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Archive for the ‘breakfast items’ Category

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Due to my career choices and wonderful friends, I am often the lucky recipient of some good things. Most of these good things, again due to the above, are food. And booze. I am gifted a lot of booze but that’s another story for another day. Right now both my freezers are completely packed and most of it is pork. Neatly wrapped and labeled packages of really good, farm raised pork. Not long ago, I was digging around and deep amongst these neat little white packages were three good-sized pieces of pork belly, that delicious cut we often know as bacon. I needed to make some room fast so I threw one of those bellies in the fridge to defrost while I thought about what to do. There really was no question. It was going to become bacon. In addition to being delicious, homemade bacon is incredibly easy. After a week long cure, I didn’t feel like firing up the smoker and babysitting a temperature gage all day so I did something I’d never done before: I baked the cured belly. And it was amazing.

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I had two pressing matters last week. First, I needed to make some space in my freezer, which was packed to the gills. Second, I needed a coffeecake. The situation I was facing was not an unusual one in my world; I was helping two friends, one a butcher and one a photographer, with a photoshoot. They had procured a big, beautiful pig and over the course of two busy days were going to break down (i.e. butcher into various cuts) and photograph the beast. Hence my needs: I knew I’d be coming home with a lot of beautiful pork and nowhere to put it and I knew with no budget, there would be no lush breakfast funded by a paying client. As happens with weekend shoots, we’d be tired and hungry, necessitating a continuous flow of coffee and sugar. I perused the contents of my freezer and pulled out a bag of fat blueberries I’d frozen last summer. A coffeecake was in the works. Something nice to start two very busy, intense days.

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For a few summers, I worked my friend Pete’s fruit stand at the Green City Farmer’s Market every Wednesday and Saturday morning. It was an early start, the market opens at 7am, and not being much of a morning person it took me a while to get rolling. Once we got the stand set up and I got my bearings, I was usually looking for something to eat before the big crowds rolled in with their double wide strollers and large dogs who liked to pee on our sandwich board signs. Oh joy. You need some sustenance to deal with that. My standard go-to breakfast, one I really looked forward to, was from Hoosier Mama a fantastic pie company in the city. On the back of their checkered tables was a large black plastic warmer thing. If you were smart, you knew this is where they kept the amazing savory hand pies nice and toasty. While there were always a few varieties, the breakfast sausage hand pies were my favorite and apparently others too because they sold out fast. A warm flaky pastry filled with herby breakfast sausage, I could inhale 42 of these things in no time if given the opportunity.

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For reasons that baffle many, myself included, its damn near impossible to get a good bagel outside of New York City. Maybe Montreal; they get a pass. Some say it’s the water, others say it’s the flour but I think it’s the technique. Making good bagels is complicated, involved and time consuming. You have to develop the proper amount of gluten in the dough and do a long, slow cold rise that sometimes lasts 2 days to develop that distinct flavor and texture. Then the coddled rounds of dough need to be poached in a solution of lightly sweetened water spiked with lye to develop that distinctive crust before a relatively short bake at a high temperature. Sure, bagel shops abound nationwide. Not the same. I find them to be universally bready, lacking in that toothsome chew that makes a bagel great. You can buy them in the bakery section of your local grocery store but they more resemble a dense onion roll. And yes, there they are in the freezer section. Walk away. I was raised on Lender’s and they are an abomination. Unless you live in NY with a bagel shop on the corner (and even those are becoming harder to find these days), there’s only one solution to this conundrum. Make your own. It’s not as difficult as you may think.

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Of all the recipes out there, one of the easiest and most impressive is cured salmon. Mix some salt and sugar, maybe additional spices and/or herbs, rub a piece of fish (typically salmon) and refrigerate for 1-3 days depending on the size of your fish. It’s unbelieavably simple and incredibly elegant. For the easiest bang with the smallest amount of effort, gravlax is the one for you.

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So the mad rush of the holidays is over, presents opened and all cookies delivered. Like many, I bake an ungodly amount during those few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. I go through a crazy amount of butter, 50lb sacks flour and sugar, chocolate in vast quantities and probably every nut and dried fruit Trader Joe’s carries a couple times over. Then, post New Year’s Day, I’m left to deal with the aftermath. Staples such as butter, sugar, and flour, I can easily handle. It’s the little bags of leftover stuff; the half bag of dried cranberries, the handful of walnuts, the ¼ cup of dried blueberries that have a way of hanging around far too long. I’ve come up with a solution for those little bits and bobs. I call it Post Holiday Granola.

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For the last few weeks, the deep purple elongated prune plums have been hanging out quietly on the farmer’s market tables. I always buy a big bag and think of the things I’ll make. Cakes mainly, of all varieties – upside down, almond batter, brown sugar glazed but maybe also a lovely French inspired custard tart, studded with a shingle of plum slices that ooze their crimson juices in the oven. My enthusiasm, though great, is often tempered by my ability to lose track of things. While I keep a running inventory in my head, I am often distracted, miscalculating the time I actually have available to make such things. I also have this fabulous habit of forgetting where I put things. I’m telling you, those refrigerator produce drawers are a hazard. It’s a wormhole in there. With the latest plums, I made a skillet cake and promptly forgot that I stashed the rest in that damn drawer, next to the miso I’ll never get around to using but keep because maybe, I just might. A week later, I found those plums in surprisingly good shape with a heady aroma but they needed to be used pronto. A small amount of jam or fruit butter was in my near future.

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