Thursday, July 23, 2020

Cheap Bacon or Salami Crisps

To die for! Great with eggs. Pile it on a BLT! Scatter on a salad. 

As a child, I never really cared for a salami sandwich. It was "chewy." I loved the taste, but not the texture.

It was not until I was a retired adult working in a deli that I understand the science of salami. It was really quite simple. To fully appreciate its taste, it is paramount to slice it paper thin. No, I take that back. Paper is too thick. Think Saran-wrap or cling-film thin.

I learned this from New York Italians. And I've never looked back. I have one customer who insists that her salami be shaved! Do you know how long it takes to shave one pound of salami? I love Genoa salami. Sliced thin, it almost melts in your mouth.

The other morning, while preparing my customary day-off breakfast of two fried eggs and toast, I set out the salami on the counter as I rummaged the fridge looking for some melon.

While my pan was heating, I spied the salami. "What the heck," I thought. I threw in two paper-thin slices and stared at the miraculous alchemy.

The round disks immediately shrunk before my eyes and began to bubble and crisp. I quickly flipped them and wow! It almost sounded like popcorn as the second side immediately crisped to a lacy brown. I removed them to paper towel to drain. There was not much grease in the pan. After about a minute or two, the disks cooled to a delicate potato-chip crispness that literally melted in my mouth.  I was blown away. And the taste was better than any bacon I had ever tried. 

I did several more batches. It was astounding.

Fried salami is several times cheaper than bacon. It fries much faster. And it is cleaner with less grease.


  • Paper-thin slices Genoa salami.
  • Non-stick pan.
  • Paper towel. 

Turn on your vent fan. Heat a non-stick pan on high. Lightly place thin slices of salami into pan. They will immediately sizzle and shrink. After about 30 seconds, they will begin to turn brown on the edges. Flip. The tiny white pieces of fat will "pop" like popcorn. When brown, about another 30-40 seconds, remove to paper towel to drain. It all happens very fast, so DO NOT WALK AWAY from the pan.

If making a large batch, place the crisps on a baking tray and pop into a 150-200 degree oven to keep warm and crisp.

For subsequent batches, you may need to turn down the heat a bit.

Like bacon, I would guess one could also "bake" it in the oven. But fried is much quicker and more fun to watch as it immediately transforms itself into bacon. Feel free to experiment with your own thicknesses.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Tuna Loaf with Gruyere Cheese

Simple. Elegant. Delicious. Thanks, Chef Eric!

I was pleasantly surprised by this simple recipe. It is from French Chef Eric over on You Tube. It was divine. Resembling a quiche in texture, the flavors were subtle. It was good warm and at room temperature, but I really enjoyed it cold from the fridge, thinly sliced. And it was a cinch to prepare.

I deviated from the original recipe in several ways. First, I added dried onion to the custard mix. Second, I used a quality jar tuna, not canned. I think that did the trick. The result was not at all "fishy." I used some heavy cream with the milk simply because I had it on hand. I also used dried ancho chili powder instead of the Cayenne. And I added a big pinch of baking powder to give the loaf a bit of lift.

I plan to tweak this even more in the future, subbing fresh parsley for the cilantro, perhaps using different dried herbs, such as dill or my favorite, fines herbs. (Note: I have prepared it this way and loved it. ) Chef Eric says one may substitute the tuna with canned salmon. It is on my to-cook list.

So, go ahead and give it a try. I think you, too, will be divinely surprised. Here is the link to Chef Eric's video on You Tube:

  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup whole milk or 1/4 cup heavy cream mixed with 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes (optional, but I prefer)
  • 7 oz. tuna in oil, undrained. I used jarred, TonNinno brand
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste (less salt, more pepper)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or something similar) or to taste for heat
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
Without the cilantro:
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley, curly or flat
  • Omit the cumin and thyme but add 1 tablespoon "fines herbes"
Other Additions:
  • Chopped Pimentos, 2 Tablespoons
  • Sliced Black Olives, 2-4 Tablespoons

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs. Add milk or cream/milk mixture. Add dried onions, if using. Add tuna and oil. Mix. Add flour. Mix. Add cheese. Mix. Add the remaining ingredients and stir.

Grease and flour a loaf pan. The bottom of mine measured 7 x 3.25 inches. Feel free to line the bottom with buttered parchment paper if you are concerned about sticking.

Pour custard-tuna mixture into prepared pan. Bake in a 400 F oven for about 35-40 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

Cool a bit and then carefully remove from pan.

The French use a tuna loaf for picnics.
It travels well and is delicious cold or at room temperature.

I prefer this cold, in thin slices. Do serve with a chilled, dry white wine or cold iced tea. I like mine with a bit of sliced beets, avocado or watermelon on the side. It is also great with scrambled eggs. Also good with a Remoulade sauce on the side.

Here it is sliced warm ... still delicious.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Corned Beef in the Instant Pot

Through the years, I have prepared corned beef in the crock pot, in the oven, and on top of the stove. While I love the flavor of a corned beef in the crock pot, it often produces a roast that is fall-apart overdone and next to impossible to thinly slice. I have done the 3-3-3 oven method: three cups of water, three hours, at three-hundred degrees. But it really depends on the size of the corned beef. I mostly prepared corned beef in a large pot on top of the stove, slow simmered, periodically testing it for doneness by poking it with a fork. That's fine, if I'm home and have the time. All three methods suffuse the house with an aromatic, St. Paddy's Day flavor.

This year, however, I did mine in the Instant Pot. And, by far, it produced the nicest corned beef. It was flavorful (crock pot virtue) without falling apart. It sliced absolutely beautifully! It was tender and juicy. I prepared three. The one below is the one I liked the best. And it's the simplest.

For the first one, I added celery, potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, and beer. I used the obligatory spice packet. The result was a corned beef that was a bit bitter as were the veggies. And I should have used more dried spices.

For the second, I only used one onion a large garlic clove, and the enclosed spice packet. It was okay, but it still lacked that St. Patrick's Day punch of flavor.

For the third, (pictured) I used no veggies at all. I doubled the dried spices. I added one large clove of garlic. And I reduced the amount of liquid. It was bliss. 

All three of my corned beefs were 2-3 lbs. While the texture of all three ended up the same, tender and juicy, easy to slice, the third, by far, had the best flavor. (See your manual for the best cooking times according to the size of your roast.)

I prefer my cabbage and potatoes "clean," so I boil them separately. 

  • 1 corned beef, flat cut, 2-3 lbs.
  • 1 packet spice mixture that comes with the beef mixed with:
  • 1 heaping tablespoon dried pickling spices*
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 large clove garlic, smashed, peeled, cut in half

Remove corned beef from plastic wrap and rinse thoroughly under cool water. Place the steel trivet into the IP. Place washed beef on top. Drop in the garlic. Add the two cups of water. Sprinkle with the dried spices. Cover. Lock. Place vent to seal. 

Pressured cook for 75 minutes on "meat and stew" setting. Allow to self-vent for 15-20 minutes. Vent until lid opens. Remove corned beef. Cover with foil and allow to sit and additional 10-30 minutes. Slice and serve.

For warmed-up leftovers, I made latkes, or potato pancakes. They paired remarkably well with the beef. 

This was a great combo!

*I use McCormick Pickling Spice (you may need to visit a few stores before you pickling spices.)

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Everyday-Is-Thanksgiving Casserole

Somewhere in my memory, I remember eating such a delicious and savory casserole as this. It was like Thanksgiving in a pan. Just prior to this recipe, one week, to be exact, I thought I had found it. I was so excited that I got too carried away and made all of what you see below. Unfortunately, it was in vain. The ingredients were certainly there. Countless brushes and tubes of paint, like ingredients, does not a great artist, or cook, make. 

Boring. Bland. Not much taste.

After some thought, I re-interpreted what I thought were the mistakes of the recipe and added different-but-similar ingredients. Voila! I created this recipe. I loved it. Add a bit of cranberry "anything" on the side, a bit of sweet potato or mashed, and it's Thanksgiving any time of the month. And without all the fuss. I can't imagine anyone turning his nose at this simple, everyday feast.

As casseroles go, this certainly fits the definition. Comforting. Easy. All-in-one. Generally inexpensive. Little cleanup. If, however, you are one not inclined to be limited by definitions and, say, verge on the side of complexity, even a tad, you are still in luck. Feel free to include simple ingredients, such as some chopped onion and celery in a bit of butter with pork sausage to add to the stuffing mixture. Trust me, it's worth cleaning that extra pan. And don't forget this recipe around Thanksgiving. Leftover turkey will work quite well. Oh, and it is kid-friendly!

I love Bell's--if only for the box! Seriously,
I can't imagine a better poultry seasoning.

Some do's and don'ts: Do not crisp the stuffing mixture. You want it moist, so keep a loose sheet of foil on top. Do not over-dilute the Alfredo sauce. Do not skip the extra Parmesan cheese, even if it's out of that famed "no-no" green can. Do strive to keep an even ratio between the chicken layer and the stuffing layer. Too much chicken and you lose the great flavors of the stuffing. Of course, one could be bad and just double the stuffing layer. And, yes, I have thought about it. Decisions such as those, on a casserole level, are usually decided by one's budget.

This is more of a process than a recipe. It results in a 11 x 7 pan of cozy deliciousness. Oh, and it freezes well, so you may want to make two.

  • 3 cups chopped/chunked rotisserie chicken (save the skin and finely chop)
  • 1, 15-ounce jar mushroom Alfredo sauce (I use Bertolli)
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream (use at least two but no more than four)
  • 2 tablespoons milk or cream
  • Bell's Seasoning (my personal favorite) or poultry seasoning
  • Dried, whole thyme (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese (I use shaved)
  • 1 box chicken stuffing mix (I use Stove Top)

Lightly grease an 11 x 7-inch pan or dish. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with a bit of the Bell's or poultry seasoning. Add about a tablespoon or so of the Parmesan. Spread in the bottom of your casserole dish.

I sprinkled on some shavings of Parmesan cheese.
In the same now-empty bowl, combine the Alfredo sauce, sour cream and milk or cream. Mix. You still want it a bit thick, but not too liquid -like. It should be a bit thinner that mushroom soup from a can. Spread on top of the chicken.

Keep the sauce a bit thick, not too thin.

Wipe out sauce bowl. Empty contents of stuffing mix into the bowl. Add some Parmesan to your taste. I like to add a bit more Bell's. Add wet ingredients. Cover and allow to sit several minutes to thicken.

Spread by tablespoons on top of the chicken/sauce mixture.

I sprinkled on a bit of whole dried thyme. Thyme and chicken are great partners.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Tent loosely with tin foil. Remember, all the ingredients are basically already cooked. You just want to warm everything through until bubbly.

Cool ten minutes before serving. Makes great leftovers--if there are any.

Note: Stove Top Stuffing mix and jarred Alfredo sauces are often on sale or BOGO. That's when I stock up.

March in North Carolina. My cat, Boo,
is concentrating on a mole's progress ...