Jowl Bacon and Sauteed Spinach

I do love Jowl Bacon – when ordering a pig, I highly recommend you specify some Jowl Bacon for yourself. I think the pairing of the bacon and spinach is about perfect and for this recipe, I added a bit of garlic and onion for the saute and then a bit of chicken broth to give it a little bit of soup to make a nice finish.

What you need on hand:

  1. Pan to cook in – I like a stir fry pan and lid but most any medium / large pan will do.
  2. Bag of spinach – cooking spinach is the most economical, but you can use most any type.
  3. Jowl bacon or your favorite type of bacon. Smoked gives it more depth if you are into that. ūüôā
  4. Salt – kosher, coarse if you have it.
  5. A few cloves of garlic or crushed garlic, whatever you have on hand
  6. An onion or so, depending on taste. A large sweet, or a regular cooking onion. Really it is about what you like.
  7. Some soup stock (1/4 cup or so) you can substitute bullion, powdered soup base with water, etc…
  8. Fire & Water + Patience and a sharp knife and cutting board.

 

Start with a stir fry pan if you have one, and if not, a large sauce pan that you can cover. Slice up a generous portion of the bacon into small pieces.

Throw the bacon into the preheated pan and fry it up on medium heat while you dice up some onion and fresh garlic to taste.  Once the bacon has reduced and is almost done, drain the grease into a jar for use later. Throw in the garlic and onion and stir it a bit while the onions caramelize a bit Рthis is also a good time to toss in a few pinches (or to taste) of coarse salt. I like Kosher or sea salt.

Once the onions are caramelized and looking ready to eat, toss in as much spinach as you can fit into the pan. You can see from the photo I pile it high as it wilts down when you cook it. Cover and let it steam for a few on low heat. Toss in about 1/4 or so cup of water or chicken stock when you do this to help steam the spinach. Most of the liquid will cook off but it will also help flavor the spinach. I like to use a spoon or two of the dry chicken soup base here.

As the spinach starts to cook down, start tossing it a bit to keep it cooking evenly. Once it is reduced as you see in the photos, plate (or bowl) it and enjoy!

 

What is Scrapple and how do I cook it?

For those of you who buy a whole or half a pig, it is standard fare to get a bunch of scrapple along with the rest of the cuts, especially in the Pennsylvania and surrounding regions. Scrapple at it’s most basic is a mix of trim meat and cornmeal along with seasoning and cooking, formed in a loaf and packaged for sale.

The quality of scrapple is widely variable, but I have consistently found farm fresh scrapple to beat out commercial scrapple.

20160106_172442What to expect

When you open your scrapple, you will find something that should look like meatloaf, with a layer of fat. This is normal, expected and an advantage to the cooking process. It should not be mealy, soft and crumbly, rather there should be some texture and firmness to it. I suggest keeping it refrigerated until right before use as it cuts better cold.

How to cook it

There are different schools of thought on cooking scrapple and you will have to experiment to find your favorite, but my families preferred method is thin slices, fried crispy.20160106_174524

Frying Tip:

To ensure you don’t end up with a mess of scrapple mush in your fry pan, I ¬†recommend keeping it cold until time to cook (refrigerated), oiling the pan (bacon fat anyone?), and cooking on medium heat for a bit longer than you might think and only flipping it once the meat has fully crisped on the bottom side.

There is a large following of the 1/2 inch slice method that has a crispy exterior and mushy interior for a texture and flavor contrast – I am not one of those people! The aforementioned fat layer on the scrapple can be used in the fry pan to enhance the flavor, but really is optional if you want to reduce the oils / fats.

For a real scrapple bacony delicious treat, try frying a few slices of smoked thick cut bacon, and then frying your scrapple with a little of that bacon fat. – Ok… Now I am craving scrapple so much I think it may be dinner tonight.

What are people saying – is this guy for real?

Scrapple was largely a Pennsylvania dutch dish for quite some time, and frankly looked down on by many who did not know the origin or background behind it. With the growing movement for more responsible eating and full use of animals harvested, it is growing in popularity. Check out this article from Huff post for a perspective on this tasty meal.

Roasting a Whole Chicken

We enjoy roasted chicken done many different ways, especially since it is so simple to prepare and yet very satisfying. Below, you will find links to a variety of sites and options to roast your bird, most of which can also be applied to cut birds as well if you do not want to roast an entire bird.

  1. A great approach and very simple one that has some great humor as well is from the Ree Drummond, AKA Pioneer Woman. She has a fantastic blog and I recommend it as a general resource as well. Her approach is a lemon and rosemary butter baste and could not be much more simple.
  2. Over at Epicurious, there is another very simple approach that is really not much more than salt and pepper Рthis is not a difficult process!
  3. If you are looking for a little more challenge (really just more work) then a good base to build on might be the food network example. She goes for a veggie and herb foundation to add a little depth to the roast, and it is a worthwhile approach if you have time and the ingredients.

The main thing to keep in mind is that roasting your chicken is nothing to be afraid of and there are many ways to go about it, but it can be as simple as throwing the bird in a pan in the oven with a little salt and pepper and still yield delicious results.

I have to add that once you roast your bird, I like to throw the whole carcass in the soup pot to make chicken soup by boiling off any remaining meat and goodness at a slow simmer for a day. You can build on the soup base to your liking, but it is always a hit in our home.

‘Tis the season for apple

imageimageEvery September I am so excited for the chance to cook and bake with apples. Truthfully there is nothing that I do not like about the apple tree. From the flowers in Spring, the chance to climb them, the fruit they offer and the wood use later for smoking, this tree is awesome.

This September is no different from¬†any other year for the apple anticipation that I experience. However, this year I was pleasantly surprised to discover neighbors who have apple trees with an abundance of apples. Hooray! Did I mention that these neighbors are generous and deliver these apples by the bushel to my door? Double hooray! Some of the smaller, gnarly apples go straight to the pigs, but most of them are being used in our kitchen which is just wonderful.¬† Continue reading “‘Tis the season for apple”