If you’re having a party and inviting me to it, please, don’t sit me next to the onion dip. I swear, onion dip is my diet-busting downfall. And to be brutally honest, I don’t care if it’s made with a package of dry soup mix or it’s plopped into a bowl from a container from the dairy aisle. It’s really the cold and creamy sour cream that makes onion dip so addicting for me but this homemade version is a little different. Well, a lot different since it’s a bacon, scallion, and caramelized onion dip and not made from a package. Plus? Yup – bacon and caramelized onions? Sign.me.up.
I showed you how to make caramelized onions a few weeks ago and this dip recipe was the primary reason why I wanted to finally get my caramelized onions right. When they are the star of a dish, they had better be right! So you’ll use a batch of those onions and mix them up with some crumbled baaaaacon, scallions, sour cream, cider vinegar, and cayenne pepper. Homemade onion dip – done and done. And yeah, keep me away from this one too – it’s dangerous!!
I don’t know about you, but the best new thing I’ve found in my local grocery store in the past couple of years has been fig jam. If you’re into jam-making, I’m sure it’s pretty easy to make but it seems that fig season flies by in an instant and I never seem to be ready for it. So for now, I’ll stick with the stuff I can buy all year-round. And what that means is that I can also make these bacon brie and fig jam grilled cheese sandwiches whenever the heck I want to as well.
There’s no need to complicate a grilled cheese sandwich so this one is easy: a thin layer of fig jam on one side of the bread, topped with crisp, smoky bacon and creamy brie, then grilled to perfection. Cover the pan with a lid to trap the heat and help the cheese goo-ify itself – it’s a little trick of mine that works like a charm every time. Served alongside a bowl of homemade tomato soup? You may have trouble keeping enough fig jam stocked for these sandwiches!
Bacon Brie and Fig Jam Grilled Cheese source: Smells Like Home original
4 slices country white bread
Salted butter, softened almost until it it melted
2 tbsp fig jam
4 slices of thick-cut bacon, cooked crisp
4 oz brie, sliced about 4″ long, 1/4″ thick
Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Spread 1 tablespoon of the fig jam on the unbuttered side of two of the slices. Place the butter side down of those two slices in the skillet. Divide the bacon and cheese between the slices in the skillet and top with the remaining bread, butter-side up.
Cover the pan with a lid or sheet of aluminum foil for about 3 minutes; this will ensure heat melts the cheese. Remove the lid (or foil) and check the undersides of the bread with a spatula. If the bread is lightly browned, flip the sandwiches to finish off the other sides. When both sides of the sandwiches are perfectly browned (you know what that looks like) and the cheese is just about melted, remove them from the pan, cut, and serve hot and gooey.
While it would be perfectly acceptable for me to swoon about how this bacon pesto tomato sandwich is the only way to highlight your gorgeous tomatoes, I really want to talk about bacon here. It’s not an ingredient that I often highlight in my meals mostly because I feel, unlike most of the food blogging community, that it’s a complementary ingredient – not the star. However, the thick-sliced applewood-smoked bacon that I used in this sandwich is the star and I built the sandwich around it solely based on the fact that I had a few slices in the fridge that needed to be used up.
And that’s how it goes with me. I can never seem to use up a package of bacon before freezing it (and gah! sometimes forgetting about it until it’s freezer-burned) or it gets pushed to the back of the fridge and is again, forgotten about (which is even worse!). So with full intentions and an empty stomach, I fried up the leftover fridge-bacon in my kitchen buddy (the cast iron frying pan), sliced some fresh mozzarella and tomato, and whirled a creamy [nut-free] pesto around in the blender. And by the time Kyle ambled in the door, absolutely filthy from playing in the yard, I had a killer sandwich ready for him. I hustled him and his sandwich back out the door (“your shoes!!!”) and joined him for lunch on the porch.
Now you’ve just had a glimpse upon our Sundays in the summer: Me trying to use up the leftovers in the fridge before we start a new week of meals and lunches…and Kyle, the mudhog, showing up when it’s time to eat. Typical, easy-going Sundays.
Bacon Pesto Tomato Sandwiches source: Smells Like Home original
6 slices of thick-cut bacon (applewood-smoked or other)
1 large tomato, sliced 1/4-inch thick
Creamy nut-free pesto (recipe follows)
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 loaf of ciabatta bread
For the pesto:
1 small clove garlic, roughly chopped
3/4 cup (6 oz) plain Greek yogurt (non-fat works great)
2 1/2 cups basil, loosely packed
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Cook the bacon in a large nonstick or cast iron pan over medium heat until crispy; let the bacon drain on a paper towel-lined plate to cool slightly.
To make the creamy nut-free pesto: Place the garlic, yogurt, basil, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper in a blender or the bowl of a food processor (a small one if you have it). Pulse everything together until blended, stopping to scrape down the side of the blender/bowl as needed. With the machine running, drizzle the olive oil in a slow stream into the blender/bowl and allow the oil to fully incorporate into the pesto – this should take about 30 seconds The pesto should be easily spreadable. If the pesto is too thick, whirr in a little extra olive oil to thin it out.
To assemble the sandwich: Slice the ciabatta horizontally down the center and hollow out some of the bread if it’s too thick for sandwiches. Spread the pesto on both sides of the bread. On the bottom half, add the bacon then stack on the tomato and mozzarella slices, then close up the sandwich with the top half of the loaf. Using a serrated knife, slice the large sandwich into smaller pieces. Serve at room temperature.
I debated about whether I should share a sweet or a savory recipe with you today. And it wasn’t an easy decision. Cookies, bars, or burgers? But I felt really strongly about you guys needing these burgers in your lives. Like, pull-that-bacon-and-ground-beef-out-of-the-freezer-before-you-go-to-work strongly. You’ll regret not putting them on your tables tonight.
OK, maybe if you’re having pizza tonight you won’t regret not having these burgers but for the love of all things good, don’t let the weekend go by without them. The burgers infused with bits of finely diced bacon and then they’re topped with this other-worldly concoction of slow cooked red onions mixed with [yes more] bacon and balsamic vinegar that thickens into a jammy sauce. A nice liberal slice of sharp cheddar finishes everything off and by the end of dinner, you’ll wish you had the chance to rewind and start it all over again. Damn that lack of time travel thing.
We served some baked oven fries alongside these babies but frankly, any typical burger side will work here too, as would a heaping mound of grilled veggies or fresh fruit (you know, for the guilt-factor). We’ve found our new favorite burger and you can assume that if you’re coming to our house for dinner any time this summer, these are what we’ll be making for you!
To make the jam: Heat a large saute pan (that has a cover) over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally until browned but not crispy, about 8 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and let it drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Drain off all but 2-3 tablespoons of the bacon grease and then stir in the onions, about 1/4 tsp salt, and a pinch of pepper. Cover the pan to cook the onions for 2 minutes. Uncover the pan and in a splash of water, scraping the bits off of the bottom of the pan with a spatula or wooden spoon. Recover the pan and cook the onions for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and lightly browned.
After the onions have cooked for 10 minutes, stir in the balsamic vinegar, mustard, and water then return the bacon to the pan and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens and is almost completely absorbed, about 2-4 minutes (mine definitely took upwards of 4 minutes). At this point, the jam can be covered and refrigerated (you can make it up to 2 days in advance). If using immediately, set it aside in a bowl until ready to use.
To make the burgers: Using a fork, lightly mix the finely diced bacon with the ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and ground pepper in a medium bowl until the ingredients form a uniform mixture. Shape the burger mixture into four equal-sized patties, about 1-inch thick. Cook the burgers on a grill pre-heated to medium-high, about 4-5 minutes per side. Once you flip the burgers, add the cheese (if the cheese is thinly sliced, give it a minute or two on the second side before adding it). Once cooked to desired doneness, remove the burgers from the grill and set them aside to rest for 5 minutes before adding the topping, placing on the buns, and serving. No ketchup required.
In my lifetime, I have passed over hundreds of offerings of potato salad. I don’t know what the trigger was for my distaste of it but I do know that gloppy mayonnaise-based salads have never been my thing. Apparently, my grandmother makes the best potato salad and it’s the only version that has been brought to nearly all of our family gatherings in the summer months. I just never got the appeal and I’m sure there were plenty of heads being shook at my countless refusals.
So along comes bacon ranch potato salad. I’ll admit, I was completely turned off the by the idea of it…until I realized that it wasn’t a gloppy mayonnaise-based potato salad, but one made with ranch dressing. Yes indeed, this low-fat homemade ranch dressing. With the addition of crispy bacon bits, this potato salad is a match made in heaven. Rather than completely chilled, I served it while the potatoes were still slightly warm, while the dressing still had a chance to soak into the potatoes. And I loved it..as did Kyle who could eat potato salad any day of the week. I will not likely ever be a traditional potato salad eater, but this bacon-ranch version is one I can definitely get behind.
Chives or scallions (green parts only), chopped, for garnish
In an 8-quart stock pot, cover the potatoes with cold water by 1-inch and add the salt. Bring the potatoes to a boil over high heat then reduce to the heat to medium and cook the potatoes until fork-tender, about 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool down until they are very warm, about 5-10 minutes; transfer potatoes to a large bowl.
Pour half of the dressing over the potatoes and stir to coat the potatoes well; refrigerate for 1-2 hours. When ready to serve, stir in the remainder of the ranch dressing and bacon. Garnish with chives or scallions, if using.
In 1988, my parents bought a boat. Overall, the boat served us well (in spite of all the money they sunk into it, no pun intended – you know how having a boat goes) and we spent many a weekend for the better part of 10 or 12 summers crammed into my parents’ 25-footer at our favorite little beach on Fire Island. Like camping, feeding a family on a small boat requires a good bit of planning; refrigeration is limited (think dorm-size fridge) or sometimes non-existent except for ice in coolers and if the beach/marina you’re staying at even has water available, your hook-up is done through a garden-like marine hose plugged into the side of the boat. Our showers were made possible by a sun shower that we’d let heat up on the dock all day then hang up on a nail in one of the stalls of the public bathroom to wash away the sand, salt, and sunscreen.
In a semi-distant but totally comforting way, this bacon, egg, and cheese pizza reminds me of Sunday mornings at the beach. For the most part, my mom packed food for breakfast – our electric griddle was king – but on a rare Sunday, after giving in to our pleading and whiny voices (dad included), she would allow my dad – we were always on a budget – to hit up the snack bar for freshly made-to-order egg sandwiches. He practically floated down the dock on the smell of cooking bacon and sausage wafting over the marina like a cartoon character drawn to his favorite food. Those sandwiches were rare, special, and so satisfying.
This breakfast pizza, being all of those sentiments, admittedly was Kyle’s idea. He gets me. He knows that I find it virtually impossible to find a decent freshly made egg sandwich sandwich (i.e., not microwaved – gross) anywhere near our home. This pizza idea is the brainchild of observing my frustrations all these years and it encompasses all that I [we] love in an excellent egg sandwich. Plus? It’s pizza. So yeah, two of my favorite foods wrapped up in one little package. Like I said, he gets me.
As with any pizza or egg sandwich, feel free to add whatever toppings you want. We went for bacon, Monterey Jack, sautéed onions and peppers, and a whole bunch of fresh herbs. The key to this pizza is to make sure you push the pizza dough up the sides of a baking sheet so that the beaten eggs have a place to stay. It’s almost like making a quiche in that you don’t want the eggs leaking under the crust, else they will make it soft and difficult to remove from the baking sheet. Use a well-seasoned baking sheet if you have one and sprinkle on a little cornmeal before you put the dough down – don’t skip this step. The end result is a something magical: fluffy eggs, salty bacon, tons of freshness from the herbs, crispy pizza crust. It’s pretty much the perfect breakfast pizza and because we made a whole sheet pan of it, we had plenty of leftovers for breakfasts later in the week. I can see this being a great Mother’s Day breakfast project with a kitchen full of kids or even a quick throw-together breakfast-for-dinner kind of meal during the week. Either way, this breakfast pizza is a big winner here: it evokes great memories for me and fills our bellies at the same time.
Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Pizza source: Smells Like Home original recipe
8 strips bacon, cooked crisp and broken into 1-inch pieces
1/2 large onion and 1/2 bell pepper, sliced and sauteed in olive oil until soften, about 8 minutes
2 green onions/scallions, white and light green parts only, sliced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, stems removed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Sprinkle a little cornmeal on the bottom of a 12″ x 18″ baking sheet. Roll or stretch the dough out to an approximately 14 x 18 inch rectangle (the dough will be thin so take care not to rip it). Drape the dough into the pan, stretching it out to and up the sides of the pan. Using a fork, prick the dough 10 or 12 times to reduce bubbling when baking.
Carefully pour the eggs over the dough (don’t let the eggs overflow), scatter half of the cheese, then the bacon, peppers and onions, and the remaining cheese. Bake for 13-15 minutes. Sprinkle the herbs over the hot pizza before slicing and serving.
What seems like ages ago, I hosted a French-inspired maple-themed luxury dinner party. Each of the 5 courses included at least one dish that highlighted maple as the main ingredient and while this dinner was delightfully successful, time completely escaped me and I never had the chance to blog about all of the dishes I made. And now we find ourselves heading back into Fall where maple continues to be a star ingredient so I’m taking the opportunity these next few weeks to share the recipes with you. Are you excited or what?!
These maple bacon mini quiche started off my dinner party but made as a full-size quiche, it would be the perfect addition to any buffet or breakfast menu. A delicately sweet and boldly savory quiche, this is a great all-around recipe. To amp up the maple flavor, I used maple-cured bacon – use it if you can find it! A little bit of fresh thyme rounds out these quiche with an “herby” background flavor and I think it’s the thyme, not the bacon, that makes these mini quiche so addicting…or maybe it’s the buttery homemade crust…it’s really a tough choice! Either way, put these on your next party menu – you and your guests will appreciate it.
To make a full-size quiche (10-inch): On a lightly floured surface, roll pate brisee to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out a 14-inch round. (If you have dough leftover, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 months.) Press dough into bottom and up sides of a 10-inch springform pan, then fold sides of dough down to create a 2-inch-high border. Prick bottom several times with a fork. Freeze 30 minutes. Line dough with parchment cut to fit, and cover bottom with pie weights or dried beans. Keep dough chilled while the oven preheats.
To make mini quiche (yields 18-24): Lightly grease two 12-well or one 24-well mini muffin pans. Pinch off pieces of dough and roll into approximately 1 1/2″ balls. Place one piece of dough in each well of the muffin pan. With a tart stamper or the blunt end of a wooden spoon that is dusted with flour, lightly press the dough into the wells, working the dough up the sides of the wells so that they form little dough cups.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. [For the full-size quiche] Bake until edges are just firm, about 20 minutes. Remove weights and parchment, return to oven, and bake until lightly golden, about 20 minutes more. Let cool completely on a wire rack. [For the mini quiche] Bake until the edges are just firm and the dough has puffed up, about 12-15 minutes. Remove the pan(s) from the oven and with the tart stamper or wooden spoon, lightly push down the puffed-up down to form dough cups again. Continue baking for another 5-7 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Reduce oven to 375 degrees. Place bacon in a single layer in a large skillet. Cook over medium heat, flipping once, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels, and let cool slightly. Break into small pieces. Pour off drippings, reserving 1 tablespoon in skillet.
Add oil to remaining 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet, and heat over medium heat. Add onion, and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add maple syrup and water, and cook, stirring and scraping bottom of skillet, for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Let cool slightly.
Whisk together eggs, cream, thyme, salt, and pepper. Whisk in onion mixture. Pour into cooled tart shell(s). Scatter half the bacon over top.
[For the full-size quiche] Bake quiche until edges of egg mixture are just set, about 15 minutes. Scatter remaining bacon over top, and bake until puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes more. Let cool for at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. [For the mini quiche] Bake quiche until edges of egg mixture are just set, about 8-10 minutes. If the eggs or crust begin to brown too quickly, spray a piece of aluminum foil with cooking spray and lay it lightly over the top of the mini-quiche. Scatter remaining bacon over top, and bake until puffed and golden brown, about 8-10 minutes more, or until the end of a sharp knife releases cleanly when the eggs are tested. Let cool for at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
When I think of breakfast pastries, a savory item usually isn’t what I think about. Muffins – yes. Cheese Danish – oh yeah. Cinnamon buns – gimme gimme gimme! And though I love so many varieties, scones aren’t usually what I reach for…but I think my mind is changing now after making these bacon-cheddar scones. How could anything with bacon, cheddar, and scallions not be amazing? Quick and simple to put together, I think what’s so great about them (aside from the guaranteed amazing flavor), is that you can make them for any meal. I served them with some cheesy scrambled eggs but making them to serve with a roast chicken for dinner or a pot of soup for lunch would be totally acceptable and I’m sure very well-received, also. If you know you’ll be in a pinch for time, I suggest cooking your bacon earlier in the week when you have the time and pulling it out of the fridge when you’re ready to make the scones. Alternatively, you can make the dough in advance, cut and freeze it…then bake the scones off when you’re ready for them.
Many thanks to Mariana of Food Junky for choosing these scones for this week’s Project Pastry Queen task. I knew they would well-worth the 3+ years I’ve been waiting to make them!
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 stick well-chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
4 green onions, thinly sliced
10 slices bacon, cooked and chopped into 1 inch pieces
3/4 to 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
2 tsp water
Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl on low speed. With mixer running, gradually add cubes of butter until the mixture is crumbly and studded with flour – butter bits about the size of small peas. Add grated cheese and mix just until blended. (This can also be done by hand: In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Gradually cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles small peas. Stir in cheese.)
Add green onions, bacon and 3/4 cup of the buttermilk to flour and cheese mixture. Mix by hand just until all ingredients are incorporated. If dough is too dry to hold together, use remaining buttermilk, adding 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is pliable and can be formed into a ball. Stir as lightly and as little as possible to ensure a lighter-textured scone. Remove dough from bowl and place it on a lightly floured flat surface. Pat dough into a ball. Using a well-floured rolling pin, flatten dough into a circle about 10 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick. Cut dough into 8 to 12 equal wedges, depending on size scone you prefer.
Whisk egg and water in a small mixing bowl to combine. Brush each wedge with egg wash. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until golden brown and no longer sticky in the middle. Serve warm.
Homemade refried beans are nothing like their canned or restaurant-style counterparts. Studded with beans and bacon, these refried beans are what your Tex-Mex side dishes are meant to be like!
Mexican food has got to be my favorite type of ethnic food to eat out! Fresh tortilla chips and salsa, tableside guacamole, and refried beans always make me giddy. I know – refried beans?? Most people pass on them…even turn their noses up at the blob of brown goop on their plates but I love, love, love refried beans! I’m not sure I can explain why but they are definitely a side dish I’ve been wanting to make at home for a long time, especially since I love making bean and cheese burritos on high fiber tortillas for my work lunches with the leftovers from the canned refried beans we buy from time to time. I guess I never really knew how incredibly easy they are to make at home until I tried them out recently.
And I’ll tell you right now, I swear I’ll never, ever go back to buying the canned stuff again after trying this recipe. The amount of chopping of ingredients is minimal and essentially, in about 15 minutes, you’ll have yourself a pan of your very own homemade refried beans. These beans are fully of bacony goodness but you can pull out some or all of the cooked bacon before adding the beans to the pan if you want to cut down on some of the calories and I’ll likely do this the next time I make this recipe. The important thing about these beans, though, is that they are cooked in the bacon drippings…that is, after all, what makes them refried. Either way, if you’re as big of a fan of Mexican food (authentic or other) and beans of all types like I am, you’ll love these refried beans just as much as I do.
2 strips bacon, sliced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp. cumin
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper
2-3 Tbsp. shredded or grated manchego cheese (I used sharp cheddar)
sliced scallions or chopped cilantro
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat and add the bacon. Fry until the bacon is cooked and starting to crisp. If you are using excessively fatty bacon, you may want to pour off some of the drippings. Otherwise, leave everything in there as-is.
To the pan, add the onion and cook until tender. Stir in the garlic until fragrant, and then the chicken broth, cumin, beans, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to a light boil and continue to simmer for 10 minutes (or for as long as you want, if you want to time it with your main dish).
Use a potato masher to press down on the beans, and mash to your desired consistency (adding more broth if necessary).
Once plated, top with the cheese and sliced scallions or cilantro.
::: Before I dive into this post, let me first thank everyone who voted to help me move into Round 2 of Foodbuzz’s Project Food Blog. I was so humbled by the awesome comments left in my Round 1 post that I actually teared up at some of them. It was a nerve-wracking week while voting was going on but I made it safe and sound. That said, I truly hope you enjoy my Round 2 post: The Classics. :::
Many have heard of Bangers and Mash but few have heard of colcannon. While Bangers and Mash is traditional English pub food served with fried onions or onion gravy (or for Americans, sausages and mashed potatoes), Bangers and Colcannon put simply, is classic Irish pub food of sausages and mashed potatoes with cabbage. Or kale. And some versions have scallions. Some call for ham or bacon while others do not. On the surface, sausages and mashed potatoes with cabbage sounded straightforward but with all the variables for colcannon, I could see that this dish wouldn’t be easy. Though, it shouldn’t be easy if the Foodbuzz Challenge Details say to go outside your comfort zone with a classic ethnic dish.
And go outside my comfort zone I did. Here are the top 3 reasons why I was crazy for choosing this classic Irish dish:
1. First and foremost, I’ve never eaten it. Kyle has ordered it on the two occasions we’ve eaten at this great Irish pub in Portland, ME, called Bull Feeney’s. He raved and raved about Bangers and Colcannon for over a year until we made it back up to Portland this summer. So his love for this dish was my motivation for this challenge.
2. The thought of an Irish dish involving cabbage makes me shudder since I’ve never liked cabbage in almost any form.
3. And to wrap up this growing list of reasons: I didn’t have a recipe. Sure, Googling “colcannon” brings up a bunch of recipes but none of them passed Kyle’s test. Apparently, they didn’t sound enough like the description on the menu at Bull Feeney’s.
So I was faced with making a dish at his request begging that I’ve never eaten involving an ingredient that I detest and without a recipe. Great.
My first step in recreating this classic Irish dish was to go to the source. Yeah sure, a trip to Ireland would have been nice but not practical of course. I called Bull Feeney’s and asked for some pointers on making the dish. The woman explained that it was traditional bangers with a brown sugar gravy served with colcannon. I inquired further about the colcannon, probing about how to work the bacon into the dish, as we had seen on the menu, and she explained that the cabbage was sautéed in bacon and drippings with some added butter. I thanked her profusely for her help and hung up the phone. Kyle was surprised to hear about the brown sugar gravy and asked how to make it. ::Crickets:: I never asked the woman about the gravy. He literally did a forehead slap. I couldn’t well enough call her back so I told him I’d wing it. Seriously though, I was winging this whole meal so what was another piece of it?
Yesterday, I got to work…picked up the ingredients, including authentic Irish bangers from Whole Foods (my regular grocery store doesn’t carry them), and got started in the kitchen in the mid-afternoon so that I didn’t miss the early waning natural light of late September. (So what if dinner would be at 5 instead of 6? I needed photos!) With all of the ingredients prepped in advance and with three pans working simultaneously on the stove, I methodically moved through how I envisioned the dish in my brain. Boil potatoes. Sauté bacon. Brown bangers. Add cabbage and butter to bacon. Add beer to bangers. Make gravy. Mash potatoes and add cabbage. And then…all of a sudden…the dish was finished!
The end result of this classic Irish dish is something I am truly proud of. Recreating Bangers and Colcannon from the ground – up without a recipe was one thing. It was another to make it great enough to pass Kyle’s test (which, by far, it did). And it’s entirely another thing to fully and wholeheartedly say that I love this dish. I couldn’t get enough of it for dinner last night and will ashamedly admit, as only a food blogger could to an audience of people I don’t really know, that I overstuffed myself. The colcannon was awesome, though how could it not be with bacon in it? The dreaded cabbage was unassuming, ever so slightly crisp, and its contrast in texture with the mashed potatoes was perfect. I never dreamed that a beer reduction cooked with brown sugar could be so amazing and it was the brown sugar gravy that completely put the whole dish over the edge.
I hope that you’ll try this classic dish in your own home and let me know how it turns out for you!
Irish Beer-Braised Bangers and Colcannon with Brown Sugar Gravy source: Smells Like Home original, inspired by Bull Feeney’s, Portland ME
For the bangers and gravy: 6 Irish bangers (or small, mild sausage)
12 oz Guinness beer
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter mashed with 1 1/2 tbsp flour
Pinch of Kosher salt
1-2 tbsp chicken stock, as needed
1. In a 12″ sauté pan, brown bangers on all sides over medium heat. Add beer to pan, reduce to a simmer. Braise bangers until they are fully cooked and the beer reduces by half, about 10 minutes.
2. Remove bangers from the pan and whisk in brown sugar, butter/flour mixture, and salt until the mixture is smooth. Bring gravy to a gentle boil and reduce to a simmer until thickened. If the gravy thickens too much, add 1-2 tbsp of chicken stock as needed.
For the Colcannon: 1 1/2 lbs potatoes, peeled (I used baby reds but Russets would work too)
2 3/4 tsp Kosher salt, divided
4 oz bacon, diced
3 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 cup heavy cream
1. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Add 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until potatoes are fork tender, about 10-12 minutes. Drain and keep warm in the saucepan you boiled them in.
2. While the bangers brown and potatoes boil, cook bacon in a 12″ skillet over medium heat until almost crisp, rendering as much bacon fat in the pan as you can. Add 2 tbsp butter, allow to melt, and then add the cabbage. Sauté mixture until cabbage is almost tender but a slight amount of crunch remains, about 10-15 minutes while stirring occasionally.
3. Add heavy cream and 1 tbsp butter to the potatoes and mashed until almost smooth. Gently stir in the cabbage-bacon mixture. Serve hot with the bangers and brown sugar gravy.
Does grilled cheese ever get old? Not in this house!
And evidently, not for the Barefoot Contessa either since the Ultimate Grilled Cheese is one of the recipes from her upcoming new book, How Easy Is That?
I’m still swooning over this simple sandwich on steroids. It’s Bread + Cheese + Butter x 10. Plus some bacon and mayo. No joke, this was a fabulous sandwich. How could it not be with a line-up like that one? Though I suppose it isn’t a sandwich for lightweights. You have to be all or nothing. Do this sandwich justice. And if your conscience nags you about eating this, you can always eat two meals of fruit for the day. Like I did. ‘Cause lots of fruit totally negates the butter, cheese, and bacon. Totally.
When you make this…and you will want to…head over to Ezra Pound Cake and thank Rebecca for choosing this recipe for the Barefoot Bloggers to make this month. She didn’t have much to go off of because she doesn’t have a copy of the book yet but went on a hunch after seeing the recipe mentioned on the Amazon.com write-up of How Easy Is That? I love her hunches.
Ultimate Grilled Cheese
source: Ina Garten, How Easy Is That?
12 slices thick-cut bacon, such as Nodine’s applewood smoked
1 cup good mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 white pullman loaf or sourdough bread, sliced 1/2 inch thick (12 slices)
6 tbsp salted butter, at room temperature
6 oz aged Gruyere or Comte cheese
6 oz extra-sharp Cheddar, such as Cabot or Shelburne Farms
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the bacon on a baking rack set over a sheet pan in a single layer and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, until nicely browned. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels and cut in 1-inch pieces.
Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Lay 12 slices of bread on a board and spread each one lightly with butter. Flip the slices and spread each one generously with the mayonnaise mixture. Don’t neglect the corners!
Grate the cheeses in a food processor fitted with the largest grating disk and combine. Distribute the bacon evenly on half the slices of bread. Pile 1/3 cup grated cheese evenly on top of the bacon and top with the remaining bread slices, sauce side down.
Heat an electric panini press. When the press is hot, cook the sandwiches for 3 to 5 minutes in batches until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted. Allow to cool for 2 minutes. Cut in half and serve warm.
While I’m always up for a hearty sandwich, I just wasn’t feeling the big hunk of bread this week so I took the liberty of adapting this sandwich into a nice hearty chicken Caesar club salad. It was easy enough to do but I went a step further in lightening up the this meal by using equal parts light mayo and nonfat Greek yogurt. The bacon, of course, stayed and added the perfect amount of bacon-y flavor to this light and crisp salad. You’ll see my changes below but if you’re not up for a salad, I’m sure the club sandwich would be fantastic with nice fresh piece of crusty ciabatta.
Many thanks to Karen of Shortbread for choosing the perfect recipe to welcome in Spring! If you haven’t been there in a while, be sure to check out the Barefoot Bloggers!
Chicken Caesar Club Salad (Sandwich)
source: adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home
1 head Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces and washed and spun dry
12 sun-dried tomatoes, in oil
2 to 3 ounces Parmesan, shaved
Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a sauté pan to medium high.
Pat the chicken breasts dry then sprinkle with salt and pepper. When oil is hot, cook the chicken for 12 minutes or until cooked through, flipping over using tongs after about 6-7 minutes. Cool slightly and slice the chicken on a bias (against the grain) into about 1/2″ slices. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a medium frying pan, cook bacon until crisp. Set aside to drain on paper towels. When cooled, break up in to pieces.
Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until minced. Add the anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and yogurt and process again to make a smooth dressing. Blend in a little olive oil if the mixture is too thick. (Refrigerate the Caesar dressing if not using it immediately.)
In a large bowl, toss lettuce with dressing. Mix in bacon and sun-dried tomatoes. Divide the salad between two plates, top with sliced chicken and Parmesan cheese.