Have you noticed by now that people are trying to convince you to do just about everything with bacon? Sometimes it’s simple (candied bacon), sometimes it could occasion a little eyebrow raising (though you can’t write it off if it’s David Lebovitz‘s bacon ice cream), and sometimes it’s just not going to ever happen in my kitchen (bacon vodka). But it does make for amusing reading, if nothing else–click here and here if you want to see just how outlandish it can get.
(And yes, I can’t deny it, we are all susceptible: I did after all make bacon spice cookies a while back. It’s no fun to be Serious Cuisine all the time is it?)
So–even with everyone jumping on this bacon bandwagon, using lard or bacon fat is still a bit out there. (When did you last eat an apple pie made with lard?) But even though it’s head-spinning to try to keep up with these things, it looks as if these animal fats aren’t quite so bad, or at least not in comparison with their trans-fat laden substitutes. (My crude understanding of this being to stay away from vegetable fats that are solid at room temperature).
I don’t know if I was inspired by healthier living (nor can I really say that with a straight face, we’re talking pork fat here), an attempt at kitchen frugality, or just this bacon craze, but I’ve recently been saving the (massive amounts of) drippings that render from our CSA bacon. As this bacon is from heritage breed pigs, it is by no stretch of the imagination lean. But it’s amazingly good. So good, that why would I not want to draw out the flavors of a Sunday breakfast through the week, especially if I can convince myself I’m being virtuous by, well, um, using bacon drippings?
I’ve made broccoli rabe pan-fried with potatoes many times since I first read about it on Leite’s Culinaria. The slightly bitter but fresh tasting rabe with crisped soft potatoes is a perfectly rib-sticking winter food. The original recipe is from Julia della Croce’s Italian Home Cooking and thus calls for olive oil. I’ve found that it’s equally wonderful with bacon fat–all those meaty aromas melding into your potatoes and flavoring your greens. Either way, it’s just right for mid-January. And I guess it means I’m trendy.
Note: The original recipe uses olive oil, so if you don’t like, don’t have, or just don’t eat pork, fear not as I can assure it’s equally wonderful either way.
- 2 Yukon Gold or similar potatoes, unpeeled
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe
- 4-6 tablespoons bacon fat or extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 large garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
Put the potatoes in a deep bot and cover with cold water to cover by an inch. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to gently boil for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with a knife (total time will depend upon the size of the potato). Lift the potatoes out of the water (don’t drain the water but rather leave it in the pot as you will be using it momentarily). Allow the potatoes to cool.
Trim the rabe: cut the hard ends off and (ideally) peel the stalks with a vegetable peeler. Cut off the florets and then chop the stems into 3-inch chunks. Return the potato water to a boil, adding the salt and extra water if needed. Then add the stalks, boil for 2-3 minutes, then add the florets, and cook 2-3 minutes more, until stalks are tender but not mushy. Note this blanching process doesn’t just cook the rabe but also draws out bitterness.
Peel the skin off the potatoes–it will come off easily using your fingertips alone and cut each potato into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick pieces.
In a large skillet, heat the fat or oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute gently until soft, just a few minutes, and remove the garlic to a bowl.
Raise the heat to medium-high. When it is hot, (and only when it is hot; this helps prevent sticking and promotes crispiness) add the potatoes, and sauté until they are golden and crisp all over, about 10 minutes. Add the rabe and garlic cloves, and continue to saute until the greens are well-coated with the fat or oil and are heated through.
Adjust for seasoning and serve.
- The Minimalist: Baked Broccoli Rabe with Parmesan (markbittman.com)
- Polenta with Roasted Broccoli Rabe, Cauliflower and Tomatoes (frshforce.wordpress.com)