Bacon Marmalade with Piquant Pimento Cheese

I was looking through a magazine the other day and there was a photograph of an appetizer that really interested me and I wanted to try.  It was a jar that was half filled with pimento cheese and topped with a bacon marmalade.  I’m sure there are variations of this everywhere, but I have never seen one.  My only problem was,  there was no recipe.  Thank you to the internet and cookbooks,  it wasn’t an issue.

Let me regress for just a moment.  I have to say that I think bacon should have its own food group.  Let’s face it, everything is better with bacon.  And I know,  even all you diet fanatics will agree with me.  Face it….what’s a few more miles to run when you have bacon on your plate?  You know it’s worth it.  Bacon has found its place in our world.  We have chocolate with bacon, bacon and eggs, bacon candy, bacon wrapped everything……. and now, we have bacon marmalade.  Yes, after making this, I will tell you that this is worth the extra five miles you will have to run. Pair it with pimento cheese and another five or six-mile run and we have a winner….. and you will thank me for it!

The Piquant Pimento Cheese was from my friend Patrick Evans-Hylton’s new cookbook, “DISHING UP VIRGINIA”.  For the past several weeks I’ve had an obsession with making pimento cheese and I’m not sure why because I’ve not been one that really ate pimento cheese.  Having made this however, I am now a huge fan and will use this in so many ways, because it is that good.

The bacon marmalade was adapted from a couple of online recipes, the stronger part coming from Lance Mayhew.  I looked more to his idea because he had bourbon in it and seriously….what could be better than that?    This turned out to be everything I imagined it would.  In this we have bacon smokiness, sweet, salty, and a little kick.  I could not only see this with the pimento cheese on a cracker but on a burger,  with the pimento as a grilled cheese sandwich, on a steak….you name it.

Try this recipe, buy Patrick’s book and definitely combine everything you make with bacon marmalade.  Bacon…the new food group.

Bacon Marmalade with Piquant Pimento Cheese

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 minutes
Total Time 12 minutes

Ingredients

PIQUANT PIMENTO CHEESE

  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (1 cup)
  • 4 ounces white cheddar cheese (1 cup)
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

BACON MARMALADE

  • 1 1/2 pounds smoked bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup bourbon ( I used Jack Daniels)
  • 6 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 cups freshly brewed coffee
  • 6 dashes hot sauce (I used Frank’s)
  • 6 grinds fresh black pepper

Instructions

  1. For the Piquant Pimento Cheese
  2. Combine the sharp cheddar, white cheddar, bell pepper and onion in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk the mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, celery seed, black pepper and cayenne together in a medium bowl; then pour over the cheese mixture. Mix well and taste, adjusting mayonnaise and seasonings for texture and flavor. Refrigerate at least two hours before serving. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  4. For the Bacon Marmalade
  5. In a large, heavy bottomed pot, fry the bacon over medium heat until the bacon begins to crisp. Remove the bacon from the pot and let drain on a paper towel lined plate.
  6. Add the chopped onion and garlic to the rendered bacon fat and cook until the onion becomes translucent. Remove the onion and garlic mixture from the pot and discard the fat. Add the bacon and onion garlic mixture back to the pot with the next five ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce heat to low, while maintaining a simmer.
  7. Simmer for 2 hours, checking the pot every 30 minutes. If the ingredients become too dry, add 1/2 cup water when needed.
  8. After 2 hours, most of the liquid should be reduced. If it is too watery, simmer for up to an additional 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest for 30 minutes to cool. Add hot sauce and pepper. Stir to incorporate.
  9. Transfer the contents to a food processor. Pulse the contents 5 or 6 times to incorporate all the ingredients together. Do not over blend, or you will lose the texture.
  10. To Serve
  11. Place Piquant Pimento Cheese in the bottom of a small glass cup or bowl. Top with Bacon Marmalade. Serve with crackers.

Forget Take-Out

My husband is sick and I am not a nurse. In fact I’m pretty bad at it, but I called him during the day to see how he was doing and he said he thought he might be feeling a bit better.  He was a little hungry.  He didn’t have a cold, but my first thought went straight to chicken noodle soup.  Hmmm….that really wasn’t going to work for me but I had to make something that would be easy on his stomach.

I thought I had heard somewhere that ginger was good for the stomach.  Well, it sounded like a good idea anyway, but remember I’m not a nurse. And in my opinion, wonton soup is like chicken noodle soup and I remembered when I was looking at the new Fine Cooking magazine there was a recipe that had me interested. It was in the category of easy dinners.  This was perfect!

I came home with all the ingredients I needed for the soup and there he was lying on the sofa, just like any man who thinks he is dying.   I told him I would make him some soup and he would probably feel much better.  This was so easy to put together that even my friend Emily would be able to make it and so fast I think I beat a really good Chinese delivery.  Plus I had the added bonus of witnessing a medical miracle.  My husband was about to rise from the sofa and proclaim good health once again.

In no time at all I had the soup made and poured two wonderfully aromatic bowls, offering one to my husband.  However, in a really sad voice said he wasn’t hungry.  Wow…perhaps this really wasn’t drama. Perhaps he was really sick.  So I poured him a glass of ginger ale and I sat down alone and devoured my wonton soup. It was so good!  I felt bad that my husband had to miss it but I throughly enjoyed it.   It was like take out without the wait.

On the downside, it was not the medical miracle I anticipated.  My husband went to bed without any dinner. On the upside, it was a great bowl of soup and not a lot of trouble, ranking a very high YUM on the taste thermometer.

Make it some night when you want a light dinner,  playing nurse or just wanting take out without the wait.  You’ll be glad you did.

Gorgonzola stuffed tomatoes

Valentine’s Day.  Most people are going out to dinner, sending flowers or eating pounds of chocolate.  In my earlier life, I may have wanted all that but I have to say as I’ve gotten older it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  Sorry Hallmark….but I think you should show the people in your life that you love them every day of the year and not just one.  With that said, I still wanted to do something nice for my husband so I decided to make a dinner that I thought he would enjoy.  Throw in a little candlelight, a nice bottle of wine and voilà!

I decided on seasoned beef tenderloin, roasted pepper salsa and stuffed gorgonzola tomatoes.  I am not a beef lover, but my husband certainly is and we both felt the tenderloin turned out quite nice.  The salsa, with it’s tangy bite  was a nice compliment to the savory tenderness of the meat.  What surprised me however, was that the tomato turned out to be the star of the evening.  It was so easy to do and yet such an elegant addition to the meal.

I was telling my friends what I had done a day or two later and I was amazed that everyone seemed interested in my sharing of this recipe.   It was one I found in a magazine,  inspired by Giada. I think this is really great if you’re having a dinner party, if it’s just a couple of people or even if you’re eating alone.  It’s very easy and very good.  I highly recommend this.

So, make this for someone you love, including yourself…. and it can be any day of the year.

Gorgonzola stuffed tomatoes

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 medium firm ripe plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons plain dried panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 Tablespoons finely crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

  2. Using a teaspoon, remove seeds from tomatoes, place cut side down on paper towels to drain, about 5 minutes.

  3. Mix 1 tablespoon of the oil, and the garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

  4. Add the tomatoes and gently toss until well coated. Marinate 10 minutes.

  5. Combine breadcrumbs and gorgonzola. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Fill tomatoes with the breadcrumb mixture, drizzle with remaining oil.

  6. Roast tomatoes in the oven at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until crumb topping is golden brown and tomatoes are slightly softened. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Girl’s night

What is it about a girl’s night that gets me all excited?  We used to have them all the time but now with all our busy lives,  if we can get together once a month, we’re lucky!  And because of that, it makes our times together so much better…and so much more fun!

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I guess the thought of getting together with friends and the impending gossip, advice, stories and laughter is something that we all need at one time or another.  Add to that,  some great food and a bottle or two of wine (or three or four) and the evening is perfect!

To be honest I always feel a little under pressure at these events. I shouldn’t because it’s really about just getting together, but I do.  It’s always a question of “what am I going to make?”  Several of my friends are excellent cooks…one even a graduate of culinary school. Oh, the PRESSURE!!!   I typically feel like I need to make something unusual, something that is so tasty and so appealing it will even impress my culinary friends.  And this time,  I think I was lucky.  This time,  I’m pretty sure I was successful.  This time….. I had LOBSTER DIP.

Who doesn’t like lobster? Sweet, tender, and succulent.  And,  as luck would have it, on that day only,  our area market had a great special on lobster tails (although quite small, still quite tasty!).  I bought four, set them on the counter and then in a moment of panic said to myself…what am i going to do with these?

I always was quite good with a crab dip so I thought maybe I could just improvise and use what I learned from that….and amazingly enough it turned out to be quite high on the yummy scale.  I’m not sure if I really impressed anyone, but no matter….I liked it and will certainly make this again on my next get-together with the girls, with another couple or hey…a date with just me and my favorite bottle of wine.  So here’s to a good time…… that was had by all!

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