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Bob’s Bacon Saganaki Recipe

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.  
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

Great (Paper) Plates – BBQ & Jam

R.E.'s pulled pork BBQ sandwich adorned with Michigan Tart Cherry jam from Slow Jams! Delicious-///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

Getting into quite a jam

  Slow Jams arrived onto the Eastern Market scene in Detroit last month with an awesome name and a tremendous product line to match. Jams in both traditional and refreshingly new flavors, sure to compliment any application from Sunday morning breakfast to Friday evening's cocktail. Disclaimer: my usual condiment cravings lean towards things based firmly in the tomato paste, fish sauce and chili pepper world, so it is with great delight that I have such high praise to deliver in regards to what I had previously regarded as a category of foods best left to my grandmother. This is a very personal product every step of the way. Made by hand in small batches and sold at markets around the Metro Area by the ladies producing it in their weekly "Jam Sessions", this is as close as one can get to a product without picking the fruit and doing the process themselves. Betsy, Shannon and Christina are creating something that is definitely worth eating. I picked up three  jars during my visit to the Slow Jams Jam Stand on their inaugural Saturday in November  which I felt would represent a good cross section of the product line based on old standards and newer flavors I'd experienced elsewhere as well as something totally new to me in the world of Jam. The goods: Raspberry Basil - I use Raspberry as a barometer for jams and jellies the same way I use Sweet & Sour chicken to judge the caliber of a Chinese take-out joint. If you can't do anything good with Raspberries, you'll be dismissed rather quickly. (Why not grape? While certainly the most common in western culture, I simply don't care for it.) This is indeed a very good Raspberry. The Basil is a supporting player here, subtly rounding out the fruit without every truly making an appearance from the background. It's a good Jam. Lots of chunks of fruit provide texture to go with the beautiful dark red color and no-mistake about it Raspberry flavor. My toast was happy and so was I - they passed the litmus test and I boldly moved on to the next jar, for science!   Sweet Pepper - I've had pepper based jams in the past and while unique, none of them ever had been more than a novelty. Novelty is not a god repeat business strategy. I was very pleased to find a sweet jam base which carried with it a warm savory flavor and ever so slight amount of heat on the edge. There is a great texture here as well as the occasional hint of green from the peppers which tastes like a warm summer day. I'll out myself right now: the Sweet Pepper jam is my favorite. I ate the whole damn jar in two days. On the second day I didn't even have crackers or any other kind of carrier, I ate it with a spoon. It's that good. I ended up buying more the next week. I even went so far as to buy a pepper jam from another local vendor and was disappointed when it paled in comparison to Slow Jam's version. If you only ever muster up the courage to step outside of the traditional Jam box once,  Sweet Pepper is the Jam to do it with.   Tomato & Basil -Never once has anyone uttered the words Tomato, Basil and JAM together in a sentence to me before. It was the double-take moment. Like.. Spaghetti sauce? What the heck is this? A totally new food concept for me, which is immediately followed by acquisition. That's how I roll, gang and I'm rarely disappointed.  Slow Jam's Tomato & Basil jam is no exception. A very good balance of savory and sweet with this jam. Like it's Raspberry inspired cousin above, the basil here is not a prominent player, but stays back to provide a familiar but subtle supporting character. I'll reassure you that there is no essence of spaghetti sauce here. This is tomato in an unfamiliar way - the acidic nature is completely removed. This is Tomato if tomato were every day sweet as watermelon. Like the other two (and I suspect ALL Slow Jams jam) the texture here is every bit as fantastic as the flavor.  

I mentioned using Jam in a cocktail earlier and like any article here on the Rogue Estate, I write from experience. I used a dollop of Raspberry Slow Jams Jam in a concoction involving The Rogue Estate's neighbor Valentine Vodka and club soda. The Jam added flavor and sugar in same way one would with a classic shrub, without the fuss.

Slow Jams maintains tastings at their sales table, with featured jams of the week available for your "try before you buy" enjoyment. Each week you will find special flavors available based on fruits available and other seasonal factors. I've yet to try anything that wasn't top notch delicious. With such a good track record, I may even be persuaded to give that old standard Grape another try. Slow Jams can be found on both Facebook and Blogspot for more information including recipes and purchase locations. -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.