Gifts: The Bacon Press and the Sloppy Joe

A little late with this blog. A little late with everything.

Last weekend was a good old time. It was graduation weekend and several of my friends came back to Santa Cruz to a) graduate, or b) celebrate with people who graduated. There were plenty of parties to go to. One of which featured the world premiere of Lindsey and my tribute to Lady Gaga at the karaoke at Coasters. That one was dedicated to our dear friend Becky, who walked the next day.


I also ran into Jim and Jessica at Jessica's reading for A New Cadence Poetry Series, which Jim facilitates. Jessica didn't read poetry. She read one of her excellent stories because this was the first installment of A New Cadence Poetry Series's A New Cadence Poetry Series Summer of Fiction. Later on, during the weekend, I met up with them at their place because our dear friend Alexis was back in town for Chris's graduation. They also gave me this:

It's a bacon press. I never knew these existed. The bacon press is a hefty piece of cast iron, with a wooden handle. Apparently, they're supposed to be placed on top of bacon on a skillet so that the bacon doesn't shrivel up while it fries. Jessica said they found it at a thrift store and thought of me when they bought it. Thanks, Jim and Jessica! Once I clean the rust up, it will be put to good use, helping me enjoy my bacon. Jim also suggested that perhaps I should start a publishing company called Bacon Press, and this can be my imprint.

And one more gift. I had a slow start to my Saturday. Had a late breakfast at 11:30. It wasn't that extravagant, so by 5PM I was pretty darn hungry. Hopped in my car and drove to my new favorite burger place in Santa Cruz, burger. Since burger. has opened, they've gotten better and better. Last night I found out that their beer license was granted and their taps are on and they have a pretty good selection of beers on tap. I predict that this place will be my favorite place this summer. And they have a few more things in store that have yet to come online-- a jukebox, movie nights, games... How exciting. Can it be that for the first time in forever, a restaurant will actually survive on the corner of Mission and Bay?

So I was sitting at the bar, having my usual Dude Burger (bacon, cheese and avocado), with garlic fries and a mint chocolate chip milkshake, when the guy behind the bar approaches and sets a plate in front of me. "I want you to try this," he said. "It's a sloppy joe."

Do they know the way to my heart or what?

Already I was kind of full from the burger and garlic fries extravaganza in front of me, but the sloppy joe was a new menu item and I had to give it a taste. I haven't had a sloppy joe since my time at P.S. 152 in Woodside, Queens. I remember that it was kind of a comfort food. Burger.'s sloppy joe was zesty. I think I tasted a little roasted red bell pepper in there, so it wasn't just a mess of meat in tomato sauce. If I hadn't already eaten 1/3 pounds of grass fed beef from Humboldt County, I would've scarfed the sloppy joe down and licked the plate. Oh man, that was good.

I then proceeded to walk around for the next four hours in food coma bliss.

Like whoah. What a great week for gifts.

The Triumphant Return (now with more Bacon!)

We have been way to busy to keep up with the blog. But enough is enough.

In December, my friend Jordi was keen enough to post this gem on my Facebook page:
If I Die A Bacon-Related Death, I'd Like It To Be Because Of This

The resulting outburst of chatter was exciting. Clearly, this was a topic dear to everyone's hearts. Excerpts follow:

Me: OMG... Must do tomorrow.
Aileen: here are no words. none. greasy elegance rolled into one. can you weave other designs? do it Mike!! do it Jords (or did you already make this?)
Jordi: i'm gonna weave me a f*ckin' bacon blanket and wrap myself in it!!
Me: This guy's only mistake was that he didn't put chorizo in with the cheese.
Tracy: I may just have to surprise my husband with this one...but yeah, I agree with Mike - sausage and even some hash browns...
Jordi: or wild mushrooms and goat cheese...mmm. it can be the new crust. just add your favorite filling
Ria: But I do agree, it's missing more ingredients. Please update if any of you try it! Very curious....
SooJee: tell us how this comes out Mike and take pics:)
Tracy: Wild mushrooms and goat cheese? Sorry, but there's nothing gourmet about a basket weaved with bacon...
Jordi: not only is it gourmet, woven bacon is couture!
Me: Only bacon can turn gourmet into gourm-yay.

I didn't get to do anything with the idea until Christmas when I was asked to do a little appetizer for Christmas dinner. So here we go. (Yes many of you have seen this already but as I have not cooked anything interesting in the past month, we will do reruns for now)

To address my primary contention in the conversation above that the original blogger didn't do enough with his bacon, I decided to make this a surf and turf. We used some steamed shrimp and some herbed goat cheese instead of the simple shredded cheddar that the original blogger used.

First we weave le bacon. (Jordi said it was couture so we have to use francaise when we can)

Et voila, le bacon mat.

We fry the bacon.

We add the goat cheese and shrimps. (Kosher this is definitely not)

We roll the bacon.

And the finished product!

Which our President-Elect then proceeds to devour, not mindful of the other guests at holiday dinner who wanted in on the bacon fun.

The overall verdict was that it was delicious. It was good. But the preparation left a lot of room for improvement. The bacon fell apart when I attempted to slice it into pinwheels for presentation. Somebody suggested that I perhaps finish it in the oven to seal in the goodness and to firm up the bacon. The surf-and-turf-like combination of pork and shrimp was great and the herbed goat cheese was a good balancing note.

A future possible application, per Paolo, Jordi and Ria: weave the bacon and place it into metal colander with curved bottom to bake-- result would be a bacon bowl! We could then pile on all the toppings our hearts desire.


I was going to do a repeat of the dish on New Year's Eve, substituting scallops for the shrimp. Because we were strapped for time I never go to do this. Instead, I just individually wrapped the scallops in bacon the next day and speared the whole clump of goodness with rosemarry to pin it all together, then grilled the little suckas. While not as aesthetically pleasing as a bacon mat, they were still pretty and were great New Year's amuse bouches.

Chocolate Covered Bacon?!

Chocolate is my favorite food. Bacon is my second favorite food. Marini's, a candy institution in Santa Cruz, California, makes chocolate covered bacon. I've lived here in this little provincial backwater for several years already and I only discovered Marini's chocolate covered bacon last Friday when a coworker asked me if I liked bacon. Are you kidding me? Of course I like bacon-- shouldn't even be questioned. He told me that Marini's had chocolate covered bacon. Thinking of this in the abstract, I wondered why there were no riots stampeding towards Marini's for these suckas. I left work early just so I could walk across the street and buy a few strips.

Admittedly, chocolate covered bacon is a novelty candy-- like tequila lollipops with worm inside. It's probably just there at Marini's, targeted to touristy crowds who want proof that the town of Santa Cruz is pretty wacky. The candy is not really mindblowing. I was expecting my entire world to implode after eating bacon and chocolate together. Marini's milk chocolate is not my favorite, and the bacon they used was not really too tasty. If it had more salty-smoky bacony flavor, perhaps the bacon would be prominent enough to offset the sweetness of the Marini's milk chocolate. It also was devoid of the wonderful bacony crunch. In the end, I issue a standard "meh." I'll stick to the deep-fried Twinkies.

National Burger Month Day 12: Undermining the Tofu Burger

Tonight's burger was the most challenging burger we've made yet. After yesterday's bulgogi burger, I felt the need to leave the beef alone for a little bit. I suggested to the team that perhaps we could try our hand at tofu. But I also think all of us kind of realized how boring a prospect tofu in a burger would be. Personally, I've never met a tofu burger that I truly liked. Even in my days as a closeted carnivorous vegetarian (back when I hid from my friends the fact that I occasionally ate burgers and that I wasn't at all ovo-lacto) I never had a good tofu burger. I think it was Andrea who suggested we put bacon on our tofu burgers. Haha, funny, we thought. But then I remembered that Top Chef recently had an episode about tofu soaked in rendered beef fat. And the chefs who came up with that stuff won that challenge. So we decided that the only tofu burgers that we could possibly do for National Burger Month needed to soak in rendered beef fat, be fried on bacon grease, and be topped by strips of bacon.

And so was born the tofu burger, marinated in rendered beef fat, topped with a thai green curry, soy fried snow peas, and crisp bacon. It was inspired by and adapted from the Top Chef recipe by Dale and Richard.

The burger:
20 oz super-firm tofu, cut into 1 inch chunks
1.5 cups beef fat, rendered
2 tbsp scallions, chopped
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1 tbsp cilantro
2 tbsp green curry sauce
1 tbsp chipotle pepper, minced
5 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp sesame oil
1 egg
1 cup panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

The crust:
2 tbsp coriander
1/2 cup sliced almonds

I rendered the beef fat first. I didn't do the labor intensive boil-the-fat-and-reboil-and-reboil method for rendering. I just simmered it in a pan until I got a bunch of greasy oil. I coated the tofu chunks in this oil and let them be for about half an hour, as I prepped everything else.

Threw the tofu, egg, chipotle pepper, ginger, scallion, cilantro, canola and sesame oils in a food processor and pulsed until the mixture was a smooth slurry. After this, the breadcrumbs were mixed in with the tofu.

Formed the tofu into patties, which were then dragged in a bowl full of the crust mixture. They were then ready to fry. But before this happened, we had to do the bacon, which we fried on a griddle, making sure to leave enough bacon grease to fry the burgers in.

As a side dish, I prepared some snow peas, which I stir fried briefly with some garlic and soy sauce.

Burgers were fried for about 4 minutes per side and laid onto toasted english muffins. Once ready, we spooned some green curry sauce (store bought) onto the burgers and then topped them with a piece of bacon and a pod of snow peas.

Not a beef burger.

The burgers were actually pretty good, though I wouldn't call them a homerun. I wanted more. I wanted the beef to show through the tofu. I wanted to take a bite and realize that this was tofu the way it was meant to be: full of flavor and full of depth. Looking back, I think I should've pulverize the tofu more before marinating it. But really, the burgers were extremely tasty. The green curry was delicious and the coriander lent the burgers a sweet, smoky taste. The snow peas were fragrant and crispy. The real star, and the key ingredient, was the bacon. It went so well with the curry sauce and the curry infused in the burger.

Overall, I think this was a good effort, but not a spectacular burger for National Burger Month. I wanted to be able to say "I can't believe this is tofu." If that were my only goal, then we only had middling results. But my real goal was to undermine the idea of tofu burger. And I think we succeeded in doing this. Go team.

I realized that I would've been much happier as a vegetarian a few years ago if I ate more bacon.