On Birthday Parties and Our Tiny Lizard Brains

There were ninety minutes to go before guests arrived, and everything was running smoothly.  The bread was out of the oven, and my pimenton mayonnaise had held its fussy emulsion. Cream had been whipped, spiked with Grand Marnier, and prepped for deployment atop mugs full of warm boozy goodness.   Chocolate-Chip cookie dough had been scooped onto parchment and was ready for baking.  I had a gallon of cocoa on a low simmer. Ganache for the chocolate martinis was gently holding over a double-boiler.   A Tom Waits-ey playlist was already murmuring in the background.  I had cleaned the bejeezus out of my apartment, sourced a hat, and was ready to don a blazer. My long-held fantasy of a winter-themed cocktail party for my birthday was about to come into being.

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What I’ll Be Drinking for the Rest of the Summer

The dreamy and verdant possibilities of early summer have already melted into the haze and sluggishness of late June.  Instead of charting out a novel, or planning a stargazing trip, my mental energy is focused on simply avoiding a sunburned noggin and counting the days until my neighborhood grocery store reopens.   I’m already at the point where I’ll settle for a few cookouts and a bit of mild, age-appropriate mischief.  At least I already know the most important thing:  what I’m going to be drinking.

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The Seven Stages of Bacon Eggnogg

1. Revulsion
A prophet is never understood in his own time. I’m used to this.  It happens most notably with sweet applications: the cookies, the candy, the ice cream.  But a DRINK?  A sweet, traditional dairy-based drink at that.  “No way, Jeff, It’ll be like drinking gravy!”  Or “Gross! Why would i want strips of bacon floating around in my glass?”    I’ve certainly heard my share of scorn from those of us who do not embrace the Bacon Lifestyle.

2. Bewilderment
Fortunately, just as stage number one is inevitable, it follows that the “eeeeu” always morphs into a “huh?” I speculate that certain food combinations seem SO outrageous, that they remain in one’s head even after the emotional reaction passes. The idea just… sits there like a seed on the most fertile soil.

Yes, I say fertile.   People WANT to eat bacon.  They just do.

3. Intruige
Now, If I can get you to “huh?” I can most likely get you to “hmmm.”  It’s at this point I can explain several things.

Most importantly this is NOT a hamshake.  That would be gross.  What we are talking about is taking an egg and dairy-driven beverage and infusing it with a highly complimentary flavor set.

Also, I mention that the bacon is strained out.  I mean, we totally eat it later because we never EVER waste bacon, but this does remain a beverage.

4. Bargaining
Sometimes people just need to get comfortable with an idea. They raise objections and express hesitation.  Does it taste greasy?  No.  Does it reek of bacon?  Actually no, it’s more of a milder, smoky, savory undertone which balances the sweetness, and besides, there is enough fat to sort of diffuse harsh flavors.   But basically by this point, people are intimating if certain conditions are met, they might be willing.

5. Realignment
If I can get you to this point, there is a 95% chance you will eventually submit to the power of Bacon Eggnogg.   The question has to move from “why should I?” to, “why shouldn’t I?”  To me it’s simple.  It’s a natural pairing.   Starsky and Hutch. Bird and Magic.  Bacon and …eggs.  So stop resisting.

6. Visualization
Once you realize that the bacon is strained out of the dairy, the recipe starts to come together.

An aside. There is a certain unspoken and probably subconscious convention of recipe writing which drives me nuts.  Have you ever noticed that when a traditional recipe is modified by the addition of one blockbuster ingredient, the recipe writer will feel compelled to make a second, theoretically complimentary substitution that is often completely useless or needless? 

I felt compelled, when developing this recipe to tinker with both the spices and the alcohol.  Eggnogg is traditionally flavored with freshly ground nutmeg, and is most often spiked with Bourbon. 

Because of the bacon, however, I felt compelled to experiment with Allspice vs Nutmeg, and rye whiskey versus Bourbon.

In both cases, the substitutions were acceptable.  The allspice provided a rounder set of spices to support the bacon and the rye brought with it a grainyness that didn’t undercut the savory. 

So I’m keeping the rye but using nutmeg.

Bacon Eggnogg

1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
2 cups Whole Milk
1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
2 T (or more) rye whiskey or Burboun
2 sticks bacon, cooked until most of the fat renders out, and dried.

Combine the milk and the cream and the bacon in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Refrigerate until cool or place in an ice-bath.

Whisk the egg yolks until lighter in color and take on volume.  Slowly add sugar.  The mixture should be thick and fall into the bowl in ribbons.

Beat eggs whites until stiff peaks form.

Drain the bacon from the dairy mixture.   Add booze and spices.

Combine the milk with the yolk and then fold in the white.  Garnish with additional nutmeg.

Serves two.
7. Acceptance

This stuff is beyond delicous.





Why I Wore My Dirty, Smelly Hoodie to Work on Friday.

I am not a bright ray of morning sunshine.

It’s the caffeine.  The source of, and solution to, every single one of my problems.   Its careful and tasty delivery into my blood stream dominates how I plan my day. 

Anyway.  I get derailed easily, which explains, but not excuses, my blogging hiatus of late.  I wake up too late, drink soda at work, fall back into the coma and have to either take a nap or recaffienate in the evening, and end up staying up until three am.  Rinse, repeat.

I thought that I had kicked it by Friday, though.  I made it to sleep at a reasonable hour and vowed to wake up early, brew a pot of coffee, do a bit of tai chi, eat a healthy breakfast and make it to work with my brain in vaguely working order.

So… Electric kettle filled the night before.  Beans ready to grind (I buy the Sumatran from Brutopia) Eight hours of sleep, cooperative French press, I “Part The Clouds” for a few, I pour the excess coffee into my travel mug and I was set.

Okay. Fast forward about twenty minutes.  I’m in my car,  pulling out of the driveway.

Forgive me for another digression.  I have this downstairs neighbor.  I’ve written about her before.  She’s an older woman who lives alone in the large apartment on the ground floor.  She walks slowly and stares a lot.  She frikkin spooks me.

So there she is in the driveway, this woman that I loathe with a completely arbitrary and irrational intensity I typically  reserve for vacuum cleaners, cardamom, and the members of Wilco… blocking my exit.

Don’t tempt me, Cat Lady.

She stares. I turn around and stare back. 

I make it a rule to not talk to Cat Lady.  If she speaks to me, I grunt, once.  It gives me no pleasure, as I actually am social and not a bit misanthropic.  But I’ve already been down this road. I say one thing back, then she says another.  Then, the next time I see her, she will initiate conversation again, necessitating more grunting.  

I feel that by being consistently borderline-rude, we can avoid future misunderstandings.  It’s like a Miranda warning with some people, “I am trying to be your friend, and anything I say to you is designed so that we can be better friends.” 

And I just… can’t.

Okay, back to this staredown.  All of a sudden she starts gesticulating wildly, like giving me these exaggerated thumbs up,  with both hands no less.

I roll my eyes, shake my head, and turn away.  I can see from the rear view mirror that she has returned to the front porch, and I pull out.

Now, because I’m running late, I’m going a bit faster than I should be.  And I should add that my front driver’s-side window is open.

I barely complete the turn into the street when i hear a quick thud on the top of my car, and my shirt is now saturated with burning hot liquid.

I learned that the insulative powers of my travel mug were quite top-notch.  The lid, however, doesn’t seem to seal tightly.

Yes, Cat Lady was pointing to the top of my car, indicating that I had left my mug up there.

Of course I could have gone back inside and changed.  But this would have involved facing cat lady, and frankly, I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction.  But the only alternative was to wear the skanky and stained hoodie that has been in the back seat of my car since, well, last spring.  I turned it inside out, but it still reeked.  Fortunately the two co-workers I share a room with were both out of the office.  

So I need to find a new way to dispose of leftover coffee without wasting it.

I settled on cafe granita.

Basically, you are hyper-flavoring coffee, freezing it completely, then slowly thawing the stuff just enough to literally scrape out something approaching a slushy mass.  I do confess to having something of a frappuccino addict, this stuff wound up being almost that good.  You have to be patient, I think, and allow it to melt enough to form something with the consistency you desire, either a scoopable mess or a drinkable mess… either way works.

The ingredients are flexible.  But do remember that the cold will deaden your taste buds, so my suggestion is to make this just a bit stronger than you think you will like.  This is how i did mine.

2 cups hot leftover coffee
1/4 cup sugar
2 T Something tasty and perferably alcoholic.  Grand Mariner is nice.  As is bourbon or kalua. 

Stir a bit, and pour into a 9 by 9 brownie pan.  Note to self, make sure the leftover brownie bits have been cleaned out.
Cover with plastic wrap and freeze.

Go to work.

When you get home from work, set the mixture on the counter.  Start scraping the frozen mixture with a fork, just enough to loosen it.  Wait a few minutes and repeat.  Do this several times until you have a critical mass of semi-frozen coffee shards which you can then decant into your favorite vessel.   Eat, or wait several minutes, stirring occasionally, and drink.  VERY refreshing.  And no cat ladies.