bacon egg toast cups

I came face to face with my pickiness last weekend. I’ve been buying eggs from a coworker of Dave’s, which is great because I can finally feel confident that the chickens that hatched my eggs weren’t grossly mistreated, for far cheaper than the supposedly cage-free eggs at the grocery store. When he had duck eggs to sell, I figured it would be a fun new thing to try. Plus, I knew I was making these bacon-egg-toast cups soon, and I mistakingly believed that duck eggs were smaller than chicken eggs, so they would fit perfectly into the muffin cups with all the other goodies.

Not only are duck eggs usually larger, not smaller, than chicken eggs, but they’re different in other ways. For one, the shells are thicker, so it takes a bit of hammering the egg on the counter to break through it. The whites are whiter. Have you ever noticed that the white of a chicken egg is actually kind of yellow? Not so a duck egg.

Also, the white is extremely stretchy; it really never breaks. That means that if you crack an egg into a small bowl and then move it to your muffin cup, bits of white will stick to the bowl and stretch across the counter, and basically your whole kitchen will be coated in egg white by the time you’re done.

But once you’re eating – who cares? Who cares what color the white was when you broke the egg? Who cares if it was extra super freakily stretchy? Once the eggs were cooked, I wouldn’t have known I was eating duck eggs if I hadn’t cracked them open myself. Because I did know, I noticed that the white was firmer. But who cares?

I tried not to, but I have two more duck eggs left, and yet I hard-boiled chicken eggs to bring to work this week. It’s so stupid, because there’s nothing worse about duck eggs compared to chicken eggs; they’re just different. If I was used to duck eggs and someone gave me chicken eggs, I’d think the white was too watery and yellow. The lesson here is one I think we all need reminded of occasionally: Pickiness is all in your head. Still, I’m not sure I’ll be buying duck eggs again anytime soon.

One year ago: Croissants, Pumpkin Biscotti, African Pineapple Peanut Stew, Apple Tart, Vegatarian LasagnaCarne Adovada
Two years ago: Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake, Pumpkin Ravioli, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffed Sandwich Rolls, Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms

Bacon-Egg-Toast Cups (adapted from The Noshery via Annie’s Eats)

I was making these for kids because I thought they’d have a good time with it, but instead they were all, “um, there’s egg on my toast; that’s where I put my jelly.” And then they ate nearly as much as the adults did.

I skipped the cheese and added green chile. Because I live in New Mexico, and that is what we do.

I realized after the fact that I arranged my toast a little differently than the original recipe, by lining just the bottom of the muffin cup with toast instead of the sides as well. I liked my way, so I’ll provide that in the recipe.

Serves 6

6 slices of bread
12 slices of bacon (about 1 pound)
12 eggs
½ cup of shredded cheese (or other flavoring)
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray.

2. Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange the bacon in the skillet in a single layer and cooked until its fat is mostly rendered but it’s still pliable, 4-5 minutes.

3. Using a cookie cutter, cut two 2-inch circles out of each slice of bread. Place a bread circle in the bottom of each muffin cup. Wrap a slice of bacon around the edge of each muffin cup; sprinkle cheese or other flavorings onto the bread in the space lined by the bacon. One by one, crack the eggs into a small bowl and transfer the yolk and some of the white on top of the cheese. (Unless you’re using small eggs, using all of the white will cause the eggs to overflow the muffin cups.) Season with salt and pepper.

4. Bake until the egg white is set, 8 – 10 minutes (longer if you like your yolks firm). Using a thin knife or offset spatula, remove the bacon-toast-egg cups from the pan. Serve warm.

prosciutto-wrapped, neufchatel-stuffed jalapenos

I think it’s about time to pack up my garden for the year. The last month has felt like borrowed time. Homegrown tomatoes on Halloween? Well, yes; in fact, the last few months have been the most successful in my garden because the grasshoppers who I’d been sharing my tomatoes with all summer have flown the coop. But our night lows are starting to drop to near freezing, so I’ll be lucky to get some nice red tomatoes for my burgers tonight.

It’s no problem to use up tomatoes. If I found myself with more than I’d expected, I just made some sauce and froze it. But what easy solution is there for at least ten jalapenos per week? Jalapenos are rarely a primary flavor, and even a good batch of pico de gallo only uses a couple.

Bacon-wrapped cream cheese-stuffed jalapenos certainly use up the jalapeno bounty, but I can’t be eating a plate of cream cheese and bacon every week, even if there are vegetables hidden under all that fattening flavor. But is the fat necessary?

It turns out it isn’t. Well, some of it is, but by replacing the bacon with prosciutto and the cream cheese with (American, not French) Neufchâtel, these snacks lose a lot of fat but very little of the flavor. In fact, I preferred the prosciutto to the bacon; it’s easier to work with and bakes up crisper. I’m already looking forward to next year’s gardening season – and not just for the tomatoes this time!

One year ago: Pork Chops Loco Moco, Pumpkin Mushroom Soup, Cranberry Orange Scones, Buttermilk Scones, Pumpkin Scones
Two years ago: Chickpea and Butternut Squash Salad, Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake, Gratin Dauphinois

Prosciutto-Wrapped, Neufchâtel-Stuffed Jalapenos

Makes 24 appetizers

If you keep gloves in the kitchen, use them when handling jalapenos.

12 jalapenos
4 ounces Neufchâtel
6 ounces prosciutto, sliced lengthwise into 24 strips

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place an oven-safe baking rack on a baking sheet.

2. Cut the stems off the jalapenos; slice them in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Divide the cheese evenly between the jalapenos, then wrap strips of prosciutto around the jalapenos. Arrange the stuffed jalapenos on the prepared baking pan on the rack.

3. Bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is browned in places and the prosciutto is crisp. Cool slightly before serving.

tacos al pastor

I try not to be picky. I like to call myself ‘particular’ – about the quality of ingredients and the care put into the preparation of a dish; Dave calls it persnickety. But eliminating whole categories of food from my diet because of a random childhood prejudice seems like a perfect way to cheat myself out of great food; not to mention how annoying pickiness is to the people around you. I’ve known people who wouldn’t eat hot liquids, eggs, anything with vinegar, seafood, mushrooms, you name it. I will eat pretty much anything – even green peppers, if I have to.

But there are some things I have trouble with (even besides green peppers), and fruit with meat is one of them. Those chicken salads with grapes in them don’t sound appetizing at all, and other than the occasional strawberry and spinach salad, fruit with lettuce doesn’t tempt me. But pineapple with pork is a combination I can hardly get enough of, especially when the pineapple is prepared to its maximum potential – grilled.

There is one thing to beware of when it comes to pineapple and meat though. Pineapple makes meat mushy. It has an enzyme in it that doesn’t just tenderize meat, it nearly dissolves it. The original recipe recommended marinating the pork for up to a day, but I, and the epicurious reviewers, knew better. I left the pineapple out of the marinade until we started heating up the grill. It was perfect, resulting in pork so tender it reminded me of dark chicken meat, but without even a hint of mush.

With a smorsgasbord of toppings, each bite of taco hit every flavor note: sweet pineapple-marinated pork, spicy salsa, tart onions, creamy avocado, all combined on corn tortillas, because everything is better on a tortilla – even meat and fruit mixtures.

One year ago: Crockpot Chicken Broth
Two years ago: Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

Printer Friendly Recipe
Tacos al Pastor
(adapted slightly from Bon Apetit via epicurious)

I can never get corn tortillas to be soft and malleable enough to fold into tacos without deep-frying them. Heating them on the grill made them soft enough to fold, but they were too chewy. Maybe if I wrapped them in foil and heated them in the grill? Or brushed them with oil before heating them? Enlighten me.

1 pineapple, peeled, cut crosswise into ½-inch-thick rounds
1 large onion, halved
½ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
¼ cup guajillo chile powder
3 garlic cloves, halved
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large or 2 small chipotle chiles and 1 to 2 teaspoons adobo from canned chipotle chiles in adobo
2½-to 3-pounds boneless pork loin, cut into ½-inch slices

Garnishes:
½ red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice from 1-2 limes
½ cup minced cilantro
Smoky Two-Chile Salsa (recipe follows)
1 avocado, sliced, mashed (with salt and lime juice), or diced
corn tortillas
lime wedges

1. Coarsely chop 2 pineapple slices, removing core; thoroughly puree in a blender. Pour the pineapple juice into a storage container and chill until ready to use. Cover and chill the remaining pineapple.

2. Coarsely chop half the onion; place chopped onion in blender. Add the orange juice, vinegar, chile powder, garlic, salt, oregano, cumin, and chipotle chiles; puree marinade until smooth. Place the sliced pork in a large resealable plastic bag. Add the marinade and the seal the bag, releasing excess air. Chill at least 4 hours and up to 1 day. About half an hour before the grill is ready, add the reserved pineapple juice to the marinating meat.

3. Mix the onion and lime juice; set aside. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro.

4. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill the pineapple slices until warm and slightly charred, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Grill the pork, with some marinade still clinging to it, until it’s slightly charred and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Grill some onion until charred. Transfer the pineapple and pork to a work surface; chop pineapple into ½-inch cubes, discarding cores. Chop (or shred) the pork. Transfer the pork and pineapple to a platter or serving bowl; toss to combine. Grill the tortillas until warm and slightly charred, about 10 seconds per side.

5. Serve the pork and pineapple with the pickled onion mixture, Smoky Two-Chile Salsa, avocado, warm tortillas, and lime wedges.

Smoky Two-Chile Salsa

8 large dried guajillo chiles or New Mexico chiles, stemmed, seeded, coarsely torn
2 cups hot water
½ medium onion, halved lengthwise through core end
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon adobo from canned chipotles in adobo
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice from 1 lime
coarse kosher salt

1. Place the torn chiles in a bowl. Add the hot water and soak for at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain the chiles, reserving the soaking liquid.

2. Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic to the dry skillet; cook until browned in spots, about 6 minutes for garlic and 10 minutes for onion. (I grilled the onion instead of browning it in a skillet, which I recommend as long as you have time to make the salsa right before serving.) Trim the core from the onion; place the onion and garlic in a blender. Add the drained chiles, 1 cup soaking liquid, 1 chipotle chile, 1 teaspoon adobo, cilantro, and lime juice; puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, seasoning to taste with coarse salt.

garlic-mustard glazed skewers

My parents went to Bolivia, Hungary, Hawaii, New Zealand, Romania, Costa Rica, China, Panama, and Peru, and all I got was these lousy spices. Okay, actually, they’re pretty nice spices, especially the saffron (and three mystery spices) my mom just brought back from the Istanbul spice market. Besides, when your parents go on 2-3 international trips per year, you don’t need a cheap T-shirt from each place. Spices, tea, and the occasional funky hat for Dave are perfect.

And it was a good thing I had a random set of spices from various foreign countries, because I was out of my normal paprika supply, and it would have been very very sad to miss out on this recipe. My gosh, this was good. Mustardy, garlicky, vinegary, herby – so many complimentary flavors.

Even better, I stumbled upon this weird grilled potato and vegetable salad to go with it that I was expecting to be just edible, and what do you know, it ended up being fantastic.  In all, another Saturday night dinner that knocked my socks off. That’s happened more and more since we got the grill, and I am not complaining one bit.

One year ago: Seafood Lasagna
Two years ago: Vanilla Ice Cream

Printer Friendly Recipe
Garlic-Mustard Glaze (adapted from Bobby Flay via Smitten Kitchen)

Makes about ¾ cup of glaze, or enough to cover and baste 2 pounds of meat

I used pork, but Deb used chicken (I think) and Bobby Flay uses beef tenderloin. Just be sure you choose a cut that is appropriate for fast cooking. Your cooking time will depend on the type of meat you use.

¼ cup whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons Spanish paprika
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds meat, cubed

1. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients except the meat. Reserve ¼ cup of the glaze; add the meat to the remaining glaze, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours before using.

2. Prepare a medium-hot fire. Grill the meat, turning three times and brushing with the reserved glaze, for 4 to 8 minutes, until golden brown, slightly charred, and cooked to your desired level of doneness. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes before serving.

stuffed butterflied leg of lamb

I got some big news last week. I finally got something I’ve wanted for a long time, and life is going to change drastically. I’m a little worried about when I’ll find the time to do the things I like to do – the baking, blogging, and exercising due to the baking – but I’m sure it will be worth it.

I’m not pregnant.

I do, however, have a job; a real one, with 40 hours of work per week and benefits and a retirement plan and everything. See, I’ve kept this on the down-low because I was embarrassed by it, but since I finished graduate school several years ago, I’ve been unemployed or partially employed. But those days are over now.

This was cause for celebration around here, which means that Dave and I have been drinking generous amounts of our favorite champagne. It also means we had an excuse for a fancy dinner. I got to decide whether that meal would be eaten in or out, and it wasn’t a hard decision for me – we don’t exactly live in area known for its restaurants, and spending Saturday night at home, drinking wine, watching the NBA playoffs, and grilling with Dave is pretty much my perfect evening.

What to make? Lamb, of course. I was deciding between two recipes, and Dave told me to pick the easier one. Yes, the easier option included trimming, butterflying, pounding, rolling, and tying the roast. And then I got to hand it off to Dave to cook…while I worked on the sauce. And the sides.

But in the end, what a great meal. Served with great wine, shared with a great husband, celebrating great news.

Two years ago: Hash Browns with Sauteed Vegetables and Poached Eggs

Printer Friendly Recipe
Stuffed Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Caramelized Lemon Jus
(adapted slightly from Bon Apetit via epicurious; suggested by Cara)

Serves 4-6

You can probably tell from the photos that my lamb isn’t cooked to rare. Oops. Next time.

4-to 4½-pound boneless leg of lamb, shank end removed
salt and pepper
4 large garlic cloves; 3 chopped, 1 sliced
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
20 fresh sage leaves (about), divided
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (Italian bacon)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Trim the silver skin and as much fat as possible from the lamb. Butterfly the lamb by making one ¾-to 1-inch-deep full-length cut in each thick portion of the lamb (do not cut through to work surface). Cover the lamb with a sheet of plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin or meat pounder, pound to an even 1- to 1½-inch thickness (lamb will be about 8×19 inches).

2. Remove the plastic wrap and season lamb evenly with salt and pepper, chopped garlic, and lemon zest. Top with 15 sage leaves, spaced evenly apart, then cover with the pancetta. Starting at a long side, fold the lamb in half. Tie the lamb tightly at 2-inch intervals into a long roll. Then, using a small knife, make slits in the lamb and insert a slice of garlic and a piece of sage leaf into each slit. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. (Lamb can be prepared 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

3. Whisk the lemon juice and oil in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper. Brush the lemon juice mixture all over the lamb and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

4. Prepare a medium-hot grill. Place the prepared lamb on the grill and sear on all sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Continue to grill, brushing with the lemon juice mixture and rotating the lamb about every 5 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 130°F for rare.

5. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board, cover it loosely with foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes. Slice the lamb into ½-inch thick slices. Serve immediately with Caramelized Lemon Jus.

Caramelized Lemon Jus

1 large lemon, cut into ½-inch-thick slices
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large shallots, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
10 large fresh sage leaves
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons sugar
¾ cup dry white wine
¼ cup vodka
2 cups beef broth

1. Prepare a medium-hot grill. Grill the lemon slices until charred, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to plate; chop coarsely.

2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the sage leaves, garlic, and grilled lemon pieces with any juices, then the sugar. Cook until the shallots start to color, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and vodka. Using a long wooden skewer, ignite the liquors and let them burn off, about 4 minutes. Add the beef broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium; simmer until jus is reduced to 3 cups, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm before serving.)

corned beef hash

One time at the zoo, I walked by the reindeer exhibit, but they weren’t out. Huh, I thought. Bummer. I would have liked to see the reindeer. But on the other side of the path, there was another animal to ooh and ahh over, and I moved on. When the reindeer came back out just a few minutes later, I overheard someone tell her friend that they could go see them now, and the lady said “Reindeer? I was excited about that 10 minutes ago!”

Reindeer lose their interestingness after 10 minutes apparently.

The moral of the story is this: No one cares about corned beef in May. You were excited about that 2 months ago. But, I am not the type of person to sit on an entry (or two, in this case) for 11 months until its season of popularity comes back, so if you’re not one to cook corned beef outside of March, you are missing out you can bookmark this post for next year.

And don’t forget about it! That would be sad, because this is not just the best way to use corned beef leftovers, it is one of the best breakfasts, ever. It’s bacon, browned onions, crispy potatoes, salty seasoned beef, drippy yolks. What more could you ask for for breakfast? I’m excited about corned beef hash all year.

One year ago: Orange-Oatmeal-Currant Cookies (This is the recipe that’s had me complaining about not being able to find currants. But I recently discovered that the flavors are perfect with dried cranberries too.)
Two years ago: Double (or Triple) Chocolate Cookies

Printer Friendly Recipe
Corned Beef Hash (from Cooks Illustrated)

You absolutely do not need corned beef leftovers to make this. I often make it with thick-sliced deli corned beef, and it’s still delicious. That being said, last time I made it, I par-boiled the potatoes in the liquid leftover from cooking the corned beef, and was that ever good!

I like to give Cooks Illustrated recipes exact, because they’re so nicely detailed. However, this is one of those recipes that I’ve made so often that I often cut corners now – skipping the hot sauce, which I never have around; leaving the corned beef in large chunks; using Yukon Gold potatoes so I don’t have to peel them; pouring in a bit of whatever milk I have around instead of using cream. As long as you have the same basic ingredients and everything is crisped and browned, you can’t go wrong here.

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
salt
2 bay leaves
4 ounces (4 slices) bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
½ teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 pound corned beef, minced (pieces should be ¼-inch or smaller)
½ cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon hot pepper sauce
4 large eggs
ground black pepper

1. Bring the potatoes, 5 cups water, ½ teaspoon salt, and the bay leaves to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the water boils, cook the potatoes for 4 minutes, drain, and set aside.

2. Place the bacon in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the fat is partially rendered, about 2 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened and browned around the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the corned beef and stir until thoroughly combined with the onion mixture. Mix in the potatoes and lightly pack the mixture into the pan with a spatula. Reduce the heat to medium and pour the heavy cream and hot pepper sauce evenly over the hash. Cook, undisturbed, for 4 minutes, then, with the spatula, invert the hash, a portion at a time, and fold the browned bits back into the hash. Lightly pack the hash into the pan. Repeat the process every minute or two until the potatoes are thoroughly cooked, about 8 minutes longer.

3. Make 4 indentations (each measuring about 2 inches across) equally spaced on the surface of the hash. Crack 1 egg into each indentation and season the egg with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook until the eggs are just set, about 6 minutes. Cut the hash into 4 wedges, making sure each has an egg, and serve immediately.

pizza with figs, prosciutto, gorgonzola, balsamic, and arugula

I went to dinner at a fancy pizza place with my parents and Dave a few months ago, and my dad ordered a pizza that seemed appropriate for him – cheeseburger.  Because the more meat, the better!  Hold the vegetables please, is generally his motto.  Oh, I laughed and laughed when his pizza arrived covered in lettuce.  He scraped it right off.

Not that I’ve been much better about the idea of salad on pizza.  It’s a pretty popular concept, but so far I’ve wanted to keep my bread and cheese unadulterated by large amounts of greenery.

I guess when you’re already putting figs on pizza (oh, how I’d love to see my dad’s face if there were figs on his pizza!), arugula doesn’t seem so weird by comparison.  It turns out that the figs and arugula work really well together.  The figs add sweetness, the prosciutto saltiness, the arugula freshness, and the blue cheese…um…stinky-feetiness?  But in a good way.  In a very, very good way, in fact.

One year ago: Brandied Berry Crepes
Two years ago: Breakfast Strata with Sausage, Mushrooms, and Monterey Jack

Printer Friendly Recipe
Pizza with Figs, Prosciutto, Gorgonzola, Balsamic, and Arugula (adapted from Bon Appetit via epicurious)

The original recipe calls for fresh figs; since I used dried, I soaked them in port for a while to plump them.  However, I’m not sure this is necessary.

Makes 1 12-inch pizza, serving about 3 people

6 small fresh figs, cut into thin slices
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
cornmeal (for sprinkling)
12 ounces (¾ pound) pizza dough (⅓ of this recipe), after its first rise
1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (about 4 ounces)
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into strips
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 ounces stemmed arugula

1. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 500ºF. Put the figs in a medium bowl and drizzle 1 tablespoon of the vinegar over them. Set aside.

2. Gently flatten the dough, then pick it up and stretch it out, keeping it as circular as possible. Curl your fingers and let the dough hang on your knuckles, moving and rotating the dough so it stretches evenly. If it tears, piece it together. If the dough stretches too much, put it down and gently tug on the thick spots.

3. Dust a pizza peel with cornmeal and transfer the round of dough to the peel. Rearrange the dough to something reasonably circular; stab it several times with a fork. Top the pizza with the cheese, figs, and prosciutto.

4. Transfer the pizza from the peel to the hot stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the crust is spotty brown. Let the pizza cool on the peel for about 5 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar with the oil and a pinch of salt and pepper; toss the arugula with the dressing. Spread the salad evenly over the pizza. Slice and serve.

honey ginger pork tenderloin

So is the rest of the country grilling yet? Dave and I bought a grill in the middle of January, which, in southern New Mexico, is not at all bad grilling weather. And if you’re feeling jealous about our 70-degree sunshine because you’ve been buried in snow for months, keep in mind that the average high in July is 96 degrees. But it’s a dry heat!

For years, I’ve had to ignore the majority of food magazines in July and August because all of the recipes are designed for grilling. My apartment lifestyle didn’t mesh with my desire to cook outside.

Not anymore! Dave and I have grilled every weekend since we got the grill, and I think that we could possibly be getting the hang of it. Maybe.

After my lifelong grilling drought, I’ve been trying to make as many different recipes as possible – fish, steaks, burgers, boneless skinless chicken, bone-in skin-on chicken, lamb roasts, bacon-wrapped dates, all sorts of vegetables and potatoes, bread, and on and on. We’re grilling machines. This recipe knocked our socks off enough to make it two weekends in a row.

It’s simple too – you mix up a few ingredients, add the pork, and set it in the fridge while you go enjoy your perfect-hiking-weather-in-January. Then you get back from hiking, shower, drink a glass of wine (or take a nap, in Dave’s case), and fire up the grill. While it heats, skewer up some potatoes and vegetables. Spend 20 minutes cooking outside, then sit down to a fantastic, easy, smoky, flavorful meal with some more wine. Toast to the weekend and to winters in the desert.

One year ago: Spinach Bread
Two years ago: Classic Pound Cake (but, I think I’ll stick to this other pound cake from now on, with or without bourbon)

Printer Friendly Recipe
Honey-Gingered Pork Tenderloins (adapted from Gourmet via epicurious.com)

Serves 4-6

¼ cup honey
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup oyster sauce
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh gingerroot
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon ketchup
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
two ¾-pound pork tenderloins, trimmed of silver skin

1. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients except the pork. Add the pork and the marinade to a gallon-size zipper-top bag and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 1 day.

2. Prepare a medium-hot grill. (You should be able to hold your hands 5 inches above the grate for 3 to 4 seconds.) Remove the pork from the marinade, reserving the marinade.

3. Grill the pork, basting with the reserved marinade, for 12 minutes, turning a quarter turn every 3 minutes. Discard marinade. Continue to cook pork, turning every minute or so, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the tenderloin measures 145 degrees or the meat is slightly pink at the center. Let the pork rest 5 minutes before slicing.

bacon-wrapped goat-cheese-and-almond-stuffed dates

Stuffed dates are part of one my favorite days recently – one of those that, for whatever reason, just ended up being particularly awesome. Some great friends visited us in Philadelphia shortly before we moved. After walking around the famous historical sites and before seeing one of my favorite musicians play; before walking up the famous steps to the art museum and much before eating cheesesteaks at 2am, we ate dinner at Alma de Cuba.

While we all loved our entrees, our drinks, and the ceviche, the star of the show was the bacon-wrapped almond-stuffed dates. Is transcendent too over-the-top a description? It seems appropriate for something that caused each of us to close our eyes and exclaim with every bite.

I had kind of assumed that my bacon-wrapped almond-stuffed date days were behind me when we moved from Philadelphia. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that I could make them myself. I certainly never thought it would be so easy.

And just as good! I mean, it’s missing the friends-visiting, concert-going, downtown-exploring mystique, but it retains other important things – salty bacon, sweet dates, tangy goat cheese, crunchy almonds. And now it isn’t a once in a lifetime treat, like those standout days are.

One year ago: Honey Yogurt Dip
Two years ago: Salmon Cakes with Hashed Brussels Sprouts and Flaky Biscuits

Printer Friendly Recipe
Bacon-Wrapped Goat-Cheese-and-Almond-Stuffed Dates (rewritten from Beantown Baker)

Makes 32 appetizers

32 dates, pitted
4 ounces goat cheese
32 almonds (about ⅓ cup)
16 slices (about 1 pound) bacon, halved lengthwise

1. With a paring knife, cut through one long edge of each date; unfold the dates to open them up. Use your fingers to stuff both sides of the date with goat cheese. Push an almond into the goat cheese; close up the dates. Wrap each stuffed date with a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick or skewer.

2. If you’re broiling the dates, put them on a rimmed baking sheet. Grill the dates over medium-hot coals or broil them 5 inches from the heating unit until the bacon is cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

bacon-wrapped scallops with port reduction

Copy of IMG_0154

I don’t consider myself a picky eater, but I’m been having some problems with shellfish lately. And I hate that it’s a textural issue, because then I know it’s all in my head. With scallops, I think to myself that if it’s so soft, it must be undercooked, right? And then I spend the whole meal worrying about it.

Copy of IMG_0105

Which, geez, people eat scallops raw, I think I can handle them medium-rare, you know? Plus overcooked scallops are terrible, so it’s better to err on the side of less cooked.

Copy of IMG_0132

But while I sat and squirmed while I ate my scallops, trying not to think about whether they could have used a few more minutes on the stove, Dave gushed over them. Dave loves scallops. And bacon.

Copy of IMG_0146

Fortunately, the flavors really are fantastic. The subtle sweetness of the scallops goes nicely with the salty bacon, and the rich port sauce is a perfect accompaniment. The sauce is intense, so I liked to dip just the smallest corner of a scallop into it. Mmm. Especially tasty on the crispy browned bites. Because those are the only ones that I trust are cooked enough.

Copy of IMG_0149

One year ago: Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Printer Friendly Recipe
Bacon-Wrapped Scallops with Port Reduction (adapted from Gourmet, but really epicurious)

8 first-course servings or 4 main-course servings

I had a lot of random extra bacon scraps, because the scallops were too big for half a piece of bacon to wrap around each and too small for a full piece.

You see how some of my bacon strips are taller than the scallops? You don’t want that. Trim the edges of the bacon if you need to, because otherwise the scallop doesn’t sit against the pan evenly and it doesn’t get as nicely browned.

The scallops can be wrapped in bacon 4 hours ahead and chilled, covered. Sauté just before serving. The port reduction can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Reheat before serving.

Port reduction:
2 cups ruby port
½ cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1 sprig rosemary

Scallops:
16 thin slices (about 16 ounces) bacon
16 sea scallops (about 1 pound), tough side muscle discarded if attached
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. For port reduction: Bring port, sugar, peppercorns, and rosemary to a simmer in a 2-quart saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, then carefully ignite port with a kitchen match, letting flames die down (this will take a few minutes). Simmer over moderately low heat until sauce is thickened and reduced to about ½ cup, about 30 minutes.

2. For scallops: Heat a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, then cook the bacon until some fat has rendered and the edges of the bacon start to brown, about 1½ minutes per side. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain.

3. Pat the scallops dry and season them with salt and pepper. When the bacon is cool enough to handle, wrap a piece of bacon around each scallop and pierce scallop with a toothpick to secure.

4. Heat the oil and butter in a clean skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Sauté the scallops, turning them once, until the bacon is browned and the scallops are opaque, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and serve with port reduction for dipping.