Bacon Bites

Every year I try to think of things I can make in advance that will simplify the days leading up to our annual after-the-holidays holiday party. This recipe certainly fits in that category. It can be made up to 6 weeks in advance and stashed in the freezer to unexpected guests or a planned gathering. Plus it includes one of the current “it” ingredients, bacon.

One added bonus of this recipe is that you can substitute to your hearts content and produce a new variant of bacon bites with whatever you have on hand. Replace the cream cheese with any spreadable medium, switch up the cheese, replace the peppers with salami, or black olives, or gummy bears. Well maybe not gummy bears. Make them your own.

Bacon Bites
Servings: 60 pieces
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup drained and diced Peppadew peppers
  • 3/4 cup sliced scallions, white and green
  • 20 slices soft white bread
  • 20 pieces uncooked bacon (avoid the temptation of thick-cut)

Directions:

  1. Mix together the cheeses until smooth. Stir in the peppers and scallions until evenly distributed; set aside.
  2. Trim the crusts from the slices of bread. Gently flatten the bread slices with a pastry roller or rolling pin.
  3. Once the bread is trimmed and flattened, spread the slices with the filling, covering it completely.
  4. Roll the bread up from the short side, pressing down just enough to make it stick to itself.
  5. Take a slice of bacon and wrap it around the roll diagonally, overlapping the bacon to cover the bread completely. If you need more than one bacon slice, tuck the end of the second bacon slice under the end of the first. Trim the bacon when you get to the end of the roll.
  6. Place completed roll on a parchment lined rimmed baking pan. When all rolls are completed freeze them for 30 minutes to firm them up.
  7. If making for consumption at this time then preheat the oven to 350°F and line a second rimmed baking pan with parchment. If making for later enjoyment, transfer to a large ziptop bag and return to the freezer.
  8. When ready to enjoy, slice the rolls in thirds and place on the baking sheet, cut side down. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the bacon is crisp and the tops are golden brown. If fully frozen bake an extra 5 minutes.
  9. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Notes:
There’s no need to thaw these if you are pulling them from the freezer after they are fully frozen. Just bake an extra 5 minutes or so and they should be good to go.

I usually bake these in 2 batches so that the folks who come later in the evening are able to enjoy the bacony goodness. You might want to bake them all off at once though to encourage your guests to arrive in a timely manner. 🙂

As best I can remember the original recipe I used came from King Arthur Flour’s website.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Dried Cranberries

When you are having Christmas Day dinner at your godmother’s, and she asks you to bring “a vegetable for 16”, you kind of freak out. At least I do. I decided on roasted Brussels sprouts because it’s a vegetable I’ve learned to enjoy as an adult. I added a some lucious fatty/salty bacon and a bit of sweet to make it a festive dish.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Dried Cranberries
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. Brussels Sprouts, stems trimmed and halved
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 lb. thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4″ strips
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 2 rimmed baking pans with parchment paper.
  2. Toss sprouts with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Divide between the 2 baking pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating and swapping the position of the pans halfway through cooking.
  3. While the sprouts cook add the bacon and 1 cup of water to a non-stick skillet. Heat over medium heat until simmering. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid/fat and crisp up the bacon to your desired doneness.
  4. The sprouts are ready when they can be easily pierced with a fork. Toss the sprouts, bacon and cranberries together. Transfer to a warmed serving dish and serve.

Notes:
This reheats well, either in a low oven or in the microwave.

Bacon Jam

I made this on a whim after looking for appetizer ideas for our family Easter lunch. I decided to make Bacon Jam and Brie Phyllo Cups however their bacon jam was nothing more than bacon added to apricot jam. I knew I could make something better.

This has a bit of a kick to it; adjust the sriracha to your taste. Heck, leave it out if spicy isn’t your thing.

I’m already picturing some of this jam on a slice of toast with some apple slices and cheddar cheese.

Bacon Jam
Servings: about 2 cups
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound smoked bacon
  • 1 cup caramelized onions
  • 5 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 cup coffee
  • 3 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. sriracha
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup grade B (now called Grade A Dark/Robust) maple syrup

Directions:

  1. In a glass 2-cup measuring cup combine the coffee, brown sugar, sriracha, vinegar and maple syrup. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
  2. Chop bacon into 1″ pieces. Place a large, heavy-bottomed pot, such as a dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until the bacon is lightly browned and starting to crisp. Move the bacon to a paper-towel-lined bowl and pour off the rendered bacon fat.
  3. Return 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat to the pan and add the caramelized onions and garlic. Stir into the bacon fat and cook until you start to smell the garlic. Add the liquid ingredients and combine. Scrap the bottom of the pan to release any bacon fond that may have been created at the beginning.
  4. Bring the mixture to a simmer and return the bacon to the pan. Simmer over low heat for about 2 hours, stirring periodically.
  5. Allow the mixture to cool, in the pan, for 20-30 minutes. Reserve about a 1/2 cup and set it aside. Transfer the rest into a food processor and process until smooth. Add the reserved bacon mixture and give it 1 or 2 pulses just to combine.
  6. Taste and season with salt, pepper, sriracha or vinegar to your own taste.
  7. Store in an air-tight container and enjoy.

Notes:
I use caramelized onions because I had them on hand. You could also thinly slice enough yellow or sweet onions so you have about 3 cups and cook them in step 3 with a generous pinch of salt for 10-15 minutes over low heat. Then add the garlic and continue from there.

This recipe is heavily influenced by this one I found on Pop Sugar along with 4 or 5 others I looked over that had similar combinations.

Skillet Green Beans with Bacon and Mustard

I made these as a side to go with roast pork loin and potato gratin a couple of weeks back. They’d probably go pretty well with the ubiqutous turkey and mashed ‘taters of American Thanksgiving.

Skillet Green Beans with Bacon and Mustard
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 6 pieces of bacon, diced
  • 2.5 lbs. green beans, stemed and cut into 1.5″ pieces
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Add cold bacon to a large skillet. Place over medium heat and cook until the fat is fully rendered. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked bacon to a plate lined with a couple of sheets of paper towels; set aside. Transfer the bacon fat into a small bowl, returning 1 tablespoon of fat to the skillet. Try not to snack on the bacon too much.
  2. Return the skillet to the burner, return to medium heat and add the green beans. Cook green beans, tossing periodically, for 5 minutes. Add shallot and 1/3 cups water and cover. Cook for 3 minutes.
  3. While the green beans cook combine the mustard and vinegar together and mix until combined.
  4. Remove cover and allow the water to evaporate, about 1 minute. Add the mustard/vinegar mixture. Toss until green beans are coated. Add the bacon pieces and combine. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Notes:
Method copied from Cook’s Illustrated.

Chicken with Mushrooms and Tomatoes

Everyone, if I generalize very broadly, wants an easily prepared weeknight meal. Often times, for me at least, that means buying some random things during a recent shopping trip and then trying to figure out what to do with them. Tonight’s rendition of weeknight roulette included some aged leeks (as in I bought them a couple of weeks ago and should have used them earlier), mushroom, cherry tomatoes from the garden and some frozen chicken thighs that I left to thaw earlier in the day.

Chicken with Mushrooms and Tomatoes
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp. olive oil, divided
  • 4 strips of bacon, roughly chopped
  • 4 boneless/skinless chicken thighs
  • 12 oz. cremini mushrooms, stems removed, tops quartered
  • 3 leeks, quartered, cleaned and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 onion, 1/2″ dice
  • 1 Serrano chile, seeded and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat with 1 teaspoon of oil. Add the bacon, toss in the oil and cook under crispy (about 5 minutes). Remove the bacon bits to a paper towel lined bowl, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible.
  2. While the bacon cooks put the mushrooms in a microwave safe bowl and cook, uncovered, in the microwave on high for 4 minutes. Drain mushrooms and hold.
  3. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Transfer to the hot skillet, seasoned side down. Cook, undisturbed for 5 minutes. Sprinkle second side with salt and pepper and flip the thighs over. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes; you want the internal temp of the thighs to reach 170°F. Transfer to a cutting board and cover while you finish the dish.
  4. Add the onions & pepper to the skillet along with about 1/2 cup of water. Scrape the bottom of the skillet to incorporate any fond that may have collected on the bottom of the pan. Add the leek, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and a dozen grinds of pepper. Stir to combine, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Chop chicken into 1/2″ pieces and return to the skillet. Stir chicken into the vegetable mixture. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to you liking. Serve with the reserved crispy bacon bits.

Notes:
Frozen chicken thighs from the big box warehouse store are a convenience not to be overlooked. The ones I pick up come boneless & skinless in a 4-pack. When I remember I take them out of the freezer a couple of days in advance so they can thaw in the fridge. When I don’t remember I use a trick from Cook’s Illustrated (which picked it up from Harold McGee) where you place the well wrapped frozen item in hot water for 10-12 minutes. According to the article, and various research, the quick thaw time isn’t enough time for bacteria to grow. It works for me in a pinch.

As I was cooking this I also prepared some basic white rice (Bring 2 cups water, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1 Tbsp. oil to a boil. Add 1 cup white rice, stir. Reduce heat to a simmer; cover and cook for 15-20 minutes.) At the last moment I decided to add the rice into the chicken and vegetable mixture. I minute of careful stirring and it was done. Plus all of the rice will be eaten. 🙂

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Bacon Barley

This recipe has either a small amount of prep and a lot of cooking OR a large amount of prep and comes together real quick. Either way there is a lot of time in between cooking the components to do other things.

[Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Bacon Barley]

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Bacon Barley

As you can see, I made this in an electric skillet. Well, I baked the barley. I probably could have done the whole thing in the skillet though. Something to think about for another time.

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Individual Pluot Cakes

A pluot is a cross between hybrid of a plum and an apricot. They have a smooth skin and firm flesh. The pit is fairly small. There were some nice ones at the grocery store, I remembered this recipe from the “try it sometime” pile and this was the result.

little pluot cakes

These are cooked in a muffin or cupcake pan resulting in nice individual cakes.

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