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myMEGusta

Named for things that please me (“me gusta” in Spanish) and rhymes with balabusta (Yiddish for “good homemaker”).

Archive for the month “May, 2015”

The Decade of the Bacon?

baconThere was a recent news item regarding the wild popularity of bacon on chic restaurant menus, quite ironic in these days of fear of nitrates, salt and fat.

But there’s no disputing it. This meat may be king right now, but myMEGusta would not call a bacon wrapped (3½ yards the ad screams!) fast food pepperoni/bacon pizza anything vaguely regal.

Bacon is simply a cut of pork belly which has been brined and cured, and is usually served crisply fried. Among the myths about bacon is that baking it will result in less fat (not fried, you know), and the occasional ‘tips’ about how to reduce shrinking. But, if the objective is to minimize fat content and optimize crispiness, you’re best off cooking in plenty of its own fat until achieving the desired color, drain/squeeze like crazy on paper towels to get rid of the fat, then serve immediately.

Canadian Bacon

Canadian Bacon

Canadian bacon is a different cut of cured pork entirely, made from the loin, and, of course, is prepared differently, more sautéed than fried, and an important ingredient in eggs Benedict.  It’s also the yummy meat used in the infamous “Bacon Butty” of Britain. For more on this, and other English treats, go to myMEGusta’s 2014 Fourth of July Special: A Salute to the Brits. http://wp.me/p1VQOz-k5

Chocolate Covered Bacon

Chocolate Covered Bacon

Then there’s the whole subject of chocolate covered bacon, which sounds like an abomination, but is really quite delicious when the chocolate is extremely dark and the best quality, and the bacon is crisp and salty. You can find more pictures in publications like Healthy Living and Low Carb Recipes. (We do not make this stuff up.)

A particularly delicious bacon dish can be found in the bier halls of Munich and elsewhere in Germany. Known as Krustenbraten, this is a roasted pork belly which has been roasted to exquisite crispness on the outside and then served in thick slices.

Krustenbraten

Krustenbraten

Chanterelles with Smoky Bacon and Spaetzle

Chanterelles with Smoky Bacon and Spaetzle

On another occasion, smoky bacon found its way into a delicious dish of chanterelles with spaetzle at the Hotel Landgasthof zum Adler in rural Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, not overwhelmingly meaty, just enough to give a great flavors to the fresh mushrooms.

Italian pancetta, salt cured pork belly, is great to keep on hand in the freezer, and a little goes a long way adding a nice dimension to sauces and soups, as well as being a key ingredient in classics such as Bucatini-all-Amatriciana.

Pancetta

Pancetta

It is sometimes found in the packaged cold cut section, either sliced or diced, but more likely in the deli section, where you can order a thin slice, wrap well, and cut off little pieces as you need them. If thinly sliced, it can be fried like bacon to make a tasty, pretty garnish.bacon pancetta fried

Bucatini-all-amatriciana

Bucatini-all-amatriciana

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When Table Wine’s NOT What’s on the Table!

Sometimes an unexpected beverage is better than the usual vino.

 

Cognac with Your Wonton Soup

Cognac with Your Wonton Soup

Cognac and Chinese Banquets

While wine and beer are often the felicitous accompaniments for Chinese food, a classic banquet beverage is Cognac, that elite grape distillate from France, and a status symbol around the world. The bottles sit right on the table, and the brandy is consumed straight. Kampai!

 

Guinness and Oysters!

Guinness and Oysters!

Guinness and Oysters

Wonderful seafood is to be found in Ireland, and myMEGusta’s favorite bivalve, the oyster, is there in force.  She was delighted to taste them in a new way, with a drop of stout in lieu of her usual squeeze of lemon.  You can try this anywhere, or just enjoy with your usual lemon wedge and a glass of Guinness to wash it down.

 

Foie Gras and Sauternes

Foie Gras and Sauternes

Foie Gras and Sauternes

Sipping wine with food is nothing new, but most folks don’t know that Sauternes, the rare, very sweet white from Bordeaux, is the classic accompaniment for foie gras, fattened goose or duck liver, which arrives as a cold terrine or as a perfectly seared slab. The wine’s slight acidity and elegant sweetness are the perfect foils for the intense flavors of the liver. The best in New York City is to be found at Le Perigord on East 52 Street (www.leperigord.com) and at Petrossian on 7th Ave/58 Street (www.petrossian.com) .

Calvados, Le Trou Normand

There was a time when formal banquets commonly went on for course after course, and not necessarily in the portions or sequence one might expect in a tasting menu at a place like The French Laundry today. They still exist, mostly in the world of gourmet societies, but one vestige of these feasts is what’s commonly called a “palate cleanser”, originally a tiny taste of something sprightly to wake up and prepare one’s taste buds for the next course.

 

Le Trou Normand

Le Trou Normand

The Trou Normand, or Norman Nail, was a favorite among French hosts, literally a small shot of the exquisite apple brandy from Normandy called Calvados, garnished with a spoonful of apple sorbet, a welcome treat amidst courses like fish in a cream sauce and rack of lamb. A variation is a tiny bite of sorbet, never excessively sweet, just a zippy taste, floating in a related spirit (for example, pear sorbet in Poire William Eau de Vie). Alas, the custom is no longer so necessary, now that dishes tend to be lighter (in richness and in size), but some pretentious places pass out little ice cream cones filled with commercial dessert sorbets between appetizers and main courses, a waste of calories and sorbet which could be a nice “extra” before the dessert arrives.

 

A Margarita for Conco de Mayo?

A Margarita for Cinco de Mayo?

 

Margaritas! Happy Cinco de Mayo!

 

Actually, this cocktail has become ubiquitous. It is wildly popular with Mexican food and is one of myMEGusta’s favorite exceptions to enjoying wine with a meal. That said, it doesn’t happen very often when dining out, only at the best Mexican restaurants where Margaritas are made the traditional way: lime juice, Triple Sec and Tequila, or some variant thereof, never using the vile sweet and sour mix which transforms a Margarita to a dull foo foo drink, particularly when extruded from a slushee machine.
Readers!  Any other unusual beverage pairings you can share?

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