Blog time. It has been a long while.
It has been almost 18 months since the Café doors were closed. So much has NOT happened. But then again a whole lifetime seems to have zipped by.
I have a new welcome mat that reads There and Back Again because 2010-2013 was an epic journey.
The memories of that journey (according to my Facebook feed) are still being sung over pans of bacon and steaming pots of soup. That makes it all worthwhile.
Like any normal Gemini with Leo rising, I retreated to my cave to lick my paws.
Wondering at the mightiness of it all.
It has been sincerely dark from time to time.
And very, very quiet.
At about the six-month mark, I had caught up on sleep, and at 12 months, the foot and hip injury disappeared. My smart-ass aprons look a little forlorn hanging on a hook in the closet. Eleanore the Pig is now flying with grace and style in my living room. I don’t dress her up like the customers always did. She seems happy with her simple pink ribbon.
The memories, the people, the continued stream of customers who still keep in touch have given me tremendous food for thought. (Pun intended) Life is amazing. I know I could never pull together the energy and drive to repeat what we had at Lell’s Café. I channeled something big, and along with that, the right people appeared. It was KISMET.
How lucky was I to be in the middle of all of that magic?
I am consistently asked if I miss the Café. Of course! However, I like the peace that is my current life. I do miss feeding large groups of people, but that takes cash I currently do not have.
Life is an endless rollercoaster, and I plan to continue the ride.
I occasionally venture into kitchen world via computer.
I get a kick out of watching YouTube videos of Jamie Oliver’s “At Home” series, most especially the carrots and beets episode. Right there at the very end he is sitting in his garden on the corner of a raised bed cooking on a little open fire. He slaps that plate together with smoked beets and a little bit of meat and a simple sauce. Then he looks at the plate. Right there. Watch him. That face he makes, that sound he makes? That is why I cook. It is a visceral and transcendent moment.
A few nights ago, I had a visit from a treasured friend. I cooked some local pork chops and made sautéed squash with goat cheese. I marinated the chops in bourbon, honey, and red pepper flakes. I pan-seared them and finished them in the oven. Then I poured in the remaining marinade and reduced it with a little bit of heavy cream, salt, and pepper. Tasted it. Cue the same look, same sound.
Followed by revered silence at the table with the first bite.
It was so simple, but so sublime. Local Pork. (Please note the local part.) Squash from a local farmer, goat cheese from another one. And fresh basil from my garden, torn up and flung like confetti across the top.
I mean, seriously.
Oh, and the quick pickles! Cucumbers sliced and doused with red wine vinegar, honey, and salt.
I’m teaching private cooking classes again. I figure I can share the process of that simple sauce and pass it along to another table full of happy people.
- Oven 350 degrees
- Rimmed baking sheet covered with parchment paper
- Plain sliced pork belly, no cure, no smoke.
- Kosher Salt
- Black Pepper
- Brown Sugar
- At your local Farmer's Market ask your pig farmer for sliced bacon. This means the slices were cut straight from the pork belly and packaged with no curing seasonings and no smoke process. This will typically be sold in one pound frozen packages.
- Cover your sheet pan with parchment paper to make clean up easier. Try to fit the paper to overlap the pan edges so you create a rim to contain the bacon grease. Plan to pour off the cooled fat in a container for other uses when the bacon is done.
- Lay the bacon strips flat on the pan with strips touching but not overlapping. Sprinkle kosher salt over all the pieces using restraint. Less is more here. Follow with black pepper and then brown sugar. This is not a cover and smother opportunity but rather a delicate balance of all flavors. Large clumps of brown sugar will tend to burn in the oven, so be careful and take your time getting the seasoning scattered over the bacon evenly.
- Place bacon in the oven and set the timer for 18 minutes.
- Turn the pan around and set the timer for another 15 minutes.
- At this point your personal preferences will come into play. The fat should be translucent and the meat a darker pink tending toward brown. You can pull the bacon and stop the cooking process or you can stand at the oven and check the pan every 3 minutes to make sure you don't burn your bacon.
- At the cafe we pulled the bacon early, kept it refrigerated until needed and re-heated until sizzling on the griddle as it was ordered. At home you can make this ahead, wrap well in foil and keep in the fridge. Reheat in the foil in a 350 degree oven or heat to sizzling in a fry pan. There will be no leftovers.