Tag Archives: bacon fat

Quick Pork and Pepper Ragout

Quick, because I’m using pork tenderloins instead of a cut that benefits from long cooking, like a pork shoulder. In fact, after browning the tenderloin cubes, You only add them to the sauce at the last minute before serving.

One of my freezer packs of tomato sauce was marked “tomato-pepper” because one day I had a bunch of bell peppers harvested on the same day as some tomatoes. So, instead of roasting the tomatoes with carrots and onion and garlic, I roasted them with the peppers and it all went into the blender. I’ve been waiting for the right recipe to use them. You will have a chunkier sauce if you are using fresh chopped peppers in your sauce. I’m also going to add two chopped red poblanos which may add a little zing (who ever really knows about poblanos?), and I’m marinating the pork cubes in smoked paprika for a smoky pepper taste. Our ripened poblanos turned a dark purplish-red; maybe you can pick those out  in the image of roasted peppers from one of my roasting days:

Quick Pork and Pepper Ragout

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut in half inch cubes
  • Marinade:
    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
    • 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 3-4 slices thick-sliced bacon, browned and crumbled, fat reserved (I cook mine in the oven)
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • about 2 cups combination of peppers of your choice: I had about 4 bell peppers in my sauce (blended) and added 2 chopped roasted red poblanos
  • 2-3 large cloves of garlic, minced, grated, or pressed
  • 2- 3 cups tomato sauce or mixture of tomato paste and stock or fresh tomatoes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound penne pasta, cooked according to package directions.
Preparation
  1. Coat pork cubes in marinade and refrigerate for at least a half hour or longer. Mine sat for about 4 hours. I did not add the garlic to the marinade, because I didn’t want it to burn in the browning of the meat.
  2. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add two tablespoons reserved bacon fat and bring to sizzling. Add marinated pork and brown on all sides. You will probably need to cook the meat in 2-3 batches so the cubes don’t touch and create a gray, watery mess. Set browned pork aside.
  3. Add onion, carrots, peppers and garlic to hot pan. Stir until beginning to wilt, then add your tomato sauce. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until carrots are tender.
  4. Stir in pork cubes and heat for just a few minutes.
  5. Serve over pasta; top with crumbled bacon.

If my husband weren’t lactose intolerant, I would stir in 1/4 cup sour cream at the end. Instead, I’m serving it on the side.

Bacony Cauliflower Rice

If you can believe it, I was out of bacon fat! So I had to cook up some bacon and decided to throw it into this dish—that was not a hard decision. I thought about making the cauliflower with coconut oil and other flavors that better reflected the Asian marinade on the chicken of the previous post, but the bacon was calling to me.

Usually I use cauliflower to substitute for mashed potatoes, which are pretty close to eating white sugar in terms of the glycemic index. Cauliflower mashed with cream cheese is a great dish that even my potato-loving husband likes. We’ll see how he feels about the cauliflower rice. There’s a quick video on this page at The Kitchn that shows how easy it is to make.

I used 2 tablespoons of bacon fat to briefly saute the cauliflower over medium heat, before covering the pan with a lid to steam for about 10 minutes, with the chopped bacon already added. I did not try to brown the cauliflower, but that’s an option. In the end, it was a nice dish with the grilled chicken, but it sure makes a mess when you cut up the raw cauliflower before you get it into the food processor. You end up finding those little gritty specks everywhere—just a warning if you’ve never cut up cauliflower before.

Tips:

  • Don’t try to pulse the entire head at once, or you will liquefy some of it. Do it in small batches, and if a few chunks don’t pulverize, just try them in the next batch.
  • I also added garlic to my dish, and pulsed the cloves before putting in the first batch of cauliflower chunks.

Refried Beans, Not Refried

So-called refried beans are not fried twice nor even once, although many do the last step of mashing them in a hot skillet, which is kind of like frying. I guess. But it’s not necessary, especially with the availability of a food processor. I like the food-processor beans, which are creamy but still with a noticeable texture, to serve as a dip or spread, as well as a side dish, the basis of a burrito, or whatever you can think of. Even in the food processor, you can control the chunkiness to some extent by leaving out some mashed beans to stir in to the smoother processed beans.

You can make refried beans with just beans and salt, or elevate them with an endless number of additions. I would say you must use some fat—bacon fat or lard or oil—but everything else is negotiable:

  • garlic
  • onion
  • spices, like cumin, ancho, or chipotle powders
  • salsa
  • cheese
  • tomatoes

I’m just adding garlic, bacon fat, and lots of salt. We ate them as a side with chile relleno (not fried) burritos and mashed avocado. That’s two things that could have been fried, but were not.

Refried Beans

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: time-consuming
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Make the beans:

1/2 lb dried pinto beans

3 cups water

2 cloves garlic

  1. Rinse the beans well and sort to look for any small stones. Combine with the 3 cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Cover and turn off heat, allowing beans to soak for 1 hour.
  3. Return to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. During the last half hour, toss in the garlic cloves so they cook some before finishing the dish.

Make the refried beans:

1/2 lb cooked pinto beans

about 2 tablespoons bacon fat

2 teaspoons coarse salt—or to taste

1/4-1/2 cup bean liquor

  1. Drain the bean liquor into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Put the drained beans, salt, and bacon fat into a food processor.
  3. Process with 1/4 cup bean liquor, adding more to reach your desired consistency. I used 1/2 cup to reach a consistency like creamy mashed potatoes. They might dry out or thicken upon standing, so it’s a good idea to save the remaining bean liquor to stir in, if you need it. Or you could add it to other dishes.

Savory Butternut Squash Soufflé

We like butternut squash roasted in chunks until they brown on the edges, or mashed with butter and salt, and especially in butternut squash risotto. Today I figured it was time for something else, and I wondered how difficult it would be to get the heavy mashed pulp to rise in a soufflé. I haven’t made a soufflé for eons, but I remember the high hat that puffs out of the dish before it falls a little, and the airy texture of the soufflé in your mouth. Surely this one will be different, still with a lighter texture than simple mashed squash, but not like  a squash custard.

“Soufflés have the same kind of life as the ‘breath’ for which they are named. . . .”

My old Joy of Cooking (1967) has a whole section on soufflés—the one with eggplant looks yummy—but I have only ever made the traditional cheese soufflé. It starts with a thick white sauce, but that wouldn’t be necessary when you start with a thick mashed vegetable like squash or sweet potatoes. In the eggplant soufflé, there are breadcrumbs and chopped nuts mixed with the eggplant pulp, but a little milk is only recommended if the mixture seems “stiff.” It’s that point before you fold in the beaten egg whites that determines whether you need more moisture. The sweet potato soufflé uses a little applesauce for that moisture. If I need it, I will use a little milk, but I think I will try to infuse both moisture and lightness with eggs alone—4 eggs in total.

I’ll be mixing the squash, seasonings, and egg yolks in a food processor to a smooth puree, and then folding in the beaten egg whites by hand in a large bowl, but you could make it all by hand or with a hand mixer up to the egg white stage.

Savory Butternut Squash Soufflé

  • Servings: about 4
  • Difficulty: moderately easy
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Recipe Timing: Timing this recipe depends on your method of cooking the squash. If you roast it in the oven, whole or peeled and in chunks, that will take time, but it could be done the day before, especially since it should cool before mixing with eggs. I cooked mine, whole, in the microwave for 10-16 minutes, so that expedited the process. With cooked squash, the rest of the recipe goes quickly, even with separating the eggs and whipping the egg whites.

Baking dish tips: Butter a 1 1/2 qt baking dish with high sides. Dust the bottom and sides of the dish with finely grated Parmesan cheese or flour. A dish with a smaller round  circumference and higher sides works better than a low-sided larger dish, such as an 8 or 9 inch square baker.

Preheat oven to 350°

1 medium-large butternut squash, cooked—about 2 cups

1 tablespoon bacon fat

1 tablespoon finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

4 egg yolks

4 egg whites, stiffly beaten

  1. In bowl of food processor, combine squash, bacon fat, and seasonings to a puree. Taste for seasoning before adding egg yolks. Add egg yolks and pulse to blend.
  2. Transfer squash puree to large bowl. Fold in beaten egg whites with large spatula—a silicone spatula with a large paddle works better than a small one. Mine measures 5″ and is curved to fit the sides of bowls. Mine is blue, but you can see it in red here: http://www.amazon.com/KitchenAid-Silicone-Mixer-Spatula-Red/dp/B0095PC75C
  3. Pour mixture into prepared dish and bake at 350° for 40 minutes, then check to make sure the center has risen to the same height as the edges. If it is sunken in the middle, let it go for another 10 minutes.
  4. It does rise in the baking dish, but if you want a photo, take it quickly, because the whole thing sinks about an inch in a few minutes. I forgot to get one until it was too late.

The texture is lighter and airier than a squash custard (such as a pumpkin pie) but a little heavier than the traditional cheese soufflé made with white sauce. The edges/sides—if you dust the dish with grated cheese—have a nicely browned crust. A soufflé is a nice change for a traditional vegetable side dish. Think of all the ways you can work vegetables into one.