Sunday, June 17, 2012

Crispy Cups of Bacon Joy

All my friends and family know that my favorite food item has to be bacon, hands down.  Since we live in Egypt most of the year round (at least since last January) bacon is not readily available and I find that just makes my longing stronger.  Since I am in Houston for a few weeks this summer, I am delighting in the availability of pork, alcohol and also, THAT I CAN DRIVE.   I am enjoying Cairo, don’t get me wrong, and I have a lovely gentleman that drives me around and knows everything there is to know about getting places in an expeditious manner and even where to shop for most things.   But I am reveling in the ability to wield my own car keys and steer my own vehicle where I want to go at any time of the day or night.  Captain of my own ship.  FREEDOM! 

Here’s a little item that I hesitate to call a recipe since it has but one ingredient, you guessed it, bacon.  So let’s just call it instructions for crispy cups of bacon joy that you can fill as you see fit.

BACON (Please keep up.)  
For 12 crispy cups of bacon joy you will need 18 slices of normal (not thick cut) streaky bacon.

Preheat your oven to 400°F or 200°C.  

Put your muffin tin upside down in a bigger pan.  This will catch the bacon grease and prevent an oven fire while the bacon cups bake.  

Cut six of your bacon slices in half.  Fold the half slices in half again in a V, draping them over the top of each upside down muffin cup, trying as hard as you can to get total coverage, while still leaving a little bit of the bacon hanging over the edge.

Cover the rest of the muffin tin with a full slice of bacon, starting near the base of the muffin cup and working your way up till the final circle covers the overhanging bacon from the top.

Press the top down to make a nice neat upside down cup.

Bake in your preheated oven until the cups are crispy.  This should take about 20-25 minutes but could take longer, depending on your oven.  Just keep an eye on them. 

Remove from the oven and prop the bottom cooking pan up on one side with a towel or oven mitt to allow the grease to run off into the bottom pan.  (I save this bacon grease for future cooking adventures like Yorkshire puddings or even green beans.)

See the blue towel on the right?  It's under the bottom pan on one side. 
When the muffin tin is cool enough to handle, gentle wiggle the bacon cups free using a teaspoon to push up all around the sides.

Some of them will have holes in the bottom but this does not prevent them from being filled with much deliciousness.   (Or you could just eat some of them as is, which doesn’t make sense because of the time involved, but that didn’t stop me from doing it.  If you are not judging, I want to be your friend. ) 

Two suggestions:  Baked eggs (Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake in a 350°F or 180°C oven for about 10-12 minutes or until white is just set.  Serve with buttered toast to dip.) 

I just made two of these.  They were the PERFECT dinner. 

Or my friend Sheila’s Cheesy Mexican Cornbread.  But, oh, my goodness!  Cheesy, spicy and succulent beyond belief baked in a crispy cup of bacon joy. )

Cheesy Mexican cornbread batter, going in!

I think quiche filling would be divine in these too! 


Hey, see that little green Facebook symbol up in the right hand column?  If you click on it and then hit LIKE when Facebook opens, you will never miss a post because they are automatically updated to my Facebook page.  I mean, just if you want to.  Thanks!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Almost Mo's Crawfish Étouffée

Spicy rich crawfish étouffée, almost exactly as my Cajun grandmother used to make it. The perfect dish for Sunday Supper or a Mardi Gras party!

Hear that spinning noise? Wait, what? You don’t hear it. It’s so loud on my end and I know what it is. It’s my grandmother, in her grave, spinning. If you’ve read my About Me, you know I am originally from Southern Louisiana, home of crawfish and gumbo and Tabasco pepper sauce. In fact, many family members worked for Tabasco on Avery Island when I was growing up. We never used store-bought sauce because, if you washed and saved and brought your bottles back to my grandmother, she got them filled up with the best of the best, what we called bottom of the barrel. Scooped from the bottom of the barrels used to age the Tabasco, that sauce was the nectar of the gods.

As the relatives who worked on Avery Island grew older and retired, my grandfather, who always had a huge kitchen garden, started growing his own peppers from seeds he had been given by those same relatives. And my grandmother started making and bottling her own sauce from the Tabasco peppers. To this day, you will not find a bottle of store-bought Tabasco sauce in our houses. It’s too full of vinegar with too little body. I prefer to make my own as well, although I can’t get the Tabasco peppers anymore and have to use habaneros. But I digress.

Back to my grandmother and her spinning. Along with the disdain for store-bought Tabasco, I was brought up with a healthy dose of repugnance for any crawfish not caught wild in the Atchafalaya Basin. Those were the years of a short crawfish season just in the Springtime and when it was over, it was over, till the following year. Nowadays, with crawfish farming and crawfish imports from *gasp* China (here the spinning noise increases in volume) we can eat crawfish étouffée year round.

With apologies to my grandmother, we love crawfish étouffée and, in as much as I am causing her post-death exercise by using frozen Chinese crawfish, I try to make up for it by making it just as she would have. Or as close as I can get with the foreign interlopers which don’t have as much of the lovely orange fat as our locally caught specimens.

1/2 cup or 65g flour
1/2 cup or 120ml canola oil
2 medium onions
1 bunch of green onions
1 large green bell pepper or capsicum
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup or 115g butter
4 packs frozen crawfish (Each pack is 12 oz. I buy Boudreaux’s, which, despite its name, is indeed from China.)

(If you can't get crawfish, this can also be made with shrimp or prawns. It won't be the same but it will still be delicious.)

Make a roux by mixing the flour and canola oil in a heavy pan. Cook over a medium heat, stirring frequently, until it turns a lovely caramel color. For full step by step instructions, check out this link: How to make roux. 

Meanwhile chop your onions, green onions and bell pepper.

When the roux is browned enough, tip in the vegetables and cook, covered, until the vegetables are very soft – about 10-12 minutes.

Add the tablespoon of tomato paste for color and the butter to replace the missing fat content and cook for a bit longer, perhaps another 10 minutes. (In the old days, the tomato paste and butter were not necessary as the crawfish came with a lot of the natural orange fat which, I have been told, is not allowed in packing any more. This fat gave the étouffée the lovely color without anything else added.)

Add in the crawfish and cook for another 10 minutes, covered. Season to taste with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne.

Serve over white rice in the Tabasco gumbo bowls that your grandmother left you. If you are so blessed.

One of my most precious possessions - a set of Tabasco gumbo bowls.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Quick Bread Breakfast Muffins #MuffinMonday

The easiest, most adaptable, recipe you'll ever need, these quick bread breakfast muffins are a great base for all of your favorite add-ins. Bake up a batch for your family today!

Food Lust People Love: Quick Bread Breakfast Muffins is great basic recipe that is easily adaptable to whatever additions you'd like to make.  Blueberries, raspberries, dried cranberries, chopped strawberries, grated apples, chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, cinnamon sugar, etc.  (Grated apples AND cinnamon sugar?  Divine.  Dried cranberries and white chocolate?  Ditto.)  As you can see, the potential is huge.

Confession time:  I am a muffin snob.  Have been since 2005 when I discovered this lovely recipe and cut it out of the Flavor section of the Houston Chronicle.  There is no reason whatsoever for a person to ever use a box muffin mix when they have this baby in their baking arsenal.  It is easy and quick (See the title? It does not lie.) and works as well with fruit and nuts as it does with cinnamon sugar or chocolate chips. 

The best part is that you can mix the wet ingredients together and put them in the refrigerator the night before you want to bake these.  And mix the dry ingredients together and leave them at the ready in a cling film covered bowl right there on the kitchen counter.   If you are feeling like an overachiever, you can even get the muffin tin buttered and ready.   When you get up in the morning, preheat your oven and mix your wet and dry, then add your fruit and you have muffin batter ready for the oven in next to no time.  This recipe is also very easily doubled for slumber party crowds for those of you who, like me, willingly accept groups of more than five or six guests and occasionally as many as 10 or 12.   

Sadly, my slumber party hosting days seem to be over so I am making these to take to my elderly father-in-law who hasn’t been well lately and, so, hasn’t been eating very much.  Nothing like fresh baked goods to entice a person to eat, I do believe.  We need to get some more meat on his bones!  I am hoping some of these will do the trick.

Quick Bread Breakfast Muffins

A great basic muffin recipe that is easily adaptable to whatever additions you'd like to make.  Blueberries, raspberries, dried cranberries, chopped strawberries, grated apples, chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, cinnamon sugar, etc.  (Grated apples AND cinnamon sugar?  Divine.  Dried cranberries and white chocolate?  Ditto.)  As you can see, the potential is huge.

2 cups or 250g all purpose flour
¾ cup or 150g sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup or 240ml milk
½ cup or 115g unsalted butter or ½ cup or 120ml canola oil
(I’ve made this many times and either butter or oil makes a delicious muffin.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1 generous cup or about 175g fresh blueberries
Alternative additions in place of the blueberries: raspberries, dried cranberries, chopped strawberries, grated apples, chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, cinnamon sugar, etc.  

Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C.

Generously grease cups and top of 12-cup muffin tin.  Or use the Reynolds Foil Baking Cups, as I sometimes do.  The muffins they make aren’t as prettily shaped as the ones made in a hard muffin tin, but there is little clean up and that is worth more than the aesthetics of the perfect muffin to me.  (So you see, I am the most noble type of snob.  It’s what you are made of that matters to me.  Not how you look.  This also applies to people.)  I give the whole baking tray, including the baking cups, a light spray of Pam. 

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. 

First cup of flour.

The baking powder goes in. 

Then the salt.

It's sifting but that's hard to show in a photo. 

Second cup of flour and the sugar.

In another bowl, melt your butter slowly in the microwave.  Then whisk together milk, melted butter, vanilla and eggs. 

Almost forgot the vanilla!
Add all the milk mixture to flour mixture. 

Gently fold just until dry ingredients are moistened.   

Then fold in your blueberries or your alternate ingredients.

Divide your batter relatively evenly between the 12 muffin cups.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until muffins are golden.

Remove from oven and let cool 10-15 minutes before removing muffins from tin.  (If you are using a conventional muffin tin.  The Reynolds foil thingies cool much more quickly.)

This recipe can also be baked as a coffee cake, if you don’t have a muffin tin.  Extend baking time by five to 10 minutes or, once again, until golden.  


Pin it!