Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bacon, Blue Cheese, and Brussel Sprouts (BBB): Pasta Salad

Your ingredients
Batcheller Hill Farms makes some of the best smokey, thick-cut bacon I've ever had. I don't know how they coax such richness out of a fatty piece of pork when the rest of the world seems to produce only junky, greasy slabs of crap. I guess it's because they care, and maybe they treat their animals right. Actually, I'm sure it's a combination of the two. And so when Batcheller Hill Farms shows up at the Dewey Square Farmers Market on Tuesdays, I head over to see what they have, and if they have bacon, and I've got some room in my freezer, it's like a match made in heaven.
Brussels Sprouts
Another treat that I've been looking forward to at the farmers market are the brussels sprouts from Kimball Fruit Farm. These large little cabbage looking things are a little bitter, but altogether also very sweet. Quickly baked at a high temperature and sprinkled with balsalmic vinegar, you have a really marvelous side dish for those days when you feel fall creeping in. Since I had already purchased my bacon, and bacon and brussels go together perfectly, however, I would not be doing a simple bake. In fact, I would be employing a couple other wholesome ingredients I had at home, including some Gorgonzola and a few apples that had been pickled last week at Brooksby Farm. Add in some cheap, run of the mill penne, and you have a pasta salad fit for the gods. What's the secret? You have to sautee the brussels in the bacon fat.
So here we go.
1. Set a pot of water on the stove and set it on high heat. Salt the water in preparation for your pasta. You'll want about a cup and a half of penne. You can also take this opportunity to preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. In the meantime, Slice up about three strips of large, thick cut bacon. You'll want about 1/2" pieces so that you get bacon in every bite of pasta. I can't emphasize enough how much better this dish gets when you use great bacon. ::wink wink @ Batcheller Hill Farms::
Fry up your bacon
3. You can also prep your brussels sprouts. Cut off the bottoms, and then slice into the sprouts as if you were cutting a teeny tiny watermelon. You may want to remove the outter most leaves, but if they are nice sprouts, I don't really bother.
4. Take a large frying pan, and add about a half tablespoon of canola oil. Set on medium high heat, and add your bacon. When the bacon is crispy, remove to a plate with a paper towel on top to drain. Immediately add your brussels to the oil. Sprinkle with a little salt, and then also a dash of balsalmic. Sautee until bright green, and then stick into the oven for about five minutes to finish cooking.
Brussels in bacon fat
5. While the brussels are cooking, peel and cube up three apples. Toss them in a big bowl (enough to toss your entire pasta salad) with a bit of lime juice to stop from turning brown. Also take about a tablespoon of the gorgonzola and sprinkle bits all over your apples. The trick is that we'll add the warm penne, and the flavors of the cheese will saturate the pasta.
6. Whenever your pasta is cooked, you can go ahead and drain and add the noodles to the apple/blue cheese combination. Toss vigorously. Now add your brussels and your bacon bits. Toss everything again to combine all the flavors.
BBB Apple Pasta Salad
Bacon, blue cheese, brussels. What a flavor smack. With the pasta absorbing every ounce of delicious blue cheese flavor, plus the saltiness of the chewy, thick bacon, and then the tartness of the apples to balance everything out and add a touch of crunch. Then there are those brussels sprouts. If you've never liked them as a kid, I think you'll be pretty pleased with brussels fried in bacon fat. It's a marvelous, hearty salad, and indubitably a crowd pleaser.

3 slices thick cut bacon
1 1/2 cups of penne pasta
Approximately 10 large brussels sprouts
3 large, tart apples
1 tablespoon gorganzola cheese

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