Bacon-Maple-Bourbon-Pecan Pie

Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas dinners deserve a grown-up dessert. That’s why we knew we had to try this recipe when we found it in the monthly newsletter that our realtors send to us. Of course, it wasn’t as fantastic as it could be so we modified it for some extra wow factor. The original recipe is for a Bacon-Maple-Walnut pie.  The first thing we did was added the bourbon. We got this idea after watching a cooking show where bourbon was included in a couple different ways into desserts. The pie was great but we couldn’t help comparing it to a pecan pie, so we knew that was the next upgrade for this recipe. We are in Texas after all, so the pecan is always our nut of choice when it’s an option.

Since I mentioned them above and they’re the inspiration for this recipe, here’s the shout out to our realtors, Doug Jacobs & Jeff Mikeska, who sold us our house 18 years ago and still send us their newsletters and calendars. The newsletter they sent back in 2016 had this recipe in the holiday section. Of course, it caught our attention and we had to try it. I’ll also add that they’re great guys that we highly recommend them if you need a realtor in Austin.

Bacon-Maple-Bourbon-Pecan Pie

Here’s a picture of our first bacon maple bourbon pecan pie. We used crushed pecans in this version. I prefer pecan halves because it gives the pecan pie some texture so we switched to them in later versions.

Ingredients

Ingredients for the Pie Crust

  • 4 ounces of thin cut bacon strips
  • 5 tablespoons of vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons of very cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar

Ingredients for the Filling

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup of dark maple syrup (grade B or 2)
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup of packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons of bourbon (go for the good stuff here!)
  • 2 cups of pecans – crushed or halves

Instructions

Instructions for the Crust

NOTE: we usually don’t get as much bacon fat from the bacon used for this recipe as the original recipe calls for. Therefore, we usually use some bacon fat that we have left over from earlier. In case you’re wondering, yes, we have a little container like my Granny used to have where we collect bacon fat anytime we cook bacon. If you don’t have as much as the recipe calls for and you don’t have your own backup reserve, go ahead and substitute with additional shortening.

  1. Fry your bacon in a skillet on medium heat until the bacon is crisp (about 3 to 5 minutes). Transfer the fried bacon to a paper towel.
  2. Save 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan (you’ll put this into the filling), then measure the rest of the left over bacon fat and put it into a heat-safe measuring cup. Let the bacon fat cool for 10 minutes. Then add enough shortening so that you get a total volume of 6 tablespoons (this is also 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons).
  3. Pour flour into a bowl and add the bacon fat from the measuring cup, cutting it in with a fork until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
  4. Mix the 2 tablespoons of cold water and the vinegar and then add it to the flour mixture until it forms a soft, non-sticky dough. Form the dough into a ball, dust with flour and roll into an 11 inch circle. Place the dough in a pie plate.

If you want an easy method to roll out your pie dough, check out this method using a recycled plastic bag: How to roll out pie dough using a plastic bag or wax paper

Instructions for the Filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Beat the eggs, maple syrup, sugars and vanilla extra into a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed. Mix in the reserved 2 tablespoons of bacon fat.
  2. Crumble the bacon into small pieces and put the crumbled bacon into the bowl. Stir in the pecans until incorporated and pour into the pie crust.

Bake pie at 350 degrees for 55 minutes, until puffy and brown. There should only be a slight jiggle in the center of the pie when it’s finished cooking. Let pie cool before slicing.

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How to roll out pie dough using a plastic bag or wax paper

Here’s a tip for a practical and easy way to roll out you pie dough. We’ve seen this used on cooking shows where they use two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap. It was a great idea but it seemed like a waste of wax paper or plastic wrap so we thought, why can’t you just re-use a plastic grocery bag? It turns out, you can and it’s a perfect way to re-use these bags.

Now, you want to make sure the bag is clean. For this reason, we don’t use the plastic bags they give you at the check-out counter. You can use these bags but make sure it’s really clean. Instead, we use the clear bags that you bring home your produce in. You know, the kind in the produce section that you use to hold your vegetables while you shop.

  • First, clean the bag and let it dry completely.
  • Lay the bag out flat and then cut down the two long sides of the bag and the bottom side. You’ll have two plastic sheets of the same size.
  • Place the pie dough in the center of one of the sheets.
  • Place the other sheet over of the dough ball.
  • Use your hands to start flattening the dough ball and then roll out the dough.
  • Place your pie pan over the dough to confirm the dough has been rolled out enough to fill your pan.
  • Check to see if your dough is sticking to the plastic sheets. If it’s sticking, place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to make it stiffer and less sticky.
  • Remove the top layer of plastic.
  • Turn the dough over and place into the pie pan.
  • Gently, pull back the last layer of plastic and you’re ready to fill your pie.

Roasted Autumn Vegetables

We roast vegetables all year-round; however, I’ll be honest that I always look forward to fall when the squashes come into season. This is our first time for this year to use an autumn/winter squash and we’re using a Delicata squash this time. These squash are creamy and the skin is so soft that you don’t have to peel the skin off before you bake them.

Roasted autumn vegetables

Roasted autumn vegetables

Ingredients

  • 1 Delicata squash – seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 to 3 carrots – peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices on a bias
  • 2 Russet potatoes – you could also use red or gold. Cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 Fennel root – cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 Sweet Onion – cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 pinch to a teaspoon of red pepper flakes for a light kick!

Instructions

Heat your oven 400 degrees F.

Cut all the vegetables into one inch pieces. The delicata can be cut in half lengthwise, then in half crosswise. Scoop out the seeds, then cut slices about 1/2 inch. Then, cut these slices into about 1 inch pieces. The main thing is to keep the size of all the vegetables approximately the same so they cook consistently.

A trick to the potatoes is to rinse them in cool water to help them brown easier in the oven.

Mix all the vegetables into a large bowl then add the olive oil, salt, black pepper and pepper flake. Mix well.

Put the vegetable mixture into a large oven roasting pan. If you want to cut down on the amount of ingredients, you can probably fit them all onto a baking sheet. We line the bottom of our roasting pan with foil to make it easier to cleanup when we’re done.

Bake the vegetables for 30 to 35 minutes until all the vegetables are tender but not mushy.

I’ll note that we intentionally under salted so that the vegetables don’t sweat too much. You can sprinkle a little extra salt over the cooked vegetables if you want or add it to your taste at the table.

This should make enough for 4 large servings or 6 side dish servings.

Variations: Depending on what fresh herbs you have on hand and what you’ll be serving this with, you can add some herbs to this. We like to add parsley, sage, rosemary, and/or thyme. Yes, I couldn’t resist the music reference but it’s true. They all work really well with these vegetables.

Smoked Jalapeño Sauce

This sauce came about because we wanted to find a way to use some fajita ingredients with pasta. A really good friend gave us a huge basket of jalapeño peppers from her garden and we used these in the smoker. We’ve been making a Doña sauce for years and this is a variation of the Smoked Doña Sauce. The primary difference is the sauce we made tonight wasn’t intended to be used like a salsa, it’s more a base for something else. It’s definitely much spicier and intense than the doña sauces.

Smoked Jalapeno Sauce being mixed in the blender.

Smoked Jalapeno Sauce being mixed in the blender.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of fresh red ripened jalapeños,
  • 6 cloves of garlic,
  • 1/4 cup evoo.
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Smoke the jalapeño peppers (See smoking instructions here)
  2. Blanch the peppers and garlic in 2 cups of water for 20 mins
  3. Put everything in a blender and process until smooth, adding a teaspoon of kosher salt.

Makes a spectacular dipping sauce and base for a pasta dish! We mixed it tomato sauce then added it to pasta, fajita beef and grilled vegetables – it’s definitely worth a try!

Here are some pictures of the process:

Jalapenos being put into the smoker.

Jalapenos being put into the smoker.

Jalapenos after they have been smoked.

Jalapenos after they have been smoked.

 

Fajita pasta with smoked jalapeno sauce.

Fajita pasta with smoked jalapeno sauce.

Smoked Jalapeno Sauce being mixed in the blender.

Smoked Jalapeno Sauce being mixed in the blender.

Homemade Pasta with Goose Eggs

Here is our story about our experience comparing semolina flour versus all-purpose flour when making homemade pasta using goose eggs.

It all started a couple weeks ago when we went to dinner with some friends and one of them had just bought some goose eggs from a local farmer. We all decided it would be fun to have a dinner party and everyone pitch in to make pasta. We had this dinner last Sunday and it was a fun evening of wine, pasta, and good company.

Last Sunday, Steve used a recipe he found online that used a combination of goose eggs and chicken eggs. His recipe also called for a mixture of semolina flour and all-purpose flour. I can’t find the recipe he used but it had all the elements of a standard pasta recipe: eggs, flour, salt, olive oil and water. When the dinner was over, Steve sent us home with some goose eggs so we could try them out ourselves.

Since we had never used semolina before, we picked some up at the grocery store so we could try using it in our own pasta. Yesterday we decided to make two batches of pasta to compare using the different flours in our pasta. The first batch is using a goose egg with semolina flour and the second batch is using one goose egg with all-purpose flour. We really are just doing this so we can do a side-by-side comparison of the two flours.

Something to know about goose eggs is that they are very large and have large, bright yellow yokes. The ones we got seem to be about the size or 2 or 3 chicken eggs. We had to compensate a little with the flour quantity to get the right texture for the dough but we’ve made enough dough to be able to do so without much trouble.

Pasta from Semolina Flour and Goose egg:

For the first batch of pasta, we used Bob’s Red Mill Semolina Pasta Flour that we bought at our local grocery store. If you can’t find it in your store, you can buy some online. Since we hadn’t made any pasta like this before, we used the recipe on the package.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup of semolina flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs (we substituted 1 goose egg)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Pasta from All-Purpose Flour and Goose Egg:

For this batch, we used regular all-purpose flour but we didn’t have a recipe to use for comparison. I went with a recipe from one of my favorite TV Chefs,  Lidia Bastianich. The proportions are slightly different, but basically the same recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 large eggs (we substituted one goose egg)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of cold water

Instructions for both pasta recipes

Since we wanted to compare the two flours, we used the same mixing process.

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. In a second bowl, add the egg and beat it to mix it up then add the water and olive oil. Next, add the egg, water, and olive oil mixture to the semolina flour and salt. Mix in the bowl until you have a stiff dough. Then move it onto a floured counter top and knead the dough for 10 minutes. Then, put the dough into a zip-lock bag and allow it to rest for at least 20 minutes.

After resting the past, we used our pasta roller to get down to the 2nd thinnest setting and then used the linguine cutter on the pasta roller to cut the pasta in a consistent manner.

Summary of our comparison:

We really wanted to taste a difference in the two pastas, however, we really didn’t taste a difference. There was a slight textural difference but I don’t think it was enough that I would have noticed it.

  • When we were mixing the pasta and kneading it, the semolina mixture was grittier and stickier so I was a little concerned. The all-purpose flour mixture was very silky and smooth and seemed like it was exactly what you wanted.
  • However, after resting, the texture was reversed and the semolina was not near as sticky and it went through the pasta roller without any trouble. The all-purpose flour had become stickier and we to add some flour to keep it from sticking to the pasta roller as it went through.
  • Cooking the pasta seemed to be identical in time needed to cook them. We cooked it in small batches for about 3 minutes per batch.
  • The taste of the final pasta really was indistinguishable. I couldn’t tell a difference when it came to taste.
  • The final texture is where we saw the biggest difference. Even though we rolled both pasta mixtures the same way and to the same setting, however, the semolina flour seemed thicker, even though it should have been exactly the same thickness. Once cooked, it held onto the seemingly thicker status and seemed more substantial and toothsome. The semolina pasta also seemed more structurally stable. However, I don’t think it was enough to have noticed if you weren’t intentionally doing a side-by-side comparison.
  • I would like to try this comparison again using regular store bought chicken eggs just to see if it was goose eggs that made the difference.

Here is Ryder checking out the pasta as it was resting.

Ryder checking out our rolled pasta

Ryder checking out our rolled pasta

Just for fun, here are some pictures from our first experiment using the goose eggs last weekend. This first picture is one goose egg in a bowl. You can see the two chicken eggs in the background for a comparison of the size.

Goose egg in a bowl

Goose egg in a bowl

Here is a picture of the bowl with 2 goose eggs (on the left side) and 2 chicken eggs (on the right side).

Mixing bowl with 2 goose eggs and 2 chicken eggs

Mixing bowl with 2 goose eggs and 2 chicken eggs

Here is one of us using the chitarra to cut the past.

Here we are using the chitarra to cut the pasta.

Here we are using the chitarra to cut the pasta.

This is Curt breaking open the first goose egg. You can tell by his voice that he was surprised at the size of this egg.

Finally, here is a clip of Steve using the chitarra for the first time.

Piselli e Guanciale – Peas and Bacon

Piselli e guanciale, otherwise known as peas and bacon.

Piselli e guanciale, otherwise known as peas and bacon.

This is another gem of a recipe that comes from my favorite cookbook, Breaking Bread in L’Aquila. We modified this one to substitute bacon and changed the cooking order so that the bacon and tomatoes stay firm.

One of the best parts of this recipe is that it is so simple. We can’t find fresh peas here in Austin, TX, so we always go with the frozen peas. As for the protein, we go with bacon. I mean, who doesn’t like bacon. I know guanciale isn’t the same as bacon but it’s the closest you can find here in Austin. We also found that adding the bacon at the end gives a crispier bacon which gives a nice texture since the rest of the dish is so soft.

We made this batch for a Sunday dinner with friends where we made pasta and mixed the piselli e guanciale with the pasta.

This should serve 6 – 8 people.

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces of bacon (or guanciale), chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 pound of peas, frozen or fresh
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste

Instructions

Start by cooking the chopped bacon in a frying pan. Once it is fully cooked, remove the bacon but leave the oil in the pan. Add your chopped onion to the frying pan with the bacon grease. If you need extra liquid, add the olive oil. You only need the olive oil if you don’t have enough bacon grease to use for your sauted onions. Heat the frying pan with the bacon grease and olive oil over medium-high heat. Once it’s heated, add the onion and saute until the onion starts to turn translucent. This should take about 5 minutes.

Stir the peas into the sauted onions. Continue cooking for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the peas are warmed and still plump. Now, add the cooked chopped bacon and the tomatoes and mix together. Taste the dish and then season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve warm as a side dish. Alternatively, you can use this mixture as a topping for pasta as a main course.

 

Easy Pizza Sauce

OK, I know its easy to pick up a jar of pizza sauce at the grocery but what do you do if you find yourself ready to make a pizza but don’t have any pre-made pizza sauce? Um, you make it yourself and after the first time you make, you might never buy pizza sauce again. We’ve been making our own pizzas for a few years now have settled on a couple techniques. One is to use the pizza dough from Trader Joe’s because it’s so convenient and it taste good. The other method is to use Trader Joe’s Lavash Bread. We’ve used a lot of different sauces for the pizza but we’d never set out to make a traditional pizza sauce because we always have a jar or can of a store bought sauce. One day we realized we didn’t have any pizza sauce so we looked online for directions. There are a lot of them but we didn’t want to spend hours simmering a sauce and we didn’t want to use a lot of ingredients. When we found a selection with simple ingredients and simple cooking methods, we took the flavor profile we were looking for and came up with this easy pizza sauce recipe. We’ve used it a number of times now and it always turns out great.

Some comments on the ingredients – this is supposed to be easy and from items already in your pantry.  If you don’t have the separate containers of oregano, basil and rosemary, you can substitute with 1 1/2 tablespoons of Italian Seasoning mix. If you don’t have garlic cloves you can substitute with other forms of garlic. Check out this conversion for using garlic powder, garlic salt, etc.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions

Combine all ingredients into a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture boils.

Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes, or until it has the thick consistency of pizza sauce.

Allow sauce to cool and spread on pizza dough and add the toppings of your choice.