I SAY TOM KHA GAI, YOU SAY TOM KHA KAI

As you may have noticed, I have a soft spot for all things language. Frustration took place as I tried to figure out the correct spelling for the name of this delicious Thai soup. It is often tricky to go from a language such as Siamese  to something that would convey the correct pronunciation in English. After a lot of searching around, I found a video that made me even more puzzled. In the video, they spell it as Tom Kha Kai, but when I listen to the girl my ears detect a clear sound of G for the third ideogram, making Tom Kha Gai my preferred way to spell it.  You can listen for yourself and decide. Click here and fast forward to 1 min and 50 seconds. No matter how you decide to spell it, this is a delicious and very simple soup with all the contrasting flavors that are typical for the cuisine of Thailand.

TOM KHA GAI
(adapted from Marta Stewart)

1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer layers removed, bruised with back of a large knife
3 cups chicken broth
1/8 cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 piece of ginger, about 1 inch long, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp dried galangal powder
salt and pepper to taste
zest and juice of 1 lime, separated
1/2 Serrano pepper, sliced thin
1 + 1/2 pound chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, cut into strips
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced thin
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 can (about 13 oz) full-fat coconut milk
fresh cilantro leaves

In a slow-cooker, combine chicken stock, lemongrass, fish sauce, brown sugar, galangal,  lime zest, chicken and mushrooms. Cover and cook on high for 2 ½ hours (or on low for 4 hours). Add coconut milk and shredded carrots, and cook on high 30 minutes longer (or on low for 1 hour). Stir in lime juice and cilantro leaves.  Serve topped with additional fresh cilantro, if desired. You can also save the soup without the coconut milk and carrots, and add those when re-heating on top of the stove for about 15 minutes, until the carrots are just cooked.

Serve while pretty hot, with a squeeze of fresh lime juice right on the bowl to brighten up the flavors even more.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Fishing out the lemongrass…

Comments: What a delicious soup!  Oddly enough, I am not too fond of shiitake mushrooms in stir-fried preparations, even if they are quite popular in Oriental recipes. Something about their texture turns me off a little. But in soup or risotto, I love them. They do impart a lot more flavor than regular mushrooms do, and in this soup they are definitely a must.  Lemongrass is also a favorite flavor of mine, and we are lucky to have a very healthy lemongrass plant growing in our backyard. When I need it, I go out with a pair of scissors and cut a stalk very close to the ground.  The smell is just amazing…

I made this soup on a Sunday and as so often happens, it was my lunch three days in a row. I ran out of cilantro on day 2, but it was not a big deal. At all. Adding the coconut milk at the very end of the cooking time together with the carrots make sure that the carrots retain some of their bite, and the coconut flavor seems brighter than if it cooked for hours from the beginning. Little details matter, especially when using the crock pot. That dump and forget approach is definitely not the tastiest path…

No slow-cooker? A regular pan will work, just keep the soup at a simmer until the chicken is cooked through, then add the coconut milk and the carrots for a while longer.

 

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BRUTTI MA BUONI LOW-CARB SOUP

I adore the Italian language, so musical and beautiful. Would love to learn to speak Italian, it might very well be a project for after retirement. Brutti ma buoni translates as ugly but good, and of course quite a few recipes match this description. I’ve got one for you today. Cabbage, riced cauliflower, and ground chicken swimming in broth definitely won’t fall into the category of George Clooney as far as looks and charm, but it is mighty good.  Actually, I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did. This is a reasonably filling soup, but quite low in those carbs that in some phases of life are best consumed in moderation.  I used a crock pot, don’t worry if you don’t have one. It works well on the stove top. And, if you’d like to make it vegetarian, I bet farro would be amazing in place of the meat. One cup of farro would add about 130 g of carbs to the whole soup, stripping it of its low-carb label. Not that there’s anything wrong with it…

CROCK POT LOW-CARB CHICKEN & CABBAGE SOUP
(adapted from Sugar Free Mom)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 pound ground chicken
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 cup canned stewed tomatoes, with their juice
1/2 cup riced cauliflower
3 cups cabbage slaw (I used store-bought)
3 cups beef broth or water
additional salt and pepper to taste

toppings of your choice, a little lemon juice, Sriracha (all optional)

Heat olive oil and saute shallots on medium high heat. Add  ground chicken and cook until lightly browned, seasoning with one teaspoon salt and pepper.  Add tomatoes, cauliflower, stir well to remove any browned bits from the pan. Transfer to crock pot.  Add beef broth,  cabbage slaw and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours. If no crock pot is available, just simmer gently on the stove top for an hour or so until the cabbage is fully tender.  

Adjust seasoning and serve with a dollop of  yogurt, shredded cheese, or diced avocados. A little bit of Sriracha added to your bowl hurts absolutely nothing. And a squirt of lemon juice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This soup was my lunch three days in a row. As you might have noticed, I don’t have a problem repeating the same lunch over and over, in fact I find it quite nice to cook a large batch of something in the weekend, and have it ready and waiting. Not wasting time and energy figuring out what to eat at lunch allows me to be more efficient. For instance,  I might be able to sneak a few exercises before lunch (got 12 minutes to spare?), or if the schedule is too busy, keep lunch break to a minimum and get back to work right away. At the risk of making some of my friends living in huge cities very jealous,  I divulge that it only takes us 8 minutes to go from lab to home. I know… we are spoiled!

Anyway, for this sequential lunches, I varied the toppings. On the first day I added shredded Gruyère, second time around  a dollop of yogurt and Za’tar (never get tired of this spice mix). Finally, on the third day I crowned it with diced avocado, a heavy squirt of lemon juice and a touch of Tajin (another spice mix I am quite fond of). The soup got a bit thicker on the third day, but I did not add any water or beef broth to it, just enjoyed it the way it was.  If you visit Sugar Free Mom’s site, you’ll noticed she used ground beef, so keep that in mind as an option too.  I know this will become part of my regular menu, and not just when I feel the need to go low on carbs.  It is delicious!

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MIMI’S STICKY CHICKEN, A CALL FROM MY PAST

Paleo-friendly, low-carb & delicious!

Many years ago I used to visit a cooking forum that is long gone. One recipe was a big hit with many of the members: Mimi’s Sticky Chicken. I admit the name is not very sexy, but once you’d read the many stellar reviews, you’d be inclined to disregard the sticky issue and give it a try. Over the years, that exact recipe has been published in websites everywhere, credit not always given to the author. So, without further ado, here you have the original link. I tried to find out Mimi’s whereabouts, but my search skills returned nothing.  As you can see in the link, she created this recipe in the early 80’s, and asked for full credit whenever someone talked about it. It’s only fair.  I used to make it quite often when I was dating Phil and during the early years of our marriage, as the kids absolutely loved it. For some reason, I forgot all about it. It’s been definitely more than a decade since I last had it on our table. But to compensate, I made it twice in the last month. HA!

MIMI’S STICKY CHICKEN
(modified from the original version found here)

2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 whole roasting chicken, about 3 pounds
1 shallot, cut in half
1 lemon, cut in quarters

Combine all spices  in a small bowl. Dry chicken very well, rub the spice mixture over skin and sprinkle a little inside the cavity.  Place in a bag or in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Heat the oven to 250F. It is not a typo. It is a very low oven.  When ready to roast, stuff the cavity of the chicken with the shallots and lemon. Place it breast side down in a roasting pan (I like to use a small rack to keep it elevated, spraying the rack with olive oil to prevent the skin from sticking to it).

Cook for about 5 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 155 F. Baste occasionally after the first two hours, with the liquid that starts to accumulate in the roasting pan.

If you like to crisp up the skin, carve the chicken in pieces and place under the broiler briefly. It will falling apart, so handle it gently.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Amazing how something we loved so much could end up neglected for years. Two things I’d like to bring up: first, if you don’t have time to refrigerate the bird overnight with the spice mixture, don’t worry, just go ahead with it right away. Second, if you are not around to baste the chicken, it won’t be a serious drawback. When ready to serve, baste a little with the roasting liquid, and go for that brief encounter with the broiler. On your first time making this recipe,  it would be nice to check the temperature and see if after 4 hours the meat is already approaching 155F. If it is, don’t leave it all the way to the five-hour mark. Once you get to know how your oven behaves, you can trust the timing a bit more. Make sure to always roast a chicken of similar size.

As I mentioned before, once the meat is cooked, it will be falling apart. Note in the picture below how the bone broke through the skin.


I also like to squeeze the roasted lemon all over the chicken right before serving, and sometimes will grab a fresh one to make sure to get that extra bite of acidity that goes so well with it.


Dinner is served: Mimi’s Sticky Chicken,
Pan-Steamed Broccoli, and Roasted Butternut Squash… 

 

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SOUP SATURDAY: A NEW BLOG EVENT!

16114833_10211890414716031_5142216880039446529_nAs those who follow my site might remember, a blog event I participated for years – The Secret Recipe Club – recently came to an end. Some of the participants took matters into their own hands and came up with fun ideas to keep us connected and sharing recipes on a regular basis. With this post, I offer my first contribution to Soup Saturday, as launched by Wendy, from A Day In the Life on the Farm. We are all sharing recipes for healthy soups so if you’d like some serious inspiration, make sure to click on the link party at the end of this post. I loved the idea because if there’s one thing I should make more often, it’s soup. Any reason to make it more often sounds great to me.

To start things on a nice note, I will share not one but two recipes, both were a huge hit with us. I honestly don’t know which one would be my favorite. Phil leaned towards the second.  I wish I had made them on the same day to pour them in a bowl side by side,  making an Yin Yang kind of hybrid soup. I’ve seen that done before, it looks very stylish. Take a look at this version, for instance.

These are very low in carbs, especially the first one. The second involves some carrots (three for the whole batch), so it is slightly more fulfilling. Both are Paleo-friendly, in case you are interested…

asparagus-soup-2

ASPARAGUS SOUP WITH ADVIEH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 bunch of asparagus, tough ends removed (about 1 pound)
1 leek, white part only, minced
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 cup baby spinach leaves, well packed
salt and pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon advieh (or a mild curry mix)
2 + 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup coconut milk
fresh lemon juice to taste

Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan. Add the leeks and saute until translucent. Cut the asparagus, in 1-inch pieces, add to the pan and saute gently for a few minutes, until it starts to get some color. Season with salt and pepper. Add the advieh, is using, saute briefly stirring constantly, until the spice mix releases its aroma.

Add the water, close the pan, and simmer gently until the asparagus is fully tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer mixture to a blender (preferably high power), add the spinach leaves, and blend. The spinach will “cook” in the residual heat of the soup. Return soup to pan, add the coconut milk, simmer until heated through. Squirt a little lemon juice right before serving. Adjust seasoning, and…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Advieh is a mixture of spices that varies a lot depending on the region, but usually contains turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger and dried rose petals. I got mine not too long ago, and decided to give it a try. Good move by Sally. It turned out subtle, not at all as if you are swallowing perfume… I would define it as a floral curry. Quite unique, very flavorful. I find the idea of eating something with rose petals quite enticing…  don’t you?

carrotcaulisoup

LEMONY CAULIFLOWER & CARROT SOUP
(adapted from a recipe from Melissa Clark)

1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, diced
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
5 to 6 cups of water
1 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
1 tablespoon white miso
1 small head of cauliflower or 1/2 large one,
zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice, more to taste

Rice the cauliflower in a food processor and reserve (you can also use the florets, in this case add them together with the carrots). Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the shallots and saute until translucent. Add coriander and a little salt, saute until fragrant.  Add carrots, saute briefly, add 5 cups of water  and the miso, stirring well until it dissolves. Simmer for 15 minutes, add the riced cauliflower and cook everything together for 5 more minutes (riced cauliflower cooks fast).

Remove the soup from the heat. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth, or transfer to a blender. Return the soup to the pan, over very low heat add the lemon zest and juice. Adjust seasoning, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The original recipe from Melissa Clark has a higher proportion of carrots and uses more miso, which in my opinion overpowered the flavor of the veggies. I liked my revised version a lot more. You can barely detect the miso, but it adds a nice exotic flavor to it.  This soup was my lunch three days in a row, and if there was more, I would have it on day 4 again. Nothing better in a chilly day, I can tell you that.  I topped it with black sesame seeds, and a swirl of yogurt and Sriracha. That really took the soup to a higher level, I love to vary the amount of Sriracha at each spoonful, testing my limits. Of course, if you prefer a more tamed version, omit the hot sauce, but the yogurt is perfect with it.

 

low-carb-soups-from-bewitching-kitchen

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STEAM-ROASTED INDIAN-SPICED CAULIFLOWER

Recently I blogged about a new way to roast veggies that stole my heart. At that time, carrots were the star of the show. Now, I share my second experiment with the method, following a recipe from the same issue in Fine Cooking, applied to cauliflower. A couple of tips are important for maximal deliciousness. First, do not cut the florets too small, keep them a bit chunky. Second, make sure to leave a flat, large side when you cut them. That will provide better browning during roasting.  The roasted cauliflower is finished with a mixture containing a lot of ginger and other Indian spices. Read my thoughts about it in the comments.

steam-roasted-cauliflower

STEAM-ROASTED INDIAN-SPICED CAULIFLOWER
(adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

1 large head cauliflower cut into very large florets, florets halved lengthwise to make flat surfaces
5 Tbs. vegetable oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. ground turmeric
pinch of ground cayenne pepper
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower and garlic with 3 Tbs. of the oil, 3/4 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Arrange the florets flat side down in a single layer. Cover tightly with foil and transfer to the oven to steam for 10 minutes.

Carefully remove the foil, rotate the baking sheet, and roast until the bottom side is nicely browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Flip the cauliflower and continue roasting until just tender and deeply browned, 10 to 12 minutes more.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 Tbs. oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the coriander, turmeric, and cayenne. Swirl in the lemon juice.

Transfer the roasted cauliflower to a serving bowl. Add the spice mixture, and toss gently. Season to taste with more salt, if needed, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

caulicomp

Comments: Once again I found the method wonderful to deliver perfectly roasted cauliflower florets. Now, about that spice mixture. I notice quite often these days that many recipes follow what I like to call The Ottolenghi Path:  they call for the addition of many spices and herbs to a dish, often in unexpected combinations. That is not necessarily a bad thing, he is for sure a gastronomic genius, but there is also something to be said about a simply roasted veggie, with a smidgen of olive oil, salt, pepper, and perhaps a single added spice. Of course, cookbooks, magazines, cooking shows, they all need to come up with clever, exotic ways to make food, otherwise, why would we bother paying attention to them, right?  Anyway, in this particular recipe I felt that the addition of the sautéed spices plus the lemon juice messed up slightly the texture of the roasted cauliflower, and also overpowered its flavor a bit. Granted, it made the dish feel more festive. But, if you are in the mood for a classic approach, omit it all, roast it, and serve it as it is. You won’t be disappointed. I will be steam-roasting cauliflower again and again, either in its natural state, or using this recipe with the following modifications: cut the ginger by half, keep the turmeric and coriander, add some lemon zest, and omit the lemon juice and cayenne. That might be a real winner for me.

steam-roasted-cauliflower-from-bewitching-kitchen

 

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SLOW-COOKED WHOLE CHICKEN

I’ve been tweaking this recipe for a while, and now I feel it’s ready to be shared with my beloved readers. The problem with many recipes designed for the crock pot is that they take the lazy approach. First they tell you to “dump” ingredients inside, then turn it on low and leave it there for 8 hours or more. The “dump” part always gives me a chuckle. I guess to make it sound easy you need to be very quick, no “carefully placing.” Let’s not even consider taking the additional step of browning or sauteing ingredients before slow cooking them. For some types of meat that will work fine, but for poultry? No bueno. I usually make a recipe the first time following it very closely, and this was not an exception. I cooked the chicken for 8 hours. The texture was simply wrong. Stringy, kind of dried up, with the exact mouth feel that gives crock pots in general a bad reputation. So, I turned to America’s Test Kitchen to learn their take on it. Voilà! They recommend cooking the chicken breast side down, and limit the time to 5 hours. Of course, if you work and would like to have the chicken ready for dinner, it could be a problem, but you can always make it after work and enjoy it next evening.  For us, it is not a big deal, we go home for lunch, so all I have to do is get it ready, place it in the slow cooker (sorry, no dumping, just not my style) and have a very easy meal later.

crockpot-whole-chicken

SLOW-COOKED WHOLE CHICKEN
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, adapted from several sources)

1 whole chicken
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 lemon, quartered
a few carrots, cut in sticks

Spray the inside of your slow-cooker with a little olive oil (not a mandatory step, but helps avoid stuff to stick).

Mix all the dried ingredients in a small bowl.  Sprinkle all over the chicken skin, try to get a little bit inside the bird too.

Stick the lemon quarters inside the chicken.

Scatter the carrot pieces in the bottom of your slow cooker. If you have a small rack to elevate the chicken, use it, if not, simply place the chicken breast side down in the crock pot.

Cook on low for 5 hours.

Remove the chicken, discard lemon quarters, cut chicken into serving pieces and place in a baking dish. De-grease the liquid that formed in the slow cooker, add some of it on top of the chicken pieces. Run under the broiler to crisp up the skin, and serve with the super soft and tasty carrots.  Adjust seasoning with salt if needed.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

cooked

Comments: This is a very basic method that you can vary in all sorts of directions by changing the spice mixture, adding potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips to make it a complete meal. If  you have no issues with butter, a little smear of butter right before the broiling step will give it very nice flavor and a darker skin.  There is no need to add any liquid, you will be surprised by how much liquid will accumulate in the crock pot. That stuff is tasty, with a lemony tang, and subtle heat from the cayenne.  I know some people serve the chicken straight from the slow-cooker, but I find the additional step of crisping up the skin worth every second of additional work.  I tried reducing the cooking time to 4 hours, but the meat was not as tender as I like. You might have to play around with the timing, depending on the power of your slow-cooker, the size and quality of the chicken you find in your grocery store.

served

Dinner is served!

slow-cooked-whole-chicken-from-bewitching-kitchen

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IMPOSSIBLY CUTE BACON & EGG CUPS

Should I be embarrassed to blog about a “recipe” that is essentially two ingredients plus seasoning? Potentially, yes. But in reality I am not, because this non-recipe has a nice little unexpected twist to it: the bacon was pre-cooked sous-vide. WAIT!  Don’t run away, you can make it if you don’t have the Anova gadget sitting in your kitchen drawer. But I must say bacon cooked sous-vide and stored in the fridge waiting to shine in any recipe is a very nice item for the busy cook. Or any cook, actually, because this method gets quite a bit of the greasy “feel” of bacon out of the equation, and the texture will be superb.

bacon-egg-cups2

BACON AND EGG CUPS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

several slices of bacon, preferably cooked sous-vide
large eggs
salt
Aleppo pepper (or pepper of your choice)

If cooking the bacon sous-vide, place the slices in a bag and submerge in the water-bath set to 147 F (64 C) overnight. I left mine 12 hours, but you can do it longer if more convenient.  At the end of the cooking time, a lot of fat will have accumulated inside the bag. You can save it if you like to cook with it, or discard it.  Place the cooked slices of bacon over paper towels to dry them well. Store them in the fridge until ready to use. If not using sous-vide, cook the bacon on a skillet, but do not allow it to get too brown or crispy.  Drain them well in paper towels before assembling the cups.

Heat the oven to 375 F (175 C).

Cover the bottom of a muffin baking tin with bacon, making sure to come up all the way to the top. Gently break an egg and place it inside. Season with salt and pepper.  Bake according to your preference. I like the egg yolks to be runny, so 10 to 15 minutes maximum will be enough.  If you like your eggs fully cooked, go for 20 minutes, but pay close attention, you don’t want to over-dry the egg.

Remove to a serving dish, and dig in!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I made this recipe for the first time in July, and since then we’ve been cooking bacon sous-vide on a regular basis. To me, it takes bacon to a whole new level, cutting some of the harshness I find overpowering. If you get your pan screaming hot, you can get by simply searing one side of the bacon slice, as the whole thing is already perfectly cooked to start with. But, even if you crisp up both sides, the texture will be perfect.

compositebacon1

These little cups are perfect for breakfast, or a light lunch.  Having the bacon waiting in the fridge makes this preparation a breeze. All you need to do is warm up your oven (we use the Breville that heats up super fast), grab the muffin tin, and you are less than 20 minutes away from a nice meal.   I also made those using prosciutto and ham.  Both work very well, but the sous-vide bacon is my favorite. Keep also in mind that if you’d like a vegetarian version, cooked spaghetti squash strands can be a nice receptacle for the egg. I intend to blog about that sometime. The secret is to  be assertive in the seasoning, otherwise it can be a bit bland.

compositebacon2

For those interested, this is low-carb, Paleo-friendly, Whole30-friendly, but above all, it’s very very tasty!

impossibly-cute-bacon-and-egg-cups-from-bewitching-kitchen

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