Michael Symon's Bucatini with Bacon, Tomatoes and Jalapeno

I know I use “OMG” way too much.  But it fits perfectly in this instance.  OH MY GOD this is good!  It sounded good.  How can you go wrong with pasta, bacon, garlic, jalapenos and tomatoes?  But OH MY GOD I can’t believe how incredibly flavorful, and amazingly easy this dish is!
I received a copy of Michael Symon’s Carnivore for Christmas.  Christmas Day I made his Double-Trouble Meatloaf and on the 26th I made Bucatini with Bacon, Tomatoes and Jalapeno.  I couldn't find this recipe posted on the web so you'll have to find yourself a copy of Carnivore or see if you can convince Mr. Symon to publish it on the web.

I’m lucky; I knew right where to go for bucatini noodles.  Bucatini is a fat spaghetti noodle with a hole down the center of it.  They sell it at my favorite olive oil store, The Olive Grove in Mendota Heights so I stopped there on my way home from work to pick some up.  I also picked up some orecchiette so I can try Michael Symon’s Orecchiette with Chorizo and Swiss Chard!
This is so simple to put together.  Start the noodles boiling because by the time they are done, the sauce will be!

The deliciousness is started by browning cubed bacon.  I used Nueske's Wild Cherrywood Smoked Uncured Bacon.  This got my husband into the kitchen!  Once the bacon is browned the recipe instructs you “don’t drain off the bacon fat”.  Yes, this was going to be good.

To the browned bacon (and all that bacon fat) you add thinly sliced garlic and a diced jalapeno, seeds and skins included and cooked for a couple of minutes.  The heat is then lowered and diced San Marzano tomatoes are added.
To this the drained noodles along with about a quarter of a cup of the pasta water are added and it’s cooked just a bit more.  Off the heat parsley, butter and Parmesan cheese are added.  The aroma in the kitchen was divine!  Not only did it smell wonderful but it’s a pretty dish as well!
Finally (ok this whole thing took about 15 minutes to put together!) it was time to taste.  I took the first bite and, yes, OH MY GOD the flavors dancing around in my mouth!  I looked at my husband and said “this is quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever eaten and it came out of my kitchen!”
The smokiness of the bacon with a hint of heat from the jalapeno, sweet tomatoes and the great chew of the bucatini was heaven on a plate!  I slurped down every last bacon fat coated noodle and it was just as good warmed up for lunch the next day.

Michael Symon's Double-Trouble Meatloaf

I love Michael Symon!  Don't believe me?  Click HEREMy mother also likes Michael Symon.  She watches him every day on the Chew.  So for Christmas she got me a copy of his latest cookbook, Carnivore!

I opened it on Christmas day.  No stores are open so I had to make something for which I had all the ingredients in the house.  It was cold, really cold, temps in the single digits with sub-zero wind chills.  What goes well with that weather?  Meatloaf!  And as luck would have it I had nearly all the ingredients in the house.  What was I missing?  Parsley.  I figured the meatloaf would survive without parsley.

It seems Mr. Symon and I share a love for the movie A Christmas Story. He quotes Randy Parker in this recipe just like I did when I made Ina Garten's meatloaf a little over a year ago!

There are a couple of points on which Michael Symon and I disagree however.  He doesn’t like grass fed beef.  He says it tastes “iron-y”.  I disagree.  I have been eating grass fed Highland beef from Butternut Woods Farm LLC for about a year now and I love it.  Every time I bite into a burger I am amazed at how good the beef tastes.  You get so used to the hamburger tasting like the toppings and not much else.  This Highland beef is delicious!
The other disagreement is on the selection of sides for the meatloaf.  This disagreement is more with my husband than me.  Michael Symon is not a fan of mashed potatoes as a side for beef.  When writing about sides for steaks he calls mashed potatoes “baby-food-like mashed spuds” and the gravy “heavy, fatty sauce” that “conceals the whole affair.”  In fact he says that serving mashed potatoes with a steak “Wrong, wrong, wrong!   My husband heartily disagrees.  When I read that quote to him his response was “but it’s yummy!”

Michael Symon’s argument is that it is mush on mush texturally.  Ok, I’ll give him that you have to add something with a little texture to the plate.  But I think if I served meatloaf with a salad and nothing else, well, there would be sadness in my house!

I also disagree that mashed potatoes are “baby-food-like.”  Is there anything better than creamy mashed potatoes with a good bit of salt, plenty of butter, some caramelized onions and blue cheese?  I think not!  Baby food?  Hardly. And Mr. Symon himself says to serve the meatloaf with “your favorite mashed potatoes or potato salad!"  Here’s a LINK to the recipe from the Chew website.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, on to the meatloaf!

It is really quite easy to put together, once you have your bacon ground!  I was so excited to get out my meat grinder and attach it to my Kitchenaid!  Kind of like my husband when he gets the power washer out!

The meat grinder made quick work of grinding up the bacon.

To start the meatloaf you sweat some onions in butter.  Who doesn’t love that smell?  Once the onions are soft garlic is added then chipotle powder and smoked paprika.  I love toasting spices and with the onions and garlic I almost wanted to just eat this with a spoon!

The recipe calls for “day old” bread.   I didn’t have any of that in the house so I had to “make” some.  I sliced up some bread, cut the crusts off and put it in a warm oven for a few minutes to dry it out.  Then I chopped this up and let it soak in milk while I worked on the rest of the prep!

The rest of the ingredients include a pound and a half of ground chuck, the ground bacon, two eggs, salt and pepper.
Any excess milk was squeezed out of the bread then all of the ingredients are mixed together.

The recipe calls for a loaf pan but I don’t like making meatloaf in a loaf pan.  I find the steaming of the bottom of the loaf in the "juices" from the meat extremely unappealing.  And there’s always that gross fatty stuff that lines the edges of the pan.   So I make my meatloaf on a broiler pan.

It took about an hour for this beauty to bake.  Is that gorgeous or what?  The outside was beautifully crusty and when I cut into it, it was moister than any meatloaf I’ve made before!  Dave and I both liked the meaty, smoky flavor from the bacon, chipotle and paprika.

And yes, I served it with mashed potatoes, gravy and roasted vegetables.

Kenwood Vineyards Spicy Korean Grilled Pork

UPDATE:  I received the ok from Kenwood to share the recipe.  I've added it to the bottom of this post!

Our Kenwood wine club shipment arrived this week.  Not only do they send us a couple bottles of really good wine they send really good recipes.  Years ago they sent one for a bolognese sauce that calls for an entire bottle of Merlot!  That sauce is now a staple in our home. It's the only meat sauce we eat.

With this shipment came a recipe for Spicy Korean Grilled pork that sounded like something Dave and I would enjoy.  We like spicy.  We like pork.  It seemed a good fit.

The basics are pork shoulder is cut thin, pounded thinner then marinated and grilled.  The marinade for the pork includes something called "Chinese Fermented Black Beans."  The only fermented Asian thing I'd ever heard of was kimchi and quite honestly that sounds gross to me.  But I always make a recipe to the recipe the first time I make it so I went out in search of Chinese Fermented Black Beans.  

Of course I consulted Google first so that I would have an idea for what I was looking once I hit the store.  Apparently these can be found canned, in jars, dried in bags and in pastes.  I figured I could find some incarnation of them!  My local upscale grocery store didn't have them so I tried the local Asian grocery store.  They had a chili paste made with them but the recipe calls for chili paste so I didn't want that.  While I was trying to decide if I should just use that, the very friendly clerk found me some "plain old" fermented black beans in a jar.  We were set!

In addition to the fermented beans, the marinade includes a full head of garlic, two tablespoons of fresh ginger, Korean Chili Paste (I couldn't find that but I could find Thai Chili Paste so I used that), rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar and sesame oil.  I had to guess on the amount of sesame oil because the recipe didn't state how much to add, oops!

The directions said to soak the beans in water for 15 minutes.  I debated this step.  I guessed that was for the dried variety of beans to rehydrate them.  Mine were pretty hydrated (actually in some sort of oil) so I thought I didn't need this step.  Then I tasted them.  They were very salty.  I soaked them in hopes of removing some of that salty flavor.

All of the marinade ingredients are thrown in a food processor until they are smooth.  I love the smell of Asian ingredients, the ginger, sesame and garlic!

I trimmed up the pork shoulder and sliced it into quarter inch thick slices.  Then placed it between pieces of plastic wrap and used my antique meat tenderizer to pound it to an eighth of an inch thick.  

I placed on layer of the meat in a glass baking dish and covered it with the marinade, then added another layer of pork, more marinade and repeated until I was out of both.  This went into the refrigerator.  I marinated it about six hours but it can remain in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

What to serve on the side?  Slaw!  While at the grocery store I looked at the bagged "cole slaw mix" in the produce department.  It just looked sad!  So I bought a couple heads of cabbage and some carrots and made my own.  Isn't that pretty?  I added a little sriracha sauce to the dressing to give it a little kick!

I put the pork on a very hot grill that I had rubbed with oil.  The recipe said to brush the meat with oil but I thought it would be easier to brush the grill so that's what I did!

The meat cooked quickly and I'll be honest, I was worried it would be tough.  Turns out no worry was necessary.

I served the pork over brown rice with the slaw, and of course the recommended Kenwood Zinfandel that came with our shipment.  Kenwood Zin was the wine that got Dave and I hooked on red wine.  We "didn't like" red wine until we had this.  We were at a dinner where it was served and we didn't want to upset anyone by not at least tasting it.  We both took a taste and looked at each other in amazement.  We liked red wine!

The pork was delicious.  It was fork tender and had great Asian flavor.  You can taste the ginger and there's just enough heat from the chili sauce.  And of course the nuttiness from the sesame oil.  There was even a smoky flavor that I find hard to believe came from our gas grill.  Maybe it was the beans?  This recipe goes in the keeper pile!


1 cup Chinese fermented black beans (I found them in my local Asian grocery store)
1 head garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Korean Chili Paste (I could only find Thai, I used that)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sesame oil
3 pounds trimmed boneless pork shoulder roast, cut crosswise into twelve 1/4 inch thick slices
Vegetable oil for brushing

Place fermented black beans in a bowl and cover with water.  Let stand for 15 minutes, drain and coarsely chop the beans.

In a food processor, combine the black beans, garlic and ginger.  Pulse until finely chopped.  Add the chili paste, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar.  Blend well.

Using a meat mallet, pound the pork slices to 1/8 inch thickness.  In a large shallow dish lay one fourth of the pork slices and cover with one fourth of the black bean marinade.  Repeat with the remaining pork, you should have three layers.  Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan.  Remove pork from the marinade leaving just a thin coating on the meat.  Brush the pork with oil and grill over medium heat until nicely charred and cooked through, about 6 minutes.

Serves 6.

Enjoy with a glass of Kenwood Vineyards 2010 Jack London Zinfandel!

Obviously I need more toys!

During our recent trip to the California wine country, our best trip yet, we were fortunate enough to dine on an amazing dinner created by Chef Peter Janiak at Seghesio winery.  One of the tidbits on the plate was Short Rib-Stuffed Yukon Gold Potatoes with horseradish and beet relish.  These were delicious little bites of perfectly braised beef and roasted potato.
These are the beautiful bites Chef Janiak made.
I thought these would wow my friends as an appetizer during our next dinner party so I had to try to make them.  They look easy don't they?  Just cut some circles out of some potatoes, roast them fill them with beef, top them with horseradish, poof you have an appetizer!

The beef, no problem, I've done that before.  It was the potatoes!  I did ask Chef Janiak if I should roast the potatoes first or cut them raw.  He told me to cut them raw because they tend to crumble if you cut them after they are cooked.  I should have asked more questions!

These are all of the round cutters I have.  OK, not ALL of them but the others I have are this big or bigger so this is what I had to work with.  Hence the need for new toys I need... smaller circle cutters! 

I sliced the edge off the potato so that there would be a flat surface then I cut out the "bigger" circle.  Not as easy as it might seem and next time I'll trim both sides of the potato so the potato is the thickness I want.

Once I had that cut I cut the center out with a smaller cutter.

Why are they oval?!  The cutters were round?  It's like the potatoes relaxed after I cut them and decided they wanted to be oval.

This does leave a bit of left-over potato so I just cut the excess up and roasted them with some carrots, butternut squash and radishes.  I brushed the potato rings with oil and roasted them along with the veggies.  Pretty right?

I filled them with the braised beef and topped them with a little horseradish.  This was after work so I didn't have time to make a nice horsey sauce but I will next time!

They tasted fine but they looked like Fred Flinstone versions of those petite bites we'd had at the winery.  I definitely need practice and smaller "potato cutters"!

My version of Orecchiette with Oven-Roasted Cauliflower

If you've been reading this blog then you know we just returned home from possibly the best trip to the California wine country ever.  One of the best stops on this memorable trip was at Seghesio winery for their Family Table food and wine pairing.

We were lucky enough to be the only people signed up for the Family Table that evening.  Did they cancel on us?  No, Chef Peter Janiak created amazing food for little old Dave and I!

Chef Janiak made me pork belly and I ate it.  And I liked it!  You can check that out HERE.

This blog is dedicated to a recipe Chef Janiak posted on Facebook that I tried tonight.  He posted that this was something he made when he was "short on time."  I'm always short on time!  Tonight was no exception.  I got home a little late from work, walked the dogs, showered, ran out to do a "quick" errand that I knew I wouldn't have time for tomorrow then started dinner.

The ingredients:
2 cups of milk (heated but not scalded)
3 Tablespoons of Butter
2 Tablespoons of AP Flour
¼ teaspoon of Nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1 cup of grated Gruyere
½ cup of grated Parmesan Reggiano
8 ounces of Orechiette
4 cups of Cauliflower florets cut to the size of the pasta
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon of chopped fresh Oregano
1.5 teaspoons of Aleppo chili flake and a couple pinches for garnish

How can you possibly go wrong with those ingredients?  I had some butternut squash in the house so I added that!

I love, love, love Gruyere cheese.  This one is my favorite!

The sauce starts with browned butter.  There are few things that smell better, or taste better for that matter, than browned butter!  I love the nutty flavor, especially when it's poured over my homemade squash ravioli with some crisped sage.  But that's another blog...

You brown the butter then add flour to make a roux.  Different from a normal roux, Chef Janiak browns both the butter and the flour.  Isn't this beautiful?

Once this is good and golden brown you add a little nutmeg and bay leaf.  I wasn't expecting an explosion in the pan at this point.  I'm not sure if it was the leaf or the nutmeg but watch for some sizzle!

Warmed milk is added to the rough to make the base for the sauce.  Chef Janiak's direction said to cook this until the "raw flour" flavor went away.  So I tasted it right away and yes, there was a bit of a raw flour flavor.  After about 15 minutes that went away!  Amazing!

The cheese is then added.

Chef Janiak says to toss the cauliflower with olive oil, oregano and aleppo pepper flakes then broil it until slightly golden brown.  Well, I modified this a bit.  I added the squash and I didn't have aleppo pepper (well I know I do but I couldn't find it) so I used chipotle.  Instead of broiling the veggies I roasted them.  Are these beautiful or what?

I didn't have any Orecchiette but I did have this fabulous pasta so I used that.

I did have to add a little pasta water to my sauce and if someone hadn't forgotten to bring bread home so he had to go back out and buy it just when dinner was ready, the sauce would have been perfect!  I tasted it, it was perfect!   By the time I plated and pictured it had thickened up again but it was still delicious!

It was supposed to be served in "pasta bowls."  I don't own pasta bowls.  I have soup bowls so that's what we used.  Do you think this tastes different depending on the bowl from which you eat it, kind of like how wine tastes different based on the glass from which you drink it?

Bottom line I loved it.  The sauce was divine with nuttiness from the roux and the Parmesan reggiano, a little sweet from the squash, smoky with just a hint of heat from the chipotle, oh my thank god there's some left for lunch tomorrow!

Follow Chef Peter Janiak on Facebook so you too can get some of these amazing recipes!


We're home now.  Vacation is over.  It's 20 degrees outside, not 70.  Sigh.

We left the wine country kicking and screaming.  Rather than head right to San Francisco from the hotel we decided we had to get a couple bottles of cuvee, one from Kunde and one from Valley of the Moon.  The Valley of the Moon Cuvee de la Luna had been our favorite.  Then, while at Kunde earlier in the week we tasted their Dunfillin Cuvee and thought we might just like it better!  It was late when we left Kunde so the plan was go to back and get a bottle.  The Cuvee de la Luna used to be around $18 on sale.  Since Valley of the Moon was sold by Korbel, the price has skyrocketed to $45!  The Kunde Dunfillin Cuvee is $35.  We're going to have a Cuvee showdown!  I've even started planning the menu!

We stopped to peer in the windows of Jo's bar from Bottle Shock while we waited for the wineries to open. 

Then we were on our way to San Francisco!  In typical San Francisco fashion, there was fog.  It was pretty cool heading over the bridge.

The hotel, a Radisson, was very nice.  We were on the top floor, we got a robe and slippers and chocolate!  And if we really wanted to we could have shined our shoes!  And the best part, we got the room with points so it was free!

We had tickets to the night time Alcatraz tour but other than that the day was ours. On the way I did some research on parking and made the executive decision that we would return the rental car on the way down, shuttle to the airport and take a cab to the pier. I didn't read anything good about the parking situation near the piers. Turns out it was the right decision. The cab raced us through traffic!

Pier 39 is a total tourist trap but we decided to embrace it!  We had about an hour before we had to pick up our tickets for the cruise and about two hours before the cruise itself.

We walked up and down the pier before picking a place for lunch.  There was a Bischoff shop.  If you've flown lately you've probably had these yummy cookies (not on Sun Country though!).  We get them on the 3-Day too!

We stopped to listen to the sea lions for a bit.  That noise gets old!

We decided to eat at the Pier Market.  I had a crab cake sandwich which was pretty much a crab sandwich!  I couldn't finish it.  Dave had a salmon "burger" which was really a nice piece of salmon grilled and placed on a bun.  Both were good!

They had the heaters going full blast and it was totally unnecessary.  It was in the 60's!

We picked up our tickets and wandered a round a bit more then it was time for the cruise!  They had a lot of pictures and displays out on the pier from which the boat left.  This picture reminded me of my mother's family for some reason...

Out on the water it was cold and windy and you could just barely see the Golden Gate Bridge through the heavy fog.  I had straightened my hair that morning.  By the end of the evening it was curly again!

Everyone told us the nighttime tour was spooky, scary, creepy.  I didn't really think so, even with the fog.  It was interesting but I didn't think it was particularly spooky.  I guess the ghosts had better things to do.  Here are a few pictures.

We could jusst see the tips of the Golden Gate over the fog.
Heading to The Rock


The Exercise Yard
The Library

The Excape Route
While we were waiting to board the boat back to SF I saw this little guy! 

We had every intention of walking to Little Italy for dinner.  We were told it was only a mile or so away.  But by the time we got off the cruise we were really not in the mood to walk through the misty streets so we hired this fine gentleman to take us up the hill!  It was great!  I can't imagine what kind of shape he is in.  At a couple of intersections I really wished I hadn't eaten so much the week before!

Little Italy was great. 

Everyone was speaking Italian and there were tons of restaurants.  The Stinking Rose, a garlic restaurant had been recommended.  Both people had warned us it would be a lot of garlic.  So we opted for Panta REI Cafe Restaurant.

Our waiter, Lucas was great.  He flipped fluently back and forth from Englis (no accent) to Italian.  He suggested the burrata bruschetta as an appetizer.  It was delicious!  The artichokes were nicely marinated and very tender and the buratta was very creamy and had great mozzarella flavor.

For dinner we had a trio of pastas, bowties with "pink" sauce, chicken ravioli in white sauce and gnocchi in red sauce. The chicken ravioli was by far my favorite. The gnocchi was good but after having it at Cafe Citi, well, Cafe Citi one that round. I couldn't really figure out the pink sauce so that came in third. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't fabulous.
And, of course, we had wine!

We asked Lucas about how to get a cab during dinner.  He said you just had to wave one down and they would stop.  Well, as we were exiting the restaurant he had already flagged one for us!

We hopped in and went for the ride of our lives!  Talk about crazy Italian taxi driver!  I clenched the door handle the entire ride back to the hotel but we made it back safe and sound and for $10 less than the trip to the wharf cost!

We were up early the next morning for the flight home.  It was very foggy, very foggy!  I knew I wasn't going to want to cook dinner when we got home but I knew we would be hungry having not had anything since breakfast (we don't pay for bad airline food).  They were selling loaves of sourdough bread in the airport so I bought a loaf.  I knew I had bolognese in the freezer and pasta is easy!
The fog delayed us about an hour but we had an uneventful flight home after that.

When we got home Dave went to relieve the dog sitter of the dogs while I unpacked, started laundry and started dinner.  Yippee, all the wine made it!

I have to say that this was the best trip out there yet.  We met amazing people, had fabulous food and even better wine and we relaxed.  We so need to win the lottery so we can move out there!

What did we learn?  Fly in to Sacramento not San Francisco.  The Sacramento airport is just easier and there's far less traffic!  Skip Sun Country and go back to either Delta (not significantly better but they can load a plane in under 45 minutes) or better Frontier (but then you play the "what's the weather in Denver" game).  And finally I love my new ThirtyOne make up bag!

We have a line on cheaper accommodations next year and it was suggested that we go earlier in November so that we can attend the Napa Valley Food and Wine Experience.  We may just have to do that!

And now... back to reality...

Homemade Pita Bread

Jalapenos have come in at Farmer's Market which has me thinking of all recipes jalapeno.  I'll probably can some too, but that will ...

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