Caramelized Bacon.

I’m going to open restaurant that serves only bacon dishes.  I shall be rich.

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Until then, I shall gain a following of loyal customer base of bacon lovers single-handedly with this dish:

Caramelized Bacon

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof

1.  Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.  While bacon grease is a wonderful thing, what isn’t wonderful is spending  days trying to scrub it off of this pan once it has cooled and hardened.  Aluminum foil= easy clean up.  You can thank me later.

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2.  Place a rack on the lined baking sheet.

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This recipe has grand total of seven ingredients.  In recipes such as this, you want to make each one count.  Treat yo’ self and your guests (if you care to share) to a “good” bacon.  This is my current favorite:

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“Good” bacon or bust!

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Thicker-cut is ideal.

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3.  Cut each piece of bacon in half crosswise.

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4.  Depending on the width of your bacon, you can also give it another cut lengthwise.  While the bacon will shrink in the oven while it bakes, you want it to be on the smaller size to make the bacon as poppable as possible.  This is sophisticated finger food, after all.

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5.  Place the bacon strips on the rack, leaving at least 1/2 inch between each one (in order to avoid making one big bacon candy bar…mmmmm…bacon candy bar…)

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The line-up.

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6.  Place 3/4 cup light brown sugar and 3/4 cup on chopped pecans into the bowl of a food processor.

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7.  Process until finely chopped.

IMG_76628.  Add 3 teaspoons kosher salt, 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, and a generous 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper.  Process just until combined.
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9.  Add 3 tablespoons of maple syrup (preferably Grade B).

IMG_766810.  Pulse until the mixture comes together and resembles a moist graham cracker crust pre-bake.

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11.  Sprinkle the bacon slices with the brown sugar mixture, using up the entire mixture.

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12.  Press down slightly on each slice to ensure that the mixture adheres.

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13.  Bake in a preheated 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 25-30 minutes, until the bacon is dark brown (but not burnt).

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14.  Using tongs, transfer the bacon from the rack to a paper towel-lined plate to cool completely (this step is essential to ensuring that the bacon is crispy not soggy.)

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While caramelized is clearly not the most photogenic of foods, it’s salty-sweet-spicy-crunchy-chewy personality makes up for what it lacks in looks.

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Bring this to your next dinner party or brunch and be prepared to make at least 4 friends.

-Girl

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How to open a young coconut.

Coconut water is all the rage these days.  It is has quickly risen to the top of the nutritional buzzword pyramid, directly below “gluten-free” and right above “kale.”  While it is not the magical potion that the food industry claims it to be, I’m a fan of coconut water- it is a healthy alternative to the neon sports drinks that are often touted as as essential to physical activity as socks.  Although plain ol’ H2O is the ideal beverage before, during, and after exercise, I like coconut water is an all-natural source of electrolytes.  And now that it’s spring and everybody is active and sweaty and thus losing electrolytes, I figured I would spread the food nerdiness with this very necessary tutorial on how to open a young coconut.

Behold: the young coconut.

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This fella is different from a normal coconut in that you don’t need a power tool to open it (which I learned for myself when I was called to put a mature coconut in my mom’s shopping cart, only to discover at home that it would take more than a knife to get it open…).    All you need is a cutting board and your favorite sharp knife.

1.  Unwrap the young coconut and place it on a sturdy cutting board on a non-slip surface.

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Turn the coconut on its side.  You want make the cut about an inch from the tip.  There is a sweet spot that, once you find it, makes opening it easy.
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2.  Proceed to hack away at it (with caution of course).

Someone may come into the kitchen and give you a weird look, confused as to what you are doing.  Just smile and get back to work!IMG_7595

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The sweet spot.  Oh yeahhh.

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Once you find the sweet spot, rotate the knife in a circle to remove the tip.

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Although it is easy to find coconut in the beverage section of any local grocery store these days, buying a whole coconut and cracking it open is just downright fun.  Plus you also get to enjoy the “meat” that is left inside of the coconut once you have consumed the water.

The nectar of the gods.  You can use the coconut water any way you would like- in a smoothie, in a cocktail…

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Or my favorite way- with a straw.

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Bottoms up!

-Girl

We found love in a hopeless place the Theatre District

Theatre districts are well-known for two things: wonderful entertainment and mediocre restaurants.

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Whether in New York City or London, the Theatre district in any major city is notoriously filled with sub-par food that can make or break an evening of entertainment.

Needless to say, I was a bit anxious about finding a worthy pre-theatre dinner.  However, after thorough research, I stumbled upon Troquet.  And I am happy to report that by the end of the meal I was so entertained that I nearly forgot that we had a show to catch.

Located on the edge of the Boston Common, Troquet offers thoughtful French cuisine with a touch of Italian influence.  Moreover, it is renowned for its extensive wine list.  It is even nominated for Outstanding Wine Program for the James Beard Awards 2014.  The only Massachusetts establishment to receive the honor, to boot.

The top three Troquet highlights:

1. Ricotta Cavatelli

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The cavatelli were a throwback to childhood. Reminding me of the frozen cavatelli that I requested weekly with simple tomato sauce.

This was certainly a big girl plate of pasta. Handmade cavatelli, black truffle, and wild mushrooms.  The cavatelli was al dente and I appreciated the non-uniformity of each shell-shaped piece.  Rather delicious imperfections.

2.  Duck Confit Salad

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First of all, I like the juxtaposition of the words duck confit with the word salad.  It’s like foie gras spread on a rice cake.

This duck confit salad party included frisee, smoked bacon,truffle vinegarette, and a soft duck egg. I have come to accept that I cannot resist a poached egg. On a burger, on a pizza, or on a piece of toast.  You could say it’s my kryptonite.  Well, aside from self-serve frozen yogurt.  Although I have had my fair share of disappointing poached eggs (read: borderline hard-boiled), I continue to fall for the egg.  If drippy egg yolks are wrong, I don’t want to be right.

And this one just happened to be perfectly cooked and served as the ultimate salad dressing, uniting the duck confit with the frisee.  The combination of the sweet slow-cooked duck confit with the smoky bacon and the welcome bitterness of the frisee that paved a refreshing path through the other decadent components of the dish.

To go with dinner,

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A refreshing, yet bold, citrusy white wine that paired perfectly with the following fish entree.

3.  Dover Sole Meuniere

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The Dover sole rested on a bed of risotto-esque Acquerello rice speckled with plump fresh spring peas, draped in pea tendrils, and framed in a drizzle of Meyer lemon, capers, and golden raisins  Acquerello is a type of Carnaroli rice, a common and often argued upgrade from arborio in risotto preparations.

The beautiful color of this verdant dish was a subtle reassurance that springtime is officially here.

While you won’t see any foams at Troquet, it offers a lovely pre-theatre, classic French dining experience with detail-oriented service.  I appreciated how the meal was timed so that we were right on time for our show.

Overall, this certainly fit the playbill.  Plus, this is the only place I have ever seen butter scooped out of a basket (not pictured).  If that’s not a reason to head to Troquet, I don’t know what is.

-Girl

 

Life is too short not to…

…watch the sunrise.

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At least once a year, I like to catch a sunrise.  It is a reminder of how beautiful and fleeting life is.

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xoxo

-Girl

bacon & chicken skin.

While this stubborn winter refuses to relieve me of the deep chill in my bones, I have decided to battle back with vengeance with my Dutch oven and wooden spoon in hand.

Chicken & Dumplings

Start by browning 1/2 pound of bacon in your Dutch oven.  Then remove from pan and transfer to a paper towel lined plate (any dish that starts with bacon is pure gold in my book).

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Next, the chicken.  Combine 1/4 cup flour, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper in a shallow bowl.

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Coat the four chicken legs in the flour mixture.

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Using the rendered bacon fat (*swoon*), brown the chicken on all sides.

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But take care not to cook the chicken all the way through (it will cook later on in the stew).  Transfer to a plate and reserve.

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Enter: an army of mushrooms (a 1 & 1/2 pound army to be exact).

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I used a mixture of shiitake, cremini, baby shiitake, and white button mushrooms.

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I like the baby mushrooms the best (actually, I like baby everything)

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In two batches, saute the army of mushrooms again in the rendered bacon fat and recently rendered chicken fat (*double swoon*)

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Removed from the pan and reserve the mushrooms.

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Dice one medium onion and crush six cloves of garlic.

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Cook the onions and garlic until translucent and fragrant, respectively.

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Return the browned chicken and bacon to the pot and add 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth, 2 bay leaves, and 6 sprigs of thyme.

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Bring everything to a boil.

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Then reduce to a simmer and cover but leave the pot slightly open (shout out to my Le Creuset <3)

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Next, comes the fun part- dumpling time!

Combine 1 cup of flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper (to taste) in a bowl.

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Whisk in 1/4 cup milk (preferably whole)

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Then whisk in two eggs.

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Batter will be lumpy (don’t fret).

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Then drop spoonfuls of the dumpling mixture into a heavily simmering pot of salted water.

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Cook for about 5 minutes until they puff up to double their size.

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Return the mushrooms to the simmering chicken mixture.

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Add dumplings to bowl when the stew is ready.

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So as I patiently await the days of mouth-watering corn on the cob, and sun-kissed skin, I’ll seek refuge in mouth-watering bacon and crispy chicken skin, in the form of chicken and dumplings.

-Girl

Christmas Snapshots.

‘Twas a beautiful (and delicious) Christmas.

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Scallops and bacon.

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Potato-peelin’ duty.

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My first lasagna-making experience: a rite of passage.

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Showtime

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Family is the best.

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Full belly + full heart=

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-Girl

Twice-baked.

This time of year I tend to go on a flour and sugar bender that results in mountains of cookies.  As much as I love my gingerbread men and sugar cookies, in recent years I have become partial to the more sophisticated cookies.  Enter: the biscotto (pl. biscotti)

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Biscotti literally means “twice-baked” in Italian as evidenced by their two-step baking process.

The bright and lemony dough is laced with pistachios and dried cherries.  The green pistachios and red cherries represent the colors of the season and, as I like to think, the Italian flag.I especially love them because they are not much more difficult to make than a drop cookie and are always a crowd-pleaser.  It is a light, simple dessert to end your meal of prime rib and lasagna (my Christmas is multi-cultural).

Buon Natale Biscotti

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup dried cherries

Directions

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time along with the lemon zest, add flour-baking-powder-salt mix and mix until just combined, then fold in the pistachios and dried cherries.

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Drop the dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet

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And using damp hands, shape into a log.

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A 13 x 3 inch log to be exact.

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Bake the log for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until light golden.

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Like so:

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Allow to cool for 30 minutes

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Transfer to a cutting board and slice the baked log on a bias into 1/2-inch slices.

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Next, place the sliced cookies back on their respective baking sheets, face up.

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Return to the oven for 15 minutes until golden brown.

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Allow to cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

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Biscotti were originally popular among the Romans because they had a long shelf life and allowed for long days of travel.  These days, the dryness of the cookie lends well to dipping.  Preferably in a cup of coffee and ideally in un cappuccino!

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Buon natale/Merry Christmas!

P.S. Buon appetito!

-Girl

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