Smoked Bacon

Smoked bacon is going to do you no favors in the cholesterol counting, but it’s a home run in the horse doovers department. There is just about nobody that is not going to say YES!! to super crispy lardons the size of a golf ball. Even I,  occasionally-known-to-be-a-vegetarian-except-when-it-comes-to-bacon, love a good lardon.
The trick is excellence. I have no clue for the rest of the world, but here in NYC, if you are within walking or subway distance (the G train) to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, then your job is done. Nassau Meat Market is on Manhattan Avenue, just south of Kent street. Get ready to wait in line and order a slab, as big as you need it of smoked bacon. Have them cut it into slices about an inch and a half thick. When you get home, slice off the thick skin along one edge, and be sure to cut out the two or three little round bits of bone. Cube the slices, heat a heavy frying pan, glaze it with a little olive oil, and crisp the lardons on all sides. Serve hot or warm. I like them with braised shrimp and beurre blanc, and perfectly boiled eggs with a homemade mayonnaise.

Perfectly boiled eggs with homemade mayonnaise (and a bit of cress, a few cornichon:

Bring a pot of water to the boil and add a pinch of salt. With a spoon, lower in large eggs, one at a time, and cook for 8 minutes. Have a bowl of ice water handy to cool them down as soon as they’re done. Drain and peel. Season with a little kosher or sea salt and a grind of black pepper. Absolutely simple and absolutely delicious.

Homemade mayo

Put about a teaspoon of dijon mustard in a bowl. Add one egg yolk and whisk. Add a good squeeze of lemon juice. Drop by drop begin adding vegetable oil, until the mixture binds. Now add olive oil continuing to whisk, and adding the oil in a thin and continuous stream, until you get what looks like mayonnaise. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the shrimp: Buy PEELED AND DEVEINED SHRIMP. Bring a pot of water to the boil with a clove of garlic, a sprig of thyme, a peppercorn, a spill of olive oil and a wide piece of lemon zest with no pith. Let it boil for about 10 minutes. Add the shrimp. As soon as they begin to curl, remove to a bowl of ice (ice water can saturate them.) Remove the ice after about 5 minutes and serve with a bowl of Beurre Blanc. Don’t be afraid to make it. You can’t believe how good it is. Just remember not to boil the vinegar mix away completely (watch the pot) and be sure your butter is completely cold and added a few tablespoons at a time.

Beurre Blanc

4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/2 cup of white wine
2 tablespoons of finely minced shallot

2 tablespoons of heavy cream
2 sticks of chilled butter, cut into small pieces

Simmer the first four ingredients in a heavy stainless steel saucepan with two pinches of salt and a grind of freshly ground black pepper, until it has reduced to about 1 1/2 tablespoons. Add the cream and reduce for about 2 minutes. Begin to whisk in the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, over a low heat. Taste for salt and pepper.

Holiday Help

The first time I had to roast a pork loin on my own for a job, I was in San Martino–a teeny weeny village outside of Lisciano Niccone in Italy. I offered pork loin because I thought it was the thing to do. Umbria is pork country. The people were English and loved pork.  They wanted to taste for themselves a chestnut and corn fed pig that spent its days in the Italian sunshine rolling around in mud with a view. I went down to the butcher, bought the loin, seared it, covered it with tiny plum tomatoes, slivers of garlic, sprigs of rosemary, an onion and a pour of Chianti, shoved it in the oven, and then I got nervous.  I had no idea how long it needed to cook. I couldn’t remember.  I couldn’t remember if I was looking for a little rosy in the middle or if a slightly pink pork would kill anybody with a cold. The guests were on the terrace, eating bruschetta and drinking prosecco.

The village of San Martino is made up of a bar and a phone booth. The bar is no longer open. The owner got tired and decided he would rather use the bar as a living room. The phone booth stood next to the main road. I went in like Superman, and closed the door.   It’s not right to say you’re going to do the job and then leave, but nerves have no interest in the ethics of a situation. I put all the money I had into the phone and called my friend Marjorie in New York. “Marjorie,” I said, “I don’t think I can cook anymore. She told me what to do and then she told me that she loved me. I walked back up the hill and took charge of the pork. I downhill skied past Marjorie’s suggestion of cooking it to 155 degrees, which is exactly right–at 155 I sliced it and fried it–and then covered the whole thing with sauce. It was like shoe leather, and they loved it.

Yesterday, Jonathan walked me all the way to a go see and sat in the waiting room while I tried to look cookish in front of a photographer who was shooting me from my knees.  My Aunt Anette used to do that because she’s 4 foot 3, and in every one of her photographs I am the spitting image of Attila the Hun.  Maybe Attila is the new Rachel.  When we left my husband said, “You look good.  I love you.”

This is the kind of help when it is what it is with no time or possibility for change. It should be called Holiday Hope.

Bubble Time

Ferdinand had his winter concert last night; the whole auditorium was jam packed with family love, all just waiting to hear their wiggly angels sing. I was so excited to go, I wore mascara. It’s important to stand out enough for your kid to find you in the audience, and equally as important to remember not to grab onto the person next to you and call out to tell the world how much you love that boy up there on stage. The music teacher had the perfect solution for such an occasion called “Bubble Time.” You blow your cheeks out like a trumpet player and make a nice round bubble with your arms over your head. It worked really well for the children and it would work well me for me to, if I could just remember to use it.

There were tables and tables of desserts from around the world and Ferdinand saved himself a little napkin covered paper plate of them. He ate some there and some when we got home, and he saved the last bits for breakfast. We love that school.

The perfect holiday treat for kids:

a platter of Paul Newman chocolate number cookies filled with Benny Jerry’s Fossil Fuel Ice Cream. You want to go crazy? Glue red or green M&M’s to the top each one with a little melted chocolate (throw a couple of chocolate chips in the microwave for about 10 seconds.)

Also known as: Number 1 power breakfast for working mothers.

(They are so tiny that you can open the freezer, pop the whole thing in your mouth and close the freezer before anyone even notices and starts asking why do they have to have oatmeal when you are having chocolate cookies stuffed with ice cream?)