Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bacon Challenge #1

A few weeks ago, the Bacon Gods looked down and placed this book on my desk.
My love for bacon is no secret. Apparently, there are 125 recipes that I've (mostly) never sampled.

Until now.

I was challenged to cook one of these recipes each day, like Julie & Julia. Because I like my heart and am currently paying a trainer to discourage me from eating poorly, I didn't think that was wise. I also don't cook every day, so taking on the challenge that way would have been wasteful.

I did say I would make a few things from this cookbook. I drew the line at foods I don't like (veal, some seafood), but saw there were plenty of other recipes I was eager to try. Here's my first: Broccoli with Bacon, Orecchiette, and Fresh Lemon.

The ingredients:
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if necessary
  • Salt
  • 8 ounces orecchiette (little ear-shaped pasta)
  • 1 pound broccoli crowns, cut into 1- to 2-inch florets (about 5 1/2 cups, from 1 1/4 pounds untrimmed broccoli)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
FULL DISCLOSURE: I strayed from the recipe a bit. I used more bacon, broccoli and cheese than the recipe calls for. I like those things and was willing to take the risk that it would turn out fine. SPOILER: it did.

Bring 4 to 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large pasta or soup pot.

While waiting for the water to boil, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and most of the fat is rendered, 5 to 8 minutes, stirring often and adjusting the heat as necessary. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, reserving 3 tablespoons of bacon fat in the skillet. If necessary, add enough olive oil to the skillet to measure 3 tablespoons. (I had plenty of fat left for my extra broccoli)

Salt the boiling water. Add the orecchiette, stir to separate the pasta, and cook until al dente, following the package instructions.

While the orechiette cooks, cook the broccoli (you want the broccoli to be ready to toss into the pasta as soon as it is drained). Heat the bacon fat in the skillet over medium heat until it begins to shimmer, about 30 seconds. Add the broccoli and garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring to coat the broccoli with the bacon fat. Increase the heat to  high. Carefully remove about 3/4 cup of boiling water from the pasta pot and add 1/2 cup of the water and the lemon juice to the skillet. Cover the skillet and cook the broccoli until it begins to turn bright green, about 2 minutes. Uncover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the broccoli is crisp-tender and bright green, 3 to 5 minutes longer. If all of the water has evaporated before the broccoli is cooked, add 1 to 2 tablespoons more pasta cooking water to the skillet.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it and return it to the cooking pot. Add the broccoli, the drained bacon, 1 tablespoon olive oil, the lemon zest and pecorino romano cheese to the steaming pasta. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper, if desired. Toss the pasta well to combine and serve immediately.

Ridiculously easy and SUPER good! I think you could cool the pasta and use a little more lemon juice, add the cooked broccoli bacon and cheese and have a cold pasta dish with this. I might try that some other time.

I really do hope to try more of the recipes. I can't commit to a date that I'll try the next dish, but I will do something soon!
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