Makin’ Bacon

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A few months ago I was reading around the internet and discovered that there’s a whole subculture of people who are taking “homemade” to a whole new level: making their own bacon.  I have always wanted to know about how some of the foods we take for granted are made so I decided to embark on my own bacon making experiment.   The process of making bacon is quite simple: take a pork belly, add salt, sugar and sodium nitrite, stash in the fridge for 7 days, rinse, then smoke the belly until it hits 150 degrees inside, cool and slice into rashers and fry up into awesomeness.

My first attempt, probably back last October, was a complete failure.  First, the pork belly did not look very good.  I had bought it from a local butcher and had asked him to remove the skin.  What I received was a mutilated mess with parts that were barely a quarter inch thick.  I also used a Foodsaver vacuum bag and it sprung a leak halfway through the curing process which made the belly not cure correctly.

The second attempt I tried a different recipe and bought the pork belly from a regional grocery store called Shoppers Food Warehouse. I did not put the belly in a bag at all, but rather on a plastic rack in the fridge.  It came out fine, but I did not use “pink salt”, also known as curing salt or prague powder #1, so I’m paranoid that it’s got botulism spores.  I did eat some and haven’t died yet, so it’s probably good.  I still have some in the freezer, even.

My third attempt was perfect.  I used a recipe from http://www.ruhlman.com, using a normal 2 gallon ziplock back and I finally tracked down pink salt at, of all places, William Sonoma. I went through that bacon quick, giving out half-pound packs for christmas and eating it as often as I could.  I used a 6lb belly and it lasted maybe a week.

I’ve started on my fourth belly and this time I remembered to take pictures during the process.

So, here we go! Continue reading

Semi-homemade Sonora Chicken Pasta recipe

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Ingredients:

1 15 or 16 ounce jar of medium queso dip, I prefer Tostito’s Salsa con Queso
1 can Bush’s Grilling Black Bean Fiesta
1 lb penne pasta
1 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 can Rotel
4 chicken breasts
Tony Chachere’s seasoning

Steps:
1. Cook penne as per directions on box, drain and set aside
2. While pasta is cooking heat up grill or frying pan with a little oil.  Liberally sprinkle the Tony’s on each side of the chicken and grill or fry until done.  I usually go to an internal temperature of 162-165.
3. In a medium saucepan, empty the queso dip and milk, stir to mix and heat over medium-low heat until hot.  Don’t bring to a boil.
4. In a small saucepan empty the black beans and heat over medium heat until hot
5. Empty can of rotel into a bowl and set aside
6. Coursely chop 3-4 green onions and set aside.
7. Once the chicken is done, slice in strips across the breast maintaining the shape of the chicken.
8. To serve scoop one cup of penne onto a plate. Spoon 1/4 cup of queso sauce on top, then add 1/4 cup of black beans, using a slotted spoon to allow most of the liquid to drain, then top with a sliced chicken breast.  Spoon about 2 tablespoons of Rotel on top of chicken and then sprinkly about a tablespoon of green onions over the entire dish.

Makes about 4 servings of pasta and chicken and about 10-12 serviings of sauce.  Roughly about 500 calories a serving.

My Chili Recipe

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1 Tbsp Hot Chili Powder
1 Tbsp Normal Chili Powder
1 Tsp cumin
1 Tsp pepper
1 Tbsp Salt
1 Tbsp Flour
2 sweet onions
1 stalk celery
1 roasted poblano pepper
1½ lbs ground beef
2 tsp minced garlic
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
1 can black beans w/liquid
1 can kidney beans w/liquid
1 can tomato sauce

  1. Roast poblano pepper under broiler or over indoor grill until skin is blackened, rotating pepper to char all sides.  Place in a paper bag and close, or in a bowl covered with plastic wrap.
  2. While the pepper is roasting, heat up 1 tbsp of oil in a rather large pot and dice up the onions and celery.  Add the vegetables to the pot and saute until the onions are translucent, then add the garlic and saute for a few more minutes.
  3. peel the charred skin from the poblano pepper, slice in half and remove the rib and seeds.  finely chop the pepper and add to the pot and simmer for a few minutes.
  4. Add the ground beef, stir to mix everything and cook until browned.
  5. Add the spices and stir to incorporate.
  6. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce and beans, stir and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30-45 minutes.

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New Orleans Red Beans recipe

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This is my grandmothers Red Beans recipe.  I grew up with it using Treet as the meat added instead of smoked sausage.  Although it’s rather like Spam, it’s got a smokier flavor, and when rendered in the cooking liquid of the red beans it takes on a much more authentic smoked ham flavor and adds a really good flavor to the beans.

1 lb dried kidney beans
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
1 stalk celery
1/2 bell pepper
2-3 bay leaves
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 – 1 tsp tabasco hot sauce.
1 lb Jacksonville andiouie sausage unless you can get it from new Orleans
2 cans treet – optional, it’s the way my grandmother did it, so I like it but if you don’t then use more sausage

1. Rinse the beans under cold water and sort through for debris

2. Place beans in large pot with about 10 cups of water. Boil for about an hour the drain and set the beans aside for a moment

3. Dice onions, celery, bell pepper, and mince the garlic. Sauté on medium high heat until the onions start getting translucent

4. Add the red beans, salt, pepper and bay leaves to pot.

5. Add about 8-10 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer.

6. slice the anduoille sausage and, if using Treet, slice into squares and add to the pot after about 30 minutes

7. Simmer, stirring occasionally for about 2 -2 1/2 hours, until the beans are tender.

8. If the liquid is to thin, mush up about two to three large spoons of beans and add back and cook for about 15 minutes longer to thicken the liquid.

9. Serve over rice with hot sauce, generally Tabasco

Ode to Headbanging

Posted by avalon in memories, new orleans | Leave a comment

A coworker is listening to Tesla right now and all I can think about it street-light lit streets of New Orleans, driving my red ’73 Caddy Coup DeVille around listening to Tesla and other rock bands of the late ’80′s. 
Back then it seemed so bright and fresh and cool, but through the mists of time and memory I now see it as if I’m looking through a rain splashed window, the colors are running all over and there is a sense of impending doom. 
Perhaps the doom of impending age and the final relinquishing of such meaningless things as driving all over town with the radio loud, listening to a new tape and just hanging out with friends.

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The Smell of Old Libraries

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Ah, the whiff of old paper, musty dusty shelves of stiff, crinkly knowledge from ages gone by. I remember so very fondly of the libraries of my youth. I would have to say that my favorite was the old Metairie Library just down the street from where my grandparents lived when I was just entering the teenage years.

Back then, every summer was spent in New Orleans, and I eagerly awaited for summer to arrive. My grandfather loved books and we would routinely go to the library or an old used bookstore that was set up in a creaky old house nearby to get our fill of books to read for a week. I would peruse the sci-fi and fantasy aisles, looking for some fanciful novel by Andre’ Norton or Robert Heinlein that I hadn’t already read, while my grandfather would look through the westerns or serial thrillers.

Whether it was the dust that was ever present, or just the smell of old paper that had been in a humid, hot environment too long, there was something so relaxing, so comforting about those places. Almost from the moment you entered the noise of the outside world disappeared and the comforting smells of the books would engulf you, promising wondrous adventures, or just a relaxing browse through the familiar paperback spine of books already read, the characters now your friends, saying hi for just a moment as you persue the shelf.

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