mixed with some fried and finely minced bacon would also be fantastic. Did you get to see our cooking demo and try this awesome dish at Baconfest Michigan? How'd you like it? Let us know in the comments.
Editor's note: Jason is The Rogue Estate's new Resident Vegetarian. He's endured a near constant barrage of taunting and meat jokes since his first night in the kitchen with us and still shows up on time to help us create fantastic meals so we decided to get him a blog account, too! This is his first entry, detailing the dish he prepared for our recent feature in the 3/14/12 edition of Real Detroit Weekly and The Hungry Dudes blog. For St. Patrick's Day few dishes are more traditional than Colcannon, a mix of potatoes and either cabbage or kale. For this version I went with cabbage as I found out in research that Colcannon comes from the old Gaelic word "cal ceannann" meaning white-headed cabbage. Kale is used almost equally as cabbage is in current preparations and kale is probably the sexier of the options, but I wanted this recipe to be as traditional as possible. A few liberties were taken with the preparation and ideas behind this recipe, mostly dealing with green onions. Most recipes call for leeks to be used as the flavoring agent, but since leeks were already on the menu in another guise I went with green onions. The second reason for using the green onions is another traditional Irish dish called "champ" which is basically mashed potatoes with green onions (no cabbage) that is very similar to colcannon. I actually like the flavor of champ better than colcannon, but since colcannon is a bit more recognized I went with colcannon with a definite nod to champ in adding much more green onion than would be traditionally used in colcannon alone. The third reason for the green onions is that it reminded me of a soup of a sort that I had at a bar when I was in college. Near St. Patrick's day one of the bartenders would also make up some traditional Irish fare to give out to regulars. On the unofficial bar menu along with other fare was colcannon and champ. The first time I had ever tried either. He also made a soup like side dish that he called "green tea" which was basically lots of green onions steeped a long time in milk and cream then served in small demitasse cups. It was pretty magical stuff and so in tribute to him I added a bit of a variation on his green tea to the colcannon. Depending on how many recipes you look at and how far back you go you'll find that bacon is not used in the oldest recipes for colcannon. In about half of the recipes I looked at it was an ingredient or a topping. The reason for this is that colcannon was generally a poor farmers recipe and bacon wouldn't be available to poorer families or would be used sparingly. I didn't intend to use bacon as I'm the lone vegetarian in this mad band, however, bacon was crisped up and made available for those who wanted it. The great thing about colcannon is its simplicity and there are quite a few variations you can play with. If you want it softer and more luxurious version you could pulse the sauteed cabbage in a food processor and whip with the potatoes. The spicing is definitely variable. Mace is the traditional spice but it would be interesting with smoked or sweet paprika, nutmeg or possibly cinnamon. Kale would generally lend a greener flavour and a heartier texture and if you wanted to really go heavier you could use collard or mustard greens. The onions used are variable as well. The bulbous spring onions would be excellent if not quite as readily available. Red onions cooked with the cabbage would add an interesting colour pop. The only things that aren't really optional are the potatoes and the butter. Colcannon is very much a vehicle for melted butter.
Leftovers reheat easily and can also be used for a killer potato, cabbage and cream soup. Topping options are endless as well - anything you enjoy on a baked or mashed potato is going to work on Colcannon brilliantly. Got a favorite variation? Let me know in the comments. -Jason
Recipe Type: Side Dish
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 45 mins
A traditional Irish side/main dish consisting of mashed potatoes, either kale or cabbage flavoured with onions, scallions or leeks.
- 5 russet potatoes
- 1/2 head of cabbage
- 2 bunches of green onions
- 8 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
- bacon (optional)
- salt & pepper to taste
- Boil potatoes in jackets in salted water until tender. Remove from water, peel and chop into rough chunks.
- Chop green onions and separate the greens and the whites.
- Core and thinly slice the cabbage.
- Steep in a small saucepan 3/4 of the green onion greens with 1 1/2 cup milk over low heat.
- Saute the cabbage and green onion whites in 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat, season with salt, pepper and ground mace until tender.
- When cabbage is tender add chopped potatoes and pour in green onion/milk mixture.
- Mix potatoes/cabbage mixture with wooden spoon to desired consistency. Keep warm.
- Melt remaining 6 tablespoons of butter in small saucepan.
- Saute bacon until crisp (if using).
- To serve place mound of colcannon on plate and make a small well in the centre. Fill well will melted butter. Top with reserved green onion greens and chopped bacon (if using).
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A bacon-centric discussion on Facebook with old friend, fellow foodie and Master of Bacon, Mr. Bob Herz, led my culinary curiosity down the path of uses for curries outside the accepted North American pseudo-Indian norm. Sugar Coma's Sara Nicholas had successfully integrated curry and dark chocolate for one of her truffle recipes, could the melding of curry and bacon be as tasty? It's a big gamble to take on an entire run of bacon, which is where this little experiment comes in. Thursday evening I thawed some un-smoked bacon I had on hand, laid out six strips and rubbed Penzey's sweet curry on both sides, pressed them flat in to sheets of cling wrap and set them in the fridge. Sunday afternoon I pulled the bacon from the chill and cool smoked three strips with pecan and three with hickory, then fried each of the test subjects up and placed them on paper towels as usual to drip and cool. The results: In both the Pecan and the Hickory smoked samples, the flavors of the curry were completely lost. This is probably due to the permeable fat which was holding the most curry flavor melting off in the fry pan. The experiment is not without merit, however, as the pecan smoked bacon was absolutely incredible. I had never used Pecan wood before this, so it was new territory for me. The soft pecan flavoring on the bacon had an almost buttery, sweet quality and it really compliments the pork well. Back to the drawing board with the curry end of things, but I'm excited to charge ahead with a big batch of pecan smoked bacon to share in the near future. -///