What can be better then bacon and eggs then to give it an Italian twist? The last thing I was talking about in Translation was form (see Translation) and this idea is a great example. This idea came to me because of my love for Italian deserts. While working in Boston, I spent many nights exploring the north end and the many restaurants. One night I was invited to accompany two young ladies to a small Italian bakery to experience the best cannoli’s in Boston in exchange for seeing them safely through the construction of the big dig to the subway. When I started this project, I toyed with the idea of stuffing eggs in cannoli shells for a bacon and eggs dish but then I had an inspiration. Why not use bacon as the cannoli shell and make a dish any bacon lover would love. After some experimentation, I was able to put together my Italian style bacon and egg cannoli’s. I added the parmesan crisps to add additional texture and a punch of flavor. Instead of toast, bruschetta with a touch of fresh basil, garlic, diced heirloom tomato, a great spicy olive oil and sea salt with a touch of red pepper flake. I could add a shaped piece of grilled polenta with some flavoring to give it some interest or maybe some sautéed greens (my wife's idea).
This idea seems simple but it packs a great visual statement; crispy tubes of thick sliced bacon filled with a mixture of eggs and cheese. What could be more simple?
8 slices of thick sliced bacon
6 Large Eggs
⅓ Cup grated Parmesan Reggiano
3 Tbsp. Butter
4 cannoli molds (tubes)
Parchment paper or silicone baking sheet
Piping bag and tip (or use a plastic Ziploc bag with the corner cut off)
Optional: Sous vide setup and whipped cream canister
Spray each of the cannoli molds with cooking spray. Score the sides of the bacon slices to help prevent curling. Loosely roll the bacon around the mold over-lapping the bacon then start the second piece ½ inch under the first and continuing until complete. Place on a parchment covered sheet pan with the end underneath to keep the bacon from un-rolling. Repeat for the rest of the molds. Place the sheet pan in the oven and set the oven to 400° F. Bake until browned (12-18 minutes) and let cool. Carefully remove from the mold and reserve.
Prepare either sous vide scrambled eggs or creamy scrambled eggs using both the Parmesan cheese and the butter. If you use the sous vide method add the cheese and butter to the pouch before cooking the eggs.
To fill the bacon cannoli’s, put the eggs into a piping bag and pipe into the bacon rounds or if you have whipped cream dispenser, load the eggs into the canister, charge and fill the bacon shells. Serves two large or four smaller servings.
Bruschetta is the perfect replacement for toast in this meal. A topping of fresh tomatoes with fresh basil, chopped garlic, red pepper and a sprinkle of finishing salt anointed with extra virgin olive oil helps cut through the fattiness of the bacon and provides a necessary textural element. I have also used chard instead of the basil and tomato if great tomatoes are not available.
2 thick slices of good quality day old Italian bread
1 clove garlic peeled and sliced in half
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 large or 2 medium heirloom tomatoes
3 to 4 large fresh basil leaves
pinch red pepper flakes
Slice on the bias 2 one inch thick pieces of Itailian bread and reserve until needed. Dice the tomato and place in a bowl. Stack the basil leaves with the larger leaves on the bottom and roll up like a cigar; then slice into thin strips (chiffonade) and add to the tomatoes. Finely chop one clove of garlic and add to the tomatoes with a pinch of red pepper flakes.
Toast or grill the bread until nicely browned and rub with the second piece of garlic. It should melt into the bread. Top with the tomato mixture and top with a pinch of finishing salt and a drizzle of good quaility extra virgin olive oil and serve.
Cheese Pancetta Polenta
Living in the south for a few years I became acclimated to cheese grits and keeping with the Italian theme I want to utilize pancetta, fontina and pecorino romano cheeses. Switching to Italian polenta made from flint corn creates a more textural mouth feel and the addition of crispy pancetta and authentic Italian cheese adds a salty accent. I like to make my polenta the day before and let it set up overnight. I just need to cut an interesting shape and grill it before serving.
2 cups good quality polenta
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
Salt to taste
½ pound pancetta
½ large sweet onion
1 cup grated pecorino Romano
1 cup grated Fontina cheese
1 Tbsp. Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Finely dice the pancetta and onion. Heat a skillet on medium heat; add the oil and pancetta and sauté until the fat begins to render. Add in the onions and continue to cook until the pancetta is crispy. Reserve.
Add chicken stock and milk to a large stock pot. Taste and correct seasoning and bring to a boil. Whisk in polenta and cook until done. Grate the cheeses and add to the polenta and stir to mix. Add pancetta and onions and blend thoroughly. Taste and correct seasoning. Spray a glass baking dish with non-stick spray. Let the polenta cool then pour into the glass baking dish, smoothing the polenta into a single layer. Refrigerate overnight.
Unmold the polenta onto a cutting board and cut into triangles or another desired shape. Grill the polenta and keep warm until ready to use
Creates twelve large triangles. Refrigerate remaining pieces and use within a week
I am always looking for great ways to save some calories without sacrificing taste. Changing the form of a BLT enables me to cut down on the bread and increase the lettuce with a dramatic decrease of calories and I know there are a lot of people out there that want to lose some weight. I'd wish I could say that I was sitting in a restaurant eating a lettuce wrap when inspiration struck but to be honest I was just looking for a low-calorie option for breakfast. When I thought about a breakfast salad everything fell into place; the tomatoes and lettuce the stars and give the bacon and bread a supporting role. All I have to do is wrap everything in the lettuce leaf and I have the same elements in a different yet familiar form, reinforcing the premise that inspiration is based on exposure to multiple ideas and just bringing it all together in an unique way.
4 pounds fresh firm tomatoes
1 head iceberg or butter lettuce
10 pieces thick sliced bacon
3-4 slices of thin sliced dense bread
10 fresh basil leaves
3 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Optional: Sliced avocado
Silpat silicone baking sheet or parchment paper
Preheat oven to 350° F. Dice the bread into small cubes, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and spread out in a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. Bake until brown and crispy and reserve.
Bring a stock pot of water to boil and prepare an ice-bath. Core out the stem end of the tomatoes with a paring knife and cut a small X in the opposite end. Blanch the tomatoes for 30 seconds to loosen the skins then transfer to the ice-bath to cool down. Remove the skins, de-seed and dice into ¼ inch pieces. Reserve.
Heat a sauté pan on medium heat. Cut the bacon into ⅓ inch pieces and sauté until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel to dry. Reserve.
Roll up the basil leaves length-wise and finely cut into fine ribbons (chiffonade). Core the lettuce and cut lengthwise in half, remove the outer leaves and discard. Separate the lettuce into individual leaves and reserve. In a bowl mix the tomatoes, bacon and basil. Taste and season with salt and pepper. To serve add the tomato mixture on top of the lettuce leaf, sprinkle with croutons and roll. If you like you can slice some avocado and add to the wrap.
Serves 4 to 6.
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How does a good chef think? What is the creative process a
chef uses to come up with new and exciting dishes? What do I need to know to enable that creative process? These are the questions I want to explore in this series of articles. As a chef and an avid cookbook collector I am drawn towards
ideas and techniques of cooking rather than just a collection of recipes. I believe to grow as a chef, I need to continually learn and hone new techniques along with perfecting each technique I use every day. Whenever I go to a restaurant, whether fine dining, neighborhood pub, avant garde, or even fast food, I continually ask myself how can I do this better, what works and more important, what doesn’t? Feel free to send me comments, ask questions. Together, we can explore and make creative cuisine.
Spending almost thirty years in the computing field, I was able to travel experiencing a wide variety of tremendous cuisine. First I became a foodie, and when the opportunity arose, I was able to attend culinary school following my passion. I work as a part-time private chef and volunteer time at the community café in North Bend Oregon providing affordable meals in a restaurant setting to my community.