Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas Eve Fried Oysters

Another major Shaw Family Christmas tradition are my great grandfather's saltine crusted fried oysters. These delicious little guys are fried up on Christmas Eve and washed down with champagne before the big feast. My father tells me that back in the day it was rare to get fresh oysters in central Ohio, where my great grandfather lived, so it was a real treat for the whole family on Christmas Eve. The meal started with oysters on the half shell, then oyster stew, and finally this fried oyster recipe. My dad mentions that as a kid he hated this meal but once he acquired the taste it lead to a lifetime of enjoying the taste of oysters. The same goes for me. I remember spitting those suckers out in my napkin but now I cannot wait to get my hands on them.

Merry Christmas Eve Fried Oysters

Here is the recipe from the master, my dad:

"I like to buy shucked Chesapeake Bay or Long Island Oysters if I can get them. Sometimes you have to order them in advance from your fishmonger. I lightly dust each oyster in flour, salt, and pepper and let them dry on a couple folded paper towels while I crumble Nabisco Saltine Crackers with a rolling pin in the long bags they come in these days. Pour the cracker crumbs into a wide shallow bowl. You don’t want to pulverize the crackers too much or you will get cracker powder rather than the desirable quarter inch size crumbs. Dip each oyster in a bath of eggs beaten with a little whole milk or cream and then cover it in Saltine Cracker crumbs. Let stand for a minute or so on folded paper towels on a platter then fry in a thick frying pan at medium high heat in about a half an inch of salted/unsalted butter until golden brown on each side. Remove onto another plate with folded paper towels before presenting on a serving platter garnished with lemon wedges and parsley sprigs. Serve with plenty of freshly made Tartar sauce."



Momma Shaw's Beef Tenderloin

Hands down my favorite meal of the year is the one my mom cooks on Christmas. Nothing beats a slice of perfectly cooked peppered beef tenderloin smothered in Bearnaise. Yum. This year, I'll be joining my boyfriend's family for Christmas so I will miss this delicious feast. However, I've decided to recreate this dinner for some close friends in early January so all is not lost! The full menu includes a green salad, green beans, wild rice and Parker House rolls.

Some things to mention:
1) Tenderloin is expensive so go to Costco or Sam's Club. The meat there is great and less expensive.
2) You must know the EXACT weight of the tenderloin and calculate accordingly
3) Do not and I mean DO NOT ever open the oven while it is cooking. The rest of the menu needs to be done on the stove top.
4) If you don't serve it with Bearnaise sauce you shouldn't even make it.

Momma Shaw's Beef Tenderloin
1 beef tenderloin, room temperature
2 cups coarse ground black pepper
4 tablespoons oil

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Pat room temperature beef tenderloin dry. On a sheet of wax paper, pour pepper and spread out evenly. Rub oil on tenderloin and roll and dredge tenderloin in pepper. Coat sides as well. Cook meat 3 minutes per pound. Once time elapses turn off oven and let meat rest in oven for an additional 1 hour and 45 minutes. Meat will be medium rare. DO NOT OPEN OVEN. My mom actually tapes it shut...



Thursday, December 18, 2008

Shepherd's Pie

Cities around the U.S. have been experiencing some unexpected winter temperatures...snow in Vegas? While I can't complain too much because I'm used to the winters in the Midwest and East Coast, San Francisco has been in the 40s. Locals tell me that they don't remember such cold temps since the 70s. Regardless, the chill in the air motivated me to make some serious comfort food and the first recipe that came to mind was the British classic Shepherd's Pie.

Donna Hay is Australia's best selling cookbook author and food editor. She began her career at 19 and never looked back. Her book, Modern Classics Part 1, was a recent birthday present from my friend Jen. She swears by her recipes so I thought I would give her Shepherd's Pie recipe a shot. The hearty dish really hit the spot.

I made a tweak or two because I love stews and mashers so I have some staple items that I like to add. For the mashers, always add more cheese and butter than the recipe calls for and I even like to add about 1/4 cup of cream cheese, too. For the pie, I like my spice so I hit it with a teaspoon of red chili flakes and a teaspoon of sriracha. Be careful when adding sriracha to your dishes because a little really goes a long way.

Shepherd's Pie
1 tablespoons of olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
20 oz or minced (ground) lamb or beef
14 oz can of peeled tomatoes
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
1 fresh or dried bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper

Potato Mash
2 lb potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 stick of butter
1/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook oil, carrots and onion over medium heat for 5 minutes or until soft and golden. Add the meat and stir until browned. Stir through the tomato paste, tomatoes, stock, thyme and bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add frozen peas and simmer uncovered for 15 more minutes. Add salt and pepper.

Boil potatoes in water until soft. Drain and mash with butter and milk and then add Parmesan.

Spoon meat mixture into a 4 cup capacity over proof dish. Top with mash and bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown. Serves 4-6.



Monday, December 15, 2008

Peppermint Bark

What are the holidays with out peppermint bark? This is a fun recipe to make with kids and it's also a good recipe to make, package and give away to friends and neighbors over the holidays. Candy canes are super cheap and can be bought almost anywhere. Happy holidays!

Peppermint Bark
  • 17 ounces good-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Baker's), finely chopped
  • 30 red-and-white-striped hard peppermint candies, coarsely crushed (about 6 ounces) AKA Candy canes!
  • 7 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

Turn large baking sheet bottom side up. Cover securely with foil. Mark 12 x 9-inch rectangle on foil. Stir white chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water) until chocolate is melted and smooth and candy thermometer registers 110°F. (chocolate will feel warm to touch). Remove from over water. Pour 2/3 cup melted white chocolate onto rectangle on foil. Using icing spatula, spread chocolate to fill rectangle. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup crushed peppermints. Chill until set, about 15 minutes.

Stir bittersweet chocolate, cream and peppermint extract in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until just melted and smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Pour bittersweet chocolate mixture in long lines over white chocolate rectangle. Using icing spatula, spread bittersweet chocolate in even layer. Refrigerate until very cold and firm, about 25 minutes.

Rewarm remaining white chocolate in bowl set over barely simmering water to 110°F. Working quickly, pour white chocolate over firm bittersweet chocolate layer; spread to cover. Immediately sprinkle with remaining crushed peppermints. Chill just until firm, about 20 minutes.

Lift foil with bark onto work surface; trim edges. Cut bark crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips. Using metal spatula, slide bark off foil and onto work surface. Cut each strip crosswise into 3 sections and each section diagonally into 2 triangles. (Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Chill in airtight container.) Let stand 15 minutes at room temperature before serving.



New Oysters Rockefeller

Since my blog is named Everything is Better with Bacon, a lot of folks forward along fun articles and links to stuff about bacon. The other day, an old client of mine that works in the restaurant industry sent me a copy of The Plate's December issue. The Plate is an awesome magazine that's focus is to "celebrate the chef's craft". There are killer articles and even better recipes. The December issue was solely dedicated to bacon.

I'm an oyster nut and when I came across this recipe I knew it was time to whip out my shucking knife and glove. I have never gone a Christmas Eve with out an oyster so this is a timely recipe for the holidays. For any San Francisco folks, you can get your hands on fresh seafood for cheap on 6th and Clement. Right now live lobsters are $8 a pound and they always have a variety of fresh oysters in salt water buckets.

Executive Chef Tommy Hines
Bourbon Street Bar & Grille - New York City, NY, USA

Oysters, whole, Bluepoint or Malpaque 12 each
Bacon, slices, halved 6 each
Rock salt
Parmesan creamed spinach 18 Oz
Flour 1C
Creole seasoning 2 TBS
Vegetable oil
Pastis aïoli

1. Preheat fryer to 350 degrees F, and oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Shuck oysters and transfer, with their juices, to a bowl. Reserve bottom shells. Wrap a piece of bacon around each oyster and secure with toothpick. Reserve.
3. Fill oyster shells with creamed spinach.
4. Fill a baking dish halfway with rock salt and arrange oyster shells on salt. Bake shells until heated through, about 10 minutes.
5. While shells are baking, combine flour and 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning in bowl. Dust oysters with seasoned flour, then deep-fry in batches until lightly browned, about 1 minute.
6. Drain oysters on paper towels and season with remaining Creole seasoning.
7. Place fried oysters on top of baked shells. Drizzle each oyster with pastis aïoli and serve



Sunday, December 7, 2008

Peanut Butter and Jelly Shortbread Wedges

I think that I eat Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches more now than when I was a kid. They're cheap, delicious, don't require refrigeration and fill you right up. When I saw this recipe this month I was excited to take the PB&J to the dessert level. You can use any jam you wish but blackberry is actually a pretty solid choice.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Shortbread Wedges

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup creamy (smooth) natural peanut butter (made with only peanuts and salt)*
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup blackberry jam
  • Spray bottom of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with nonstick spray. Beat butter and peanut butter in large bowl until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and salt and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Add flour; beat on low speed just until blended.
  • Transfer 1/3 cup dough to work surface. Shape into 1/2-inch-thick disk, place on plate, and freeze until hard, about 1 hour. Press remaining dough evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Spread jam over dough in pan, leaving 1/3-inch plain border. Refrigerate while dough disk freezes.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Using large holes of box grater, grate frozen dough evenly over jam. Bake shortbread until dough edge is deep golden and grated dough on top looks dry and baked through, about 50 minutes. Cool shortbread completely in pan.
  • Release pan sides. Cut shortbread into wedges.
  • Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.



Thursday, December 4, 2008

Beer Can Chicken and Jalapeno & Green Chile Cheese Grits

I must pat myself on the back. Last night's dinner was a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Now, I've blogged about beer can chicken before but it's been an evolving recipe. I've played around with the rub, the types of beers and even the seasoning technique but I think I have finally perfected it. And you know what? I'm pretty excited about it!

I love crispy chicken skin. I could totally skip the meat and just eat the skin. I wish you could buy cracklings at the store (not the scary pork kind). I'd eat them by the handful. In the past, the skin was never crispy enough. So I tried a variety of things some of which didn't help. However, last night, I decided to dredge the entire chicken in flour, paint it with an egg wash and then apply the rub. Boom! We have crispy chicken skin. I also added about 2 teaspoons of panko crumbs to the rub. That gave an extra crunch, too.

Of all the beers I have tried (Sierra Nevada, Tacate, Lagunitas IPA, Budweiser and more) nothing has worked better than the Midwest classic Pabst Blue Ribbon. PBR is also refreshing to drink with the dinner because I like to make my rub super spicy!

I make grits all the time. Shrimp and grits, breakfast grits, sausage grits...but who can resist cheese grits? So, I dug around and got a recipe and made a couple tweaks. Delicious. However, I think I am going to add an extra cup of cheese to the top at the end and broil it until it browns and then serve it next time. When in doubt add more cheese.

Jalapeno & Green Chile Cheese Grits
  • 2 cups quick-cooking grits
  • 2 1/2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (I used Tapatio)
  • 3 large eggs, well beaten
  • 2 jalapenos, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup canned chopped green chiles
  • Garlic salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook the grits according to the directions on the back of the package. Remove from the heat and add next 6 ingredients (Cheddar through chilies). Stir well and season with garlic salt, to taste. Pour into a buttered 9-inch baking dish and bake for 1 hour. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.