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Bacon Lettuce & Tomato (BLT) Deluxe Recipe

About a month ago, one of my lifelong friends was over at my house for an afternoon.  I had not anticipated cooking for two, so the leftovers that I had were just not going to cut it for us.  My friend is chubby as well, just not as chubby as I am.  That being said, we looked around the kitchen to see what was available for use to eat.  We passed over the pasta and canned soups were just too convenient.

I had been to Cleveland’s West Side Market the day before and had a pound of super-thick cut rindless bacon sitting in the fridge.  Also in the fridge was some fresh romaine and I had purchased some heirloom tomatoes earlier in the week which were on the verge of being perfectly ripe.  My friend put the three together because, honestly, the thought of a BLT had never crossed my mind.  The missing ingredient was some bread, and I was fresh out.  Long story short, a soft, fresh ciabatta bread was purchased to round out our delicious ingredients.

Keep in mind that this recipe is neither for the faint of heart nor those on a diet.  The key to this sandwich is browned bread in the bacon fat.  That’s right, fatty bread to go with mayo and bacon.  Good thing there is some lettuce and tomato in there to balance the whole thing out.  Well, it works in my mind at least and if I can think it, then it must be true.  Here’s the skinny on this fatty sandwich:

Ingredients (enough for 2 sammies)

1/2 lb thick or super-thick cut bacon
1-2 good, ripe tomatoes, scrubbed, trimmed and sliced
4 stalks of fresh romaine, rinsed and ribs removed
4 slices of artisanal bread- find one with good crust and soft interior
Mayo- not Miracle Whip. What is that stuff anyhow?

Heat your cast iron skilled on medium-high. When hot, cook the bacon to desired doneness. I say you pour off about 1/2 the fat and return it to the heat. Brown the bread in the bacon fat. Be careful not to burn your bread! If you do, slice some more and get back in the game.

Once your bread is browned on one side, remove from the pan and give it a good smear of mayo on the other side. Repeat for all bread slices. I prefer then to layer the sandwich in the following pattern: bacon, lettuce, bacon, tomato, bacon, bread. If you have bacon leftover, save it because you will probably want another one of these sandwiches.

Like I said in the ingredients section, unless you are a Miracle Whip fan, leave that crap in the jar. It doesn’t really belong on a sandwich like this. I would go so far as to say that if you were adventurous enough, this would be a great sandwich to try your hand at a homemade mayo. That would just kick it up to a completely new level of scrumdittlyumptiousness.

It’s just that good.

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Goat Cheese Basil Heirloom Stacker Recipe

This is a great recipe just about any day of the week.  You can find heirlooms year round now, but in the winter they really come with a high price tag.  Sometimes you just have to splurge a little.  If that’s not your thing, keep this recipe handy when the weather turns and your tomatoes are coming out your ears.  Light, refreshing and delicious.

Ingredients:

2 Heirloom tomatoes, relatively round and differing in colors (I like red and yellow)
1 log goat cheese at room temperature (We use Silver Goat or replace with soft motz)
1 Cup of loose basil leaves
1/2 Red onion, quartered
1 clove garlic
1 poblano pepper
1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
1/2 Teaspoon sea salt
10 grinds fresh pepper
Olive Oil

Core and slice each tomato in uniform thickness. Starting with the bottom of the tomato, lay the bottom piece of the yellow tomato on a plate. Lay the bottom piece of the red tomato on another plate. Open the log of goat cheese and cut off a disk about 1/2 inch thick. Press the disk between your fingers to make it spread out over the tomato bottom. Repeat for the other dish. Now layer the next lowest tomato slice of an alternate color on top of the goat cheese. Repeat this process until all pieces have been used and the stack is topped with the head of the tomato. Now make the sauce.

In a blender, combine the basil, red onion, garlic, poblano pepper, lemon juice, salt and fresh pepper. Blend and add a stream of olive oil until the mixture starts to liquefy. Blend for about 20 seconds. Drizzle blended basil goodness over the tomato stacks and enjoy.

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Baguette Jambon Fromage (Ham and Cheese on baguette) recipe

This is a super quick and easy lunch to make. I used the panini press, but you can substitute this if you have a bacon press. Seven minutes and out of the kitchen, prep time and cook time included.

Ingredients:

Fresh baguette
1/2 lb thin sliced ham (choose your personal favorite)
1/4 lb baby Swiss
Butter
Dijon
Mayo
Side of cornichon (french baby pickles. Find at most specialty and larger grocery stores)

Recipe:

Begin to warm the panini press on high.

Warm a frying pan on medium high on the stove. Cut baguette in half lengthwise and then cut in half down the side. Butter the bread lightly on both sides and put into the pan. Toast for 2 minutes or so until golden brown.

Remove from the pan and spread mayo on one half and Dijon on the other. Add ham folded in half and cheese cut down the middle lengthwise. If you have any on hand, add prosciutto if you have it for more depth of flavor. Assemble the two sides.

Place in panini press or cover in the frying pan with a bacon press. After about 4 minutes the cheese should be melted and the sandwich will be delicious.

Serve hot with a serving of cornichon.

Wine paring:  Enjoy with a light red such as a Rhône or a Rose de Provence.

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Tiger Breakfast (Breakfast Casserole)

I woke up late this morning after a long night of no sleep. Typically, I get up with our dogs at 6A to feed them and get them ready for the day. Then I take care of our son and get my day started. This morning, I rolled over at 9:45 which is highly unusual. The reason for no sleep is that I have a real hard time with caffeine. Last night I foolishly had a couple chocolate chip cookies before bed. They were good, but probably not worth the price of admission.  The good news is that I have taken to eating dessert in the mornings sometime, which is how I think everyday should start.

After I wiped the sleep out of my eyes, I realized that something smelled good in the house. Normally I am the one making things smell good, so it was a nice surprise. Our guests had browned off the sausage to make the Tiger Breakfast. When I walked out into the kitchen, there was a huge sheetpan with what looked like a breakfast strata, but different. Needless to say, I was intrigued.

The story behind the Tiger Breakfast is a family story. Hailey’s grandma (Hailey is one of our house guests) started to make this way back in the day for her ten children. Seven boys and three girls. It’s quick, delicious and easy- which when you think about ten children is just the way it needed to be. Supposedly this recipe is enough to serve 12 people, but the four of us polished off about three quarters of it this morning. It is just that good. If you are looking to spice it up a bit, I bet that some sauteed poblano peppers would really add some depth of flavor.

Ingredients

2 cans crescent rolls
1 lb of mild breakfast sausage
8 eggs
1 2/3 cup of milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
4 cups of grated cheese- 2 cups of monterey jack and 2 cups of Swiss
1 jar of salsa- temperature to your liking

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Brown sausage and break up into small chunks, drain

Spray 15X10 sheet pan with pam

Line pan with cresent roll dough- make sure to go up the side of the pan. Place the sausage over the dough
sprinkle cheese over sausage.

Beat the eggs, add milk, salt, pepper

Add to the dish and bake for 20 minutes or until eggs are golden brown- make sure they are cooked in the center. You can do this by using a toothpick- if it comes out clean, it is cooked.

Serve with salsa on the side- or smother it- it’s pretty darn good no matter which way you eat it.

To spice it up, add sauteed onions, bell peppers or jalapeno- or poblano. Might be interesting with some red pepper flakes as well.

If you are looking for a morning drink to go with this breakfast, I would suggest a bloody mary. I’m going to try to get the best bloody mary recipe from our friend Pete and post up in another entry. Man, that is one good bloody mary.

Enjoy-

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Rustic Baked Pasta

Last night we had some company over.  They were going to be arriving late due to their work schedule, so I figured that I would whip up something easy and tasty which would hold until they arrived.  I know that you have had some type of baked pasta in the past, but this is a little different with a couple twists.  The sauce has an excellent mouth-feel and the pasta as a whole is hearty and filling.  Keep in mind that buying ready-made sauce is just fine to prepare this meal in record time.   The secret to this recipe is the sour cream which takes the edge off the pasta sauce.

Baked Pasta:

Ingredients:

1 box pasta- any type will do.   Tortiglioni (tubular corkscrew pasta) is particularly good with this dish.
1 jar jarred Vodka Tomato sauce
1 jar jarred Four Cheese sauce
1.5 lbs Italian sausage- in sausage form preferably
1 12oz box of baby Bella mushrooms
1 can large or extra large black olives
4 tbsp chopped garlic (I use the type out of the jar to save time)
3 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
3/4 cup sour cream
Green Tabasco sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350.

Heat generously salted water in a large pot for the pasta.  Add some olive oil to the water.  When it comes to a boil, add pasta and cook until al dente, about 6-7 minutes.  It will continue to cook in the oven.

Chop sausage into 1″ segments.  Set aside.

Trim and clean mushrooms.  Slice into quarters and set aside.

Drain olives and chop roughly (gives the meal a rustic look) and set aside.

Heat saute pan on medium-high and add sausage- brown on all sides.

Move sausage into a large mixing bowl (large enough to hold all the ingredients).  Keep the pan fat to cook mushrooms in.  Add the mushrooms and saute for 4-5 minutes. 

Reduce heat to medium and add a little olive oil and the minced garlic.  After about a minute, add the olives and cook for another 2-3 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Drain pasta in a colander and put into the mixing bowl.  Add both jars of sauce and stir.  Add in the mushroom mixture and stir.  Add the sour cream, a couple shakes of green Tabasco, oregano and some of the parmesan.  Stir it up and add salt and pepper to taste. 

Add 1/2 of the pasta mixture to a 9X13 baking dish.  Even it out and layer with 1/2 of the mozzarella.  Add the remaining pasta, even it out and add all remaining cheese to the top. 

Pop it in the center of the oven and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour.  If it starts to look dry, cover with foil and reduce the heat to 200 to keep warm until it is time to eat.  Serve with a light sprinkle of chopped oregano and a side of toasty garlic bread.

Wine paring for this meal: Although my wife will disagree with me, I lean toward a light Chianti for this meal, although a more hearty wine will certainly stand up against it.  Due to the mushroom flavor, I also lean toward a more full malbec to complement the dish.

Enjoy!

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