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Monday, February 23, 2009

Mmmmmmusical Theater

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lex Luthor

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Doggystyle

An Englishman with a lisp started schooling me on “the bitches,” and it meant only one thing: New York City's world famous Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was in full swing. So let's take a break from Bacon Week to check out this year's hottest doggy styles. Stump the Sussex Spaniel may have taken Best In Show, but plenty of other pooches killed us... with kindness! And farts. (Seriously, MSG smelled like poopy butt.) Details below!
First up, a candid shot of David Frei. All I know about Frei is that he hosts the USA Network's annual Westminster coverage, so I googled him to find out what he does with the other 363 days of his year. Not much, friend, not much. Save, of course, volunteer work with the Transfiguration Church and School of NYC – NOT, as it turns out, the Minnesota Transfiguration Catholic Church and School... whose web address is the all-time hi-larious “www.tranny.org”.
The atmosphere at Westminster is often descibed as “electric,” so we went looking for the party. First stop? Europe's “party island” Ibiza, of course! We figured an Ibizan Hound was good for some unihibited Continental fun, but shame on us... Essie – the 4th ranked Ibizan in America – was getting some rest after her last-ever Westminster showing. (A life of lure coursing, chuck-and-eggs, and beef hearts awaits on a 10-acre Texas ranch.)
Do you remember the 80s, friend? Bud Light's official Party Animal, a/k/a Spuds Mackenzie? He was a Bull Terrier who rolled to parties and was instantly swarmed by attractive, scantily clad women. Breaker from Indiana drew quite a (thankfully fully-clothed) crowd himself. This 18-month pup owes his appeal to a smooth egg-shaped nose and deep-set traingular eyes. That, and the fact that Dog in Party Hat drinking Beer = Irresistable, imaginary or no.On the subject of fawning, Brando T. Beefcake drew a dog's share of cameras and action and lights. And why not? This was the first year the Dogue de Bordeaux showed at Westminster, and he took best in breed. A mellow fellow, he hails from Miami, where his owner/breeder/handler pampers him with churrasco. He also enjoys having two women wipe his drool and scratch his butt in front of a camera. (Have you seen this movie before?)
I spent about half in year in Scotland once, only to discover that boozing and bitter cold are not a productive combo. Alas, Bruce, the #4 Scottish Terrier in the US of A (I'm still not sure what this means) seemed a bit more level-headed: strawberry banana yogurt is his only vice!
The same could not be said for Finnean. This Glen of Imaal Terrier's favorite treat? Jameson-soaked garlic-and-herbed chicken. “He's an Irishman,” his handler said by way of explanation. Sham Rock, indeed!
I once overheard a stranger obsessed with a hound outside the Union Square Dog Run. He kept pointing at the pooch and poking his friend: “Yo, look at that droopy one, Mike, the droopy one is mad funny!” [turns for emphasis] “Yo Mike, why didn't you get one of them droopy ones?” I totally agree. Raleigh the Bloodhound was mad funny and, at not even two years old, still putting weight on his 120 pound frame.I had a Basset Hound growing up who was hung like a horse. It was embarrassing. To the point where I would try to avoid walking past firemen, cops, etc. (“Ayyyy, now THAT'S the MAN!!!) I checked the AKC standard and there is no mention of Dong. But trust us on this, the Basset lives large.
Not everyone has the lack of self-consciousness level of commitment needed to raise a breed with BOTH Dandie AND Dinmont in the name. And yet, Minnie Mouse (the dog) is treated like San Francisco royalty. This bay area queen rode her fluffy fro to victory, taking a highly coveted best in breed and looking forward to an evening meal of roast trout with potatoes and ice cream.
On the opposite end of the calm spectrum? Cosmo the Saint Bernard from Derby, Connecticut. I didn't see the brandy, but maybe that's because he prefers maxing and relaxing with chicken noodle soup and extra sharp cheddar.
Quixote the Chow Chow says: call me Butter Pecan Rican. And get me a cheesburger!
Paesan the Great Dane says: What the hell is going on? I love bologna sandwiches!
Zarys the Polish Lowland Sheepdog (PONS to you) says: I was in that Looney Tunes joint with Wile E. Coyote. Kielbasa is the money sausage!
Taryn the French Bulldog says: Who cares?
And poodle/poodle lady says: It's party time!


Back soon on the bacon trail,

–J. Slab

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Making Bacon: Oh Yeah

“I was out by the yarde eating hotte buttered corne.”

No sooner had the words parted from Ms. Featherbottom's lippes than did hee knowtice the rosy flush of a cheeke hott with emotion. And his heart sank; for in that moment, the sweete sweete acte of mayking baconne wouldst forever carrye with it the stings and arrowes of outrageous innuendoe.

– Excerpt taken from
A Ribald Life: Six True Tales by Sir Humphrey B. Porkington (1854)
At least 480 times a day someone writes in to ask, “Hey Slab: what is the best way to make bacon?” And I just blush. Because it's a sexy question friend, and an extremely important one to boot.

As Rakim wrote, “I ain't no joke, I used to let the [pork] smoke.” And he's right, champ – making bacon is serious business. Vladimir Putin Serious. No mistakes allowed, nobody's smiling, strictly business Business. It is also far more difficult than you might think.

Why so?

i) Gustatory anticipation. Bacon is maddeningly delicious. The minute that first slice hits the pan, sizzle and aroma invoke sharp auditory and olfactory arousal. Which means you are immediately concentrating on the ends (eating) rather than the means (making).

2) It takes forever. There really is no fast way to satisfactorily cook bacon. Low and slow heat works best but, according to the New England Journal of Ambulatory Pork Science, it is medically impossible not to want to crank that sh*t up; even a Frenchman would try and cut corners.

C) Is it done, dun? It's difficult to tell when bacon is done. Difficult, not impossible. Once you get past the urge to eat it near-raw, you must stifle the urge to overcook. Bacon is not unlike a fine slice of prosciutto: fat and meat are equally important to the flavor-equation. So don't overcook unless you want a salty dry product. (You don't.)

Now that the dangers are clear and present, how best to make bacon?

The Alton Brown method, as adapted from The Food Network:
  1. Place strips of bacon onto a sheet pan fitted with a rack or parchment paper and place into a cold oven.
  2. Turn the oven to 400 degrees and cook for about 12 to 15 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your bacon.
  3. Remove and drain on paper towels.
  4. Behave!
I have to say Alton knows his stuff, and this is by far the easiest way to prepare bacon. It produces toothsome, evenly cooked slices, and severely cuts down on the urge to fret nervously whilst awaiting full cookage.
Baked or Fried: Either Way Kills Braincells!

My only problem with “The Alton Brown” method? It feels like a cheap victory. I actually enjoy all the stuff that makes bacon makin' stressful: the sizzle, the smell, the discipline, the hovering, the rewarded patience. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to see my bacon render and hear it fry on a hot pan. And I freakin' love bacon presses, which have no place in the oven-bake method.

So if you like low hassle go A.B.; if you want to bring the heat...
  1. Buy a griddle. You need something with a long flat surface to accomodate a reasonable amount of bacon.
  2. Heat said griddle to warm, reduce heat to low and add bacon slices. Be careful NOT to crowd.
  3. Top with a bacon press after the fat begins rendering (it will be slightly translucent, but not curled). This helps keep the strips flat and stimulates even cooking.
  4. Wait and wait and wait. In the interim I suggest either 1) drinking, b) calling the Dell customer service department, or III) doing something mind-numbing and/or infuriating to keep yourself from turning up the heat too quickly. Slow and low, homeskillet.
  5. The strips will start to carmelize slightly; remove the bacon press, flip those strips, and keep close watch; you're almost there. NOTE: This is the only time you can safely crank the heat, but it is not advised. Only if you are super crazy hungry and have the “bacon sweats.”
  6. DO NOT OVERCOOK. This is the number one mistake people make with bacon, and the ramafications are nothing pretty. (hint: Israeli-Palentinian conflict) Your bacon will continue to crisp up and cook a bit off-heat, so pull it just before you think it's ready. Above all, do not attempt to render all the fat; this is what gives the final product sweetness and fine texture (i.e. deliciousness and chewiness).
And there you have it. Griddle and bacon press reviews coming next, and then (gasp) the results of our almighty Blind Bacon Tasting. Oh yeah.

–J. Slab

p.s. Bacon Sweats: (n) a physical state of moist chills brought about by the mental anticipation of eating delicious bacon in the near future.

p.p.s. bacolicio.us cordially invites you to “grease your friends.” (via D-Listed.)

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