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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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.

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.

 

Sunday Pot Roast Stew

Beef Stew in bowl

Pot Roast Beef Stew

Cold, wintry days scream for a hot stew at dinner time. This is the kind of stew that you get anxious as the bowl gets empty because you don’t want it to end. If I didn’t care about portion size or my waist size, I would have kept eating until this was all gone! This stew takes a little more time than we have to spend on week nights so it’s a great stew to make on a Sunday afternoon. Just put it all together and let it simmer until you’re ready to eat. We threw this together after looking for some recipes online. We couldn’t find a recipe that really matched what we wanted so we just picked the pieces we wanted to include in our stew. It really only takes about 1/2 hour to get the ingredients ready and cooked and then another 1 1/2 to 2 hours on a simmer.

I think of this recipe as having three steps. First you brown the meat. Then you get the vegetables cooked. Finally, you add the meat back to the vegetables and let the stew simmer for 2 hours.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of roast cut into cubes (sirloin or chuck roast)
  • 2 tablespoons of bacon fat or oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon of bacon fat
  • 3 carrots, unpeeled, cut into 1/4 inch discs
  • 1 large (or two medium) yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 turnip, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 4 red potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 12oz can of beer (we used Michelob Ultra)
  • 1 tablespoon smoke paprika

Directions

Heat the first 2 tablespoons of bacon fat or oil in a large dutch oven.

Start by cutting your roast into cubes and getting the meat ready to cook. Then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper and 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour. coat the meat thoroughly. Let it sit for a couple of minutes and the flour will be absorbed. Now, add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour and mix into the meat to give it a good coating.

Put the meat into the hot bacon fat or oil and brown for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally until the meat is browned on all sides. For example, while it was browning, we turned the meat every 2 minutes or so. Once browned, remove the meat into a heat-safe bowl. You could also brown this in 2 batches or use a big skillet where all the meat can be on one level. Our dutch oven didn’t allow us to have one layer so we had to mix it more than normal.

Stew beef browning in dutch oven

Stew beef browning in dutch oven.

Add the additional tablespoon of bacon fat to the dutch oven and let it melt. Once melted, add the carrots, onion, diced turnip and diced celery stalks. Cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables cook down for about 10 minutes.

Carrots, onion, celery carrots, onion, diced turnip and diced celery stalks cooking in the dutch oven.

Carrots, onion, celery carrots, onion, diced turnip and diced celery stalks cooking in the dutch oven.

Then, add the potatoes and garlic and gently fold into the other vegetables. Now add the thyme and rosemary and mix well.

All the vegetables and spices added to the dutch oven.

All the vegetables and spices added to the dutch oven.

Then add the meat back into the dutch oven and pour in the beef broth, beer and smoked paprika. Bring the mixture to a boil in the uncovered dutch oven.

The beef has been added to the vegetables and spices.

The beef has been added to the vegetables and spices.

Once you reach a boil, cover the pot and reduce for a simmer. Simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the meat and potatoes are tender.

The pot roast stew simmering in the dutch oven.

The pot roast stew simmering in the dutch oven.

Our Sunday Beef Stew

This is our beef stew after it has simmered for a couple of hours. As you can see, the liquid has thickened up and become a nice, rich, brown gravy.

Smoked Doña Sauce – a Texas twist on a jalapeño sauce

A couple years ago I posted a jalapeño sauce called the Doña Sauce.  It’s a local favorite and can be found in some variation at most of the Mexican food restaurants in Austin. Once we got our smoker last summer we started smoking the ingredients, and wow does this twist make a difference. We ALWAYS have at least one container of this sauce in our refrigerator! The smoke flavor is a great addition to this sauce.

This recipe makes about 1 liter of sauce and takes about 2 and one-half hours to complete. The majority of the time is in the smoker so the active preparation is only about 30 minutes. If you don’t have a smoker, you can grill the peppers or use our original Doña Sauce recipe.

For our wood chips, we use a 50/50 ratio of mesquite and hickory. When we use the smoker, we take advantage of it and add vegetables. For example, today we’re smoking a chicken to take over to my cousin’s for dinner in his backyard. We just added a tray of the peppers and garlic above the chicken to the smoker.

Here’s a tip for variations: you can use any pepper you want or have available. In our original recipe, we only used jalapeño peppers. In this recipe, we substituted some of the jalapeño peppers with 2 poblano peppers. This reduces the heat somewhat and gives it a slightly sweeter flavor. You can also substitute hatch chili peppers, Anaheim peppers or even sweet bell peppers to reduce the heat and make it sweeter. Austin’s HEB grocery store hosts an annual Hatch Chili Pepper Festival in mid-August so we’ll be preparing some hatch pepper sauce as soon as the pepper start showing up in the stores.

Ingredients

  • 10 medium jalapeño peppers
  • 2 medium poblano peppers
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of salt, divided

Directions

Heat your smoker to 250 F and get your wood chips ready. Once your smoker is hot and the chips are putting off smoke, place your whole jalapeño peppers, whole poblano peppers and garlic haed on a tray and put in your smoker. Smoke the peppers and garlic for one and one-half hour. After the 1.5 hours, the pepper skin will have started pulling away from the pepper and they’ll have a duller green color, kind of like an olive green color. This is what you’re looking for. Put them in a container to cool until they are able to be handled, about 15 minutes.

Smoked peppers and garlic.

Smoked peppers and garlic right out of the smoker.

Once the peppers and garlic have cooled, prepare the vegetables. For the jalapeño peppers, cut in half and then pull out the seeds and inner membrane. To make it spicier, leave some of the inner membrane and seeds. We usually leave about half of the seeds and membrane, but we like it hot. For the poblano peppers, cut them in half and remove the seeds. Finally, break the garlic head apart and separate out the garlic cloves. I know it seems like a lot of garlic, but trust me, it’s not too much. When you smoke them, they get a sweet, creamy flavor and lose the bitterness of raw garlic. The skins should come off the garlic cloves very easily. You don’t need to cut up the cloves of garlic.

 

Peppers and Garlic ready to be blanched.

Peppers and garlic after they have been prepared.

Put the peppers and garlic in a large pot like in the picture below.

Peppers and garlic in pot

These are the peppers and garlic before the water is added.

Add enough water to cover the peppers and garlic and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring the water to a boil and then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Peppers and garlic covered in water.

These are the peppers and garlic covered in water.

Now, use tongs to move the peppers and garlic to your blender. Add the 1/2 cup olive oil and the remaining teaspoon of salt to the blender . Add about 1/2 cup of the water that you used for the peppers to boil in. Keep the rest of the water to use to get the consistency you are looking for.

Peppers, garlic & olive oil in blender.

The peppers, garlic and olive oil have been added to the blender.

Use the food processor mode to blend the ingredients into a creamy smooth sauce. At this point, taste the sauce and check for flavor and consistency. we usually add the rest of the salt and another 1/2 cup of water. Depending on your peppers and how thin you want your sauce, you can adjust the flavor with additional salt and water to your preference. Use the blender to mix the additional salt and water until smooth and creamy.

Here is the final stage of the Smoked Doña Sauce. If you look close, we are almost exactly at 1 liter of sauce. Put the sauce in a non-reactive container (we use glass) and store it in the refrigerator. You can use this as a sauce for chips or add it to anything you want.

Blended Doña Sauce

This is the blended Doña Sauce.

Chipotle Paste

This is a paste that we use year-round. We found this in a recipe for grilled salmon and now we use it in many other dishes. My favorite is to use it in a summer pasta salad.

Ingredients

  • 1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (7.5 oz can)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano

Directions

This is really simple, just put all the ingredients into a food processor and mix it until it is a creamy paste.

I’ll be using this paste in future recipes so I thought I’d go ahead and post it on its own so I can refer back to.

 

Grilled Salmon with Basil & Mint Pesto

We have a mint plant that is very generous with its leaves. Meaning, we can’t use it fast enough. We also have a basil plant we got from Trader Joe’s which needed to be cut back a bit. So, I started looking for new ideas of uses for them. It just so happened that we also bought a large salmon steak earlier in the week. After searching the internet for inspiration, I settled on this simple recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 piece of salmon (or steelhead trout)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon juiced
  • 1/2 lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Make your pesto by chopping your mint and basil leaves and put into a food processor. Add the chopped garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Mix all ingredients together until you have a pesto consistency.

Salmon coated with basil and mint pesto

Salmon coated with basil and mint pesto

Coat your salmon with the pesto and let sit for at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator.

Heat your grill to high heat.

Place the salmon on a cedar plank or a grill plate. We don’t have any cedar planks so we just lightly sprayed non-stick oil on a grill plate and put the salmon on the plate in the center of the grill. Cook the salmon for 20 minutes over medium-high heat.

After a few minutes, our grill started to flare up, which is common for our grill. To resolve this, I turned off the heat directly under the salmon and then turned on the outer burners to high. Our grill cooks very hot so this was more than enough heat for our salmon.

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We  didn’t use all the pesto on the salmon and had some leftover. We used it to coat some zucchini noodles as a side dish. We also served it with some lentils. It was a great, easy dinner.