Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Which Came First the Bacon or the Egg?

"There's something going around" is what I heard just before I had a day off from work. I felt tethered to my bed - downing Emergen-C packets, ginger-lemon tea, and echinacea pills.
No appetite to spoil, I watched YouTube videos on pigs and their diets. Thanks, PodChef; yours were the ones I enjoyed the most.  
Call it what you must . . . delirium, starvation, or bloody genius. While I was watching pigs chow down on their last suppers (finishing diets) I kept thinking about how they didn't seem to have it so bad. I love apples and hazelnuts, and most recently, I have developed a taste for hay. You are what you eat …

Valentine's Day was approaching and I knew I wanted to make a stand out dessert with bacon. As I recovered from the ‘something’ that was ‘going around’, I got hold of an idea and I couldn’t put it down: A dessert composed of everything that a pig would have been fed as a finishing diet.

The Concept: Start to Finishing Diet 

The Menu Tonight: 

Soft Scrambled Eggs with Creme Fraîche, Grilled ‘My House Baget’, Espresso Cured Pancetta, Fine Herbs

Apple Gelee, Hazelnut Cream, Brown Sugar, Candied "Hay Honey, Bacon!" Chips

Knowing that I would be going the sweet rather then the savory route with my bacon I decided to use honey instead of maple syrup and of course I couldn't resist - fresh hay. Everything you love about a new barn is captured in hay. Sweet barnyard-y goodness - I call this "Hay Honey, Bacon!"

The Pancetta got the espresso because I was sitting in a cafe in Seattle borrowing some internet just before I returned home to cure and I couldn't help it. That specific coffee house did its own roasting and it was too aromatic to pass up. 

Recipe for success:

4 Eggs
1T Butter
1T Creme Fraîche
Dijon to taste

Set up a double boiler on your stove top. Whisk the eggs until frothy in a bowl off the heat. Place them over a double boiler and use a spatula to drag the eggs around (think figure eights, circles, and canoe paddling). It will take awhile, but curdles will start to form and cook. If you like large curds then don't stir as much; if you like smaller curds then have at it. While the eggs are still a bit liquid, incorporate your room temperature butter. Turn the heat off to make sure there is no color to the eggs or that they are overcooked. At this point, I fold in my house-made Creme Fraîche and season with a good amount of salt and white pepper, keeping in mind pancetta is also salty. Creamy decadent scrambled eggs are the goal here.
Note: if you've never made Creme Fraîche, you should. It involves either buying a culture packet to add to creme or simply buying Creme Fraîche from the grocery store. Take half of a cup of already made Creme Fraîche and whisk in 1 quart of heavy cream. Leave it out at around 120 degrees or so for around 15 hours you're looking for the cream to turn from liquid to the original Creme Fraîche consistency, then refrigerate.

There is no NEED to make your own bread like there's no NEED to make your own bacon. That being said, it's something fun and challenging, and like bacon, once we stop crafting our own, we run the risk of placing that responsibility into the hands of commercial producers. Just saying . . .

‘My House Baget’ is just that: based on the french baget recipe out of the book Crust and Crumb by Peter Reinhart, a great and supportive text that has been guiding me. The only difference is that ‘My House Baget’ contains a Pacific Northwest Wild Yeast Starter that I acquired from a friend. Julie and I are the proud parents of this starter: we feed it, keep it warm and then tuck it into the refrigerator at night.

At anytime in the process you may slice your beautifully fully cured espresso pancetta as well as grill YOUR 'My House Baget '. 

I stuck to the basic recipe out of Charcuterie the only difference in my pancetta was adding about 1 T of ground espresso per pound of belly meat.  

Finally chop yourself some fines herbs (parsley, tarragon, chervil, and chive) to add that crisp fresh note to the dish and you’re done.

The Dessert:

4 Apples (I like Granny Smiths)
2 Vitamin C Pills
Gelatin sheets 

1/2 C Granulated Sugar
1/2 C Brown Sugar 

5T Hazelnut Butter (you can find this at the store) 
1 C Cream 

Juice your apples (skin on) with 2 crushed vitamin C pills. (The vitamin C pills keep the juice from oxidizing.) Soak 1 sheet of gelatin for every 1 cup of apple liquid, your amount of liquid will vary depending on the size and juiciness of your apples. Bloom (soak) your gelatin in cool water until it's pliable but still in one piece. Remove it from the water and squeeze the gelatin to remove the residual water. Warm your apple juice on the stove. It's important to NOT boil the juice. You risk discoloration as well as harming the gelatin. Dissolve the bloomed gelatin sheets into the warmed apple juice. Dispense into the container you wish to serve in - martini glass, Mason jar, shot glass, plate whatever . . . and refrigerate for 3-4 hours until set.

Whisk the hazelnut butter into the cream and sweeten your deal with some brown sugar, I encourage everyone to taste your mixture adjusting the hazelnut, sugar, cream components to your liking. You are looking to whip the hazelnut cream just until you can drag the whisk up and see the trail of lightly whipped cream left behind in the bowl. 

Make some simple syrup. The easiest way is to combine 1 part sugar and 1 part water by weight. At this point you may steep more hay into this mixture. Slice a couple of thin pieces of 'Hay Honey, Bacon!' Heat the simple syrup and essentially blanch the bacon in the simple syrup for about 3 minutes at the simmer. Strain off the bacon and then bake it at 350 degrees; weighted down by another pan until crispy. 

In the same oven, bake some brown sugar on a non stick or silt mat pan 350 degrees for 8 minutes. 

To assemble remove your set apple gel from the refrigerator quenelle or dolep your hazelnut cream on top. Then crack the set (semi-cooled) brown sugar and the baked bacon chip into pieces and garnish.