Bacon Candied and Curried Cashews

I was looking for a way to put together some cashews and use some up that I had in my cabinet, when I came across this recipe in the Smoke and Pickles cookbook.  I’ve been doing a fair bit of cooking from that cookbook recently, so you can anticipate more recipes will come from there.

Besides my oven rack being a little warmer than I would like, these were easy to do (I made them on Sunday morning before church) and had a good bit of kick to them.  The cayenne pepper was a nice addition to the other flavors.  The bacon, pre-oven cooking was nice and candied, and the cashews have been great to snack on this week.  I’d recommend trying them if you are looking for something different to have when sitting on the patio, sipping your cold beverage after having taken care of some yardwork.

Bacon Candied and Curried Cashews.jpg

Bacon Candied and Curried Cashews

6 slices applewood-smoked bacon, diced
2 Tbsp sugar
1 c cashews
2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the diced bacon and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until most of the fat has rendered and the bacon has started to get crispy.  Drain off all but about a tablespoon of the bacon fat into a small bowl; reserve.

Add the sugar to the skillet and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes, until it has coated the bacon and the bacon starts to look shiny.  Add the cashews, curry powder, cayenne, salt, and black pepper, and toss together to coat the nuts.  If they seem a little dry, add another teaspoon of bacon fat and toss to coat.

Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 12 minutes, or until lightly toasted.  Let cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Braised Bacon Rice

Recently, I have been flipping through a few random cookbooks where I had recipes flagged.  One such cookbook was done by a Top Chef contestant and is called Smoke and Pickles.  It features an updated take on southern cooking, an area of cooking where I have not done much experimenting, but was eager to try.  I found this recipe for braised bacon rice, and while I didn’t see a photo in the cookbook of the recipe, it looked yummy.  I was also pleased because I had the opportunity to incorporate some more cayenne pepper into my cooking, something that this midwestern gal is sometimes apprehensive to do, to say the least.

I was delighted by this recipe.  It had great flavor and with the hint of spiciness at the end of the dish.  It was nice and creamy, almost comfort food-like, and in the heat of the summer, it was a great option for on the stovetop.

Braised Bacon Rice

Braised Bacon Rice

8 oz slab bacon, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 1/2 c chopped onions
1 c chopped celery, plus 2 Tbsp chopped celery leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
4 c chicken stock
1/2 c tomato juice
1 c long-grain rice
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cook the bacon in a large pot over low heat until it has rendered most of its fat, about 5 minutes.  Add the onions, chopped celery, and the garlic and cook about 6 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning the bottom of the pan.

Add the mustard, cayenne, and paprika and stir, then add the chicken stock and tomato juice and bring to a boil.  Add the rice, stir, and lower the heat to a slow simmer.  Let the rice cook, uncovered, for about 16 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Add the chopped celery leaves, butter, and salt and pepper to taste to the rice.  Turn off the heat and let the rice stand for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve hot.

Strawberry Ketchup

If you are experiencing the summer we’re having in Iowa, strawberries might be in season for you.  And, if you are like me, you might be looking for some new ways to cook with and/or serve them to others.  Well, I was looking through my copy of the Smoke and Pickles cookbook and came across this recipe for strawberry ketchup.  It was just intriguing enough that I knew I wanted to make it and try it out.  Thus far, I’ve tasted it on its own and with beef, and it hasn’t disappointed in either setting.  I think it could compete with a number of other spices going on in a meat, and so I would be hesitant to serve it alongside a heavily-seasoned meat item, but it’s definitely not sweet enough to be confused with a jam or jelly.

The ketchup has a nice sweetness, without being overpowering, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I imagine setting it on the table at a barbecue and having people put a little dab on their plate, but then enjoying it enough to go back for more.

I will say that I ended up cooking it for quite a bit longer after pureeing it and adding the other seasonings because I wanted to thicken it up more than it automatically did during the cooking process.  Take that into consideration, should you choose to make it as well.

Strawberry Ketchup

Strawberry Ketchup

1 lb fresh strawberries, washed and hulled, sliced or halved
1/2 c chopped onion
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 c brown sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Combine the strawberries, onion, cider vinegar, brown sugar, and soy sauce in a small pot, bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook for 14 minutes, until the strawberries are soft and broken down.

Transfer the berry mixture to a blender and puree on high.  Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.  Discard the solids.

Add the white vinegar, ginger, salt, white pepper, paprika, cumin, and cloves.  Whisk well.  Transfer to two small jars, cover, and refrigerate.  The ketchup will keep up to a month in the refrigerator.