Sep 18, 2011

Makin' bacon... butter. Bacon butter.

You heard me. Bacon. Butter.

Sometimes, my mind wanders to mysterious places. For absolutely no logical reason, I decided two weeks ago that saving bacon grease was essential to my culinary life's continued success. 

At the time of this ingenious idea's inception, I wasn't even cooking bacon. In fact, I was sitting on my couch, staring blankly at my living room wall thinking, "Laura, you need more hobbies."

Saving bacon grease is what I came up with.

So I promptly headed to the store, purchased the largest package of sliced pork belly they offered and began this very exciting and healthy new chapter of my life.
I really don't cook bacon on a regular basis. In fact, two weeks ago may have been the first time I had cooked bacon in over a year. I'm more of a beef-for-breakfast kind of girl.
Makin' bacon hurts when you're an impatient soul. It's hard to resist staring directly and closely at whatever item is sizzling on your stove top, mentally willing it to cook faster, when it smells as good as bacon.

Sizzling bacon punishes that behavior by slinging fiery grease on your skin while it cooks. Ouch. 
But if you are patient and cook the bacon slowly, it yields the most precious results. Perfectly crisp but not too-crunchy strips of deliciousness.

But that's not the point. This stuff is the point. Let as much of that liquid gold drain off each strip as you remove it from the pan.
Then let it cool. You do not want to handle bacon grease while it is still sizzling. Again: ouch.

In the meantime, enjoy the byproduct of this activity with tomatoes from your neighbor's garden (Thanks, neighbor Bob!), fresh lettuce and a Panera asiago cheese bagel.   
When this endeavour began, I really thought the idea of cooking with bacon grease was limited to farm-house grannies, which I think is why it appealed to me. Any other 24-year-old out there daydream about how awesome it would be to a pre-maturely matronly granny? No? Me neither.

But it turns out, a lot of very normal, young, hip people still use this as their "secret ingredient" for great cooking. I met one last week on a business trip. I'm not sure how my conversation with this very stylish, big-city pharmaceutical marketer from New Jersey led to bacon grease, but I think it might have gone something like this:

Her: "Know what I love almost as much as beef? Bacon."
Me: "Me. TOO. Mostly due to a recent obsession with finding recipes that involve adding extra awesomeness via saved bacon grease."
Her: "Me. TOO. I don't tell my husband. He just thinks I'm a really great cook. He has no idea it's the bacon grease talking.

Insta-friends. Just add bacon grease.

She taught me this. Once the grease has cooled to room temperature, don't just plop it in a regular ol' mason jar.
Ladle it into an ice cube tray. Freeze it. Then it lasts much longer, and it's conveniently portioned out. Because we agreed that it's not about WHAT you eat, it's about how much you eat. This is my kind of portion control.

That's my healthy eating mantra, and I'm sticking to it. 
I'm yet to actually utilize my little stockpile of bacon butter in any cooking. The tray isn't full yet, and it just doesn't seem right to take any away until I have a full stock saved up.

But I'm getting closer. One B.L.T. sandwich at a time.
I'm three sandwiches away from a full tray. Then the fun will begin.

I can't wait to pan-sear a steak in bacon grease. Or add a bit to my mashed potato mix. Or to grease a pan before making cornbread. Or to whip into homemade biscuits. Or to season green beans. 

What do you use bacon grease in/for? Any other tips/ideas?

Sep 10, 2011

Life in the non-digital age

Let's get one confession out of the way right now:

I love cassette tapes.

I love the scratchy, somewhat distant sound. I love that you can't just skip a song, you almost have to listen the full body of work. I love the silent buzz indicating time to flip sides and the resilience of the plastic.
But since my car no longer has a cassette tape player, I have been forced to listen almost exclusively to CDs. That's OK too. Over the past couple years, I've grown a whole new appreciation for that media form.

I can't bring myself to just download music yet. That day may come, but for now, I continue to relish in being able to touch, feel, read and carry a physical copy of my music around with me.

That love was re-affirmed this week with the arrive of two new CDs in my mailbox.
Don't even get me started on Stoney LaRue's "Velvet." I love that CD so much that I think Stoney might feel the need to hire security staff due to my stalker-ish constant tweeting. That is of course assuming that he devoutly reads all on my tweets, which I am convinced is true. 

Go buy this CD - don't download it, buy it. Caress the velvet cover, immerse yourself in the printed lyrics, play it on repeat in every possible CD player you own.

That's all I have to say about it. 

The second addition was Robert Earl Keen's "Ready for Confetti." Another beautiful work of story-telling art from the legend that is REK. And again, an affirmation that the physical CD purchase was worth the snail mail wait. You don't get to read REK's personal note without it:

A few years ago it all made sense. I was writing songs that I liked, playing to crowds that were wild and enthusiastic and had the best band in the world. After ten years of being on the road, miracle of miracles, I'd managed to keep a loving, beautiful family together. Don't worry, I still have all that, but it changed. I thought the world and my creative trajectory were one. I probably even thought of myself as a world antenna, cosmetically gathering data and disseminating vital information. Maybe not exactly, but along those lines.

One day I was at the pond sitting on the bank and tossing a lure. The sun was frying this woebegone fisherman. I sat my rod and reel down and lay on the bank with my hat over my eyes until I drifted to sleep. When I awoke, it was twilight and the bats were feeding against an orange and indigo horizon and crickets were a symphony in the cool pre night air. Everything had changed and I had nothing to do with it. I was just living on the earth.

It doesn't matter if you are cosmically connected or have your head in the sand, the world changes whether you are ready or not.

That's what I was thinking... while we were making this cool record... hope you like it.


Why yes, Robby, I do like it. And I like that reminder -- the world is going to keep turning no matter what we do while one, so we might as well make our trip around the sun worthwhile.