If there’s one dish that I must have on Thanksgiving, it’s stuffing. I like sweet potatoes, but don’t need them. Mashed potatoes always seem a bit superfluous to me. Even turkey is negotiable. But stuffing, with its play of textures and flavors — is the heart of Thanksgiving dinner. Last year I told you about the sacred sage stuffing that my family makes every Thanksgiving. I stand by that recipe. But if, for some reason, you need another stuffing recipe — like you’re going to two Thanksgivings, or your aunt Patricia is already making that stuffing and you need to bring a second one, or you’re having an all-stuffing Thanksgiving meal (what? It could happen!) — I came up with this one for you. [...]
So let’s talk about bacon. Apologies to my kosher and vegetarian friends, but I’m going to level with you — Bacon is good stuff. Smoky, salty, a little sweet, with an edge that can only be described as “porky”. And the aroma! The smell of bacon frying is one of the most intoxicating scents in the world. It makes your mouth water just thinking about it, doesn’t it?
Bacon has also become ubiquitous. Whether it’s “home cured pork belly” at a fancy restaurant, or hiding in vegetables, pastas, or chicken noodle soup, bacon has become the it ingredient. It’s even showed up in desserts — the maple bacon doughnut at Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon was probably one of the earliest examples, but a quick browse through Tastespotting will reveal recipes for bacon brittle, bacon snickerdoodles, bacon cupcakes and even bacon macarons. I wish I could be all foodie snob and turn up my nose and say “Bacon is so DONE. It doesn’t actually go with EVERYTHING,” but the truth is that I, too, have been seduced by the beast. You may have noticed bacon popping up in recent and not-so-recent recipes, but I have never crossed into the dark side to feature bacon in a dessert.
Bacon Salted Caramel Brownies. You may be skeptical. I was. Bacon in a dessert? And a chocolate dessert? Bacon doesn’t make EVERYTHING better. But the phrase kept repeating in my mind. Bacon Salted Caramel Brownies. Maybe it was a Twitter chat hosted by Scharffenberger chocolate, or a girlfriend telling me that David Lebovitz had told her that if she were going to try any one of his recipes, it should be the Dulce de Leche Brownies, or Alice Currah’s Bacon Caramel Bar recipe, but Bacon Salted Caramel Brownies came to me, and I couldn’t get them out of my head.
As I may have mentioned before, I generally receive a several cookbooks for major gift-giving occasions. This isn’t surprising; after all, I have a known cookbook problem, and I have several cookbooks on my Amazon wishlist. I’m fairly familiar with the major cookbooks that are released, what the buzz is, and what the classics are. But this Christmas my aunt (who is a fantastic cook) gave me a book I had never heard of — the Auberge of the Flowering Hearth, by Roy Andries De Groot. “It’s the book that inspired Alice Waters,” she told me. I thanked her politely and added the book to my already crowded shelf of food and cookbooks.
A month or so later, I had finished my book club book for that month and was looking for something to read, and my eye fell on the Auberge. The book is unassuming, with its seventies cover and relatively unknown author (who was at some point the President of the Gourmet Club, which I’m sure had some real meaning in 1973, but sounds made up to me, like something an enterprising high school student would use to pad their college application), but I thought it would be an excellent soothing bedtime read.
What I discovered was an absolutely delightful book, and I’m giving away one copy to readers. [...]
When I was a little girl, my favorite restaurant was a steakhouse in my hometown called the Sawmill. The interior was one of those 1980′s restaurants with no windows, an open kitchen, dim lighting, a terrarium, rough-hewn wood beams and leather club chairs, but to very small me it was heaven. I always ordered a steak sandwich and a Shirley Temple (in a short glass, with extra cherries), but what really made the restaurant my favorite was the old fashioned salad bar. Young children don’t usually have that much control over what they eat, but at a salad bar I was master of my destiny. After much trial and error (what is the POINT of baby corn?) I settled on the winning combination of romaine lettuce, spinach (this was before the era of ubiquitous mixed greens), chick peas, scallions, croutons, bacon bits, blue cheese dressing and beets. This was a particular treat because we NEVER had beets at home — to this day my father claims to be allergic based on a rash he got in 1948 (and to this day, I remain skeptical about the existence of such an allergy), and I loved their earthy sweetness.
Fast forward to 2006, and when enjoying a lovely (outdoor) dinner at a local Greek restaurant in Los Angeles, I discovered Patzaria — a Greek spread made from yogurt and beets. Spread on toasted pita bread, the sweetness of the beets tempered by the tang of the yogurt, this spread was my favorite beet dish I had had since those childhood salads. So I decided to reconcile the two experiences, and come up with my own patzaria that replicates the flavors of my childhood nostalgia with a modern Greek spin. (As a housekeeping note, I’m giving away a set of Oxo Tools and you have until 11:59 Pacific Time Wednesday to enter! What are you waiting for?) [...]