Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Bacon Paradigm

There are many pairings that are perfect together, as if they were cosmically meant to be, like wine and cheese, coffee and doughnuts, cookies and milk; and of course there are the things that go with what many believe that could be the center of the culinary universe: bacon.

And why not? I mean, how many ingredients are either directly related to, or greatly enhanced by the addition of bacon in classical preparations alone? I started thinking about how all of those ingredients could come together in a sort of bacon paradigm, where every ingredient used has either a direct relationship with, or is at least greatly enhanced by the addition of bacon.

By now, scallops and bacon belong to the former of the two categories because I'd be surprised to find someone who has never had a bacon wrapped scallop, without religious recourse, of course. But there are many other branches that relate to bacon like apple, anise, and cabbage.

Once I started thinking about these relations the dish just fell into place like the aligning of the stars on planet Bacon, guiding me to my destination.

Of course, a great combination of bacon this time of year is with brussel sprouts. I pre-cooked julienned portions of bacon and reserved the fat just to use it to caramelize the little cabbages before finishing them with the remaining bacon strips, some chopped pistachios and fresh chervil for its mild licorice flavor that compliments both the bacon mentioned above as well as the apple mentioned below.

I seared scallops as the "main" focus for the dish, but the heart lies within a puree of cauliflower, green apples and slowly cooked onions and garlic that has the creamy, almost nutty flavor of the cauliflower with the crispness of the tart apple that I accentuated with a touch of apple cider vinegar to make it pop and balance out the richness of the fatty bacon. Giving the dish a simple topping of freshly julienned green apple tossed with some more pistachios and chervil seemed like a fresh and inviting finish to the dish.

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It's hard to come up with cocktails made from fresh, seasonal ingredients this time of year that don't involve apples, pears, or pumpkin. Fortunately, this time of year offers a few gems that help lift the spirits from the mundane attributes of autumn/winter like pomegranate, tangerines and the object of my focus, the kiwifruit.

I remember as a child how exotic the kiwi was to me; the bizarre skin around a sweet and tart flesh that looks like an amulet when sliced. In the early stage of my career I learned two things about the kiwi. 1 - the juice irritates the hell out of my skin, and 2 - an amazing way to remove the skin is to cut off the ends with a knife and slip in a small spoon underneath and slide it around like an avocado, both of which I remembered to my astonishment and dismay today.

Since the pulp can be thick and the black seeds seem to be indestructible I decided to use a mechanical juicer to extract all of the flavor from these little babies. Due to their natural balance of flavor I didn't need to add any lemon or lime juice and very little simple syrup, especially since I felt a natural pairing for them was rum. One thing that I did need was something as bright and green as the kiwi, something like freshly muddled mint leaves, giving me a perfectly balanced cocktail that says "sunshine" even as it rains!

It brings a whole new meaning to "Going Green"!!!

With Love,