Cocoa-Rubbed Pork Loin with Bacon Whiskey Gravy

Bacon. Whiskey. Chocolate. Based on my latest kitchen endeavors, I’ve found that these three ingredients are universally appealing to just about everyone, and especially when used together. I used to be a clear liquor sort of girl that scrunched her nose in the face of brown liquor, but then I started watching How I Met Your Mother and decided that Robin was the kind of girl I wanted to be and the rest is history. Simon suggested this dish to me, and I was like, fuck yeah! Let’s do this!

I trawled the Internet and found this Food Network recipe, but decided to use pork instead of beef. The pork ended up tender and juicy because it was baked instead of pan-fried like the steak would have been. We also substituted cognac for whiskey because that’s all there was available, and cognac, being a spirit distilled from wine, gave the gravy a more delicate flavor than whiskey would have. The gravy is really, really tasty, and the copious amounts of heavy cream and bacon makes it better. It’s not a terribly complicated recipe, and it’s certainly restaurant-worthy. Try it!

Cocoa-Rubbed Pork Loin with Bacon Whiskey Gravy
Adapted from Food Network
Makes 6 servings

Ingredients
For the pork:

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
2 1-pound boneless pork loin
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cubed

For the gravy:

4 strips bacon, diced
1 leek (white and light green parts only), finely chopped
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whiskey (I used cognac)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves (I omitted this)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Make the pork loin: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mix the cocoa powder, both paprikas, brown sugar, cayenne and 2 teaspoons salt; rub on the pork loin and bring to room temperature, 30 minutes. Distribute butter on pork loin and bake in a pan for 30-40 minutes.

Make the gravy: Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon; set aside. Add the leek to the drippings and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the whiskey, then return to medium heat; if the alcohol ignites, let the flames die out. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the mixture is reduced by one-quarter, about 8 minutes. Whisk in the heavy cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the gravy coats a spoon, about 7 minutes. Stir in the butter, reserved bacon and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

When pork loin is done, transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Season with salt. Slice and serve with the gravy.

Bacon Bourbon Cornbread


I have been baking, but the dearth in posts lately is because I haven’t baked anything worthy of a blog post. I was inspired to make some bacon cornbread recently, but it turned out too dry and bland for my liking. I was determined to make some kick-ass bacon cornbread, and I’m so glad this current version held up. I found a recipe on Allrecipes that has stood the test of user reviews, and decided to use it as my base for the cornbread.


This cornbread is moist and fluffy with a slight gritty texture from the cornmeal, and nuanced enough with flavors of applesmoked bacon and oaky bourbon to be eaten on its own. You’re also greeted with the occasional bit of crispy bacon as you chew each muffin down.

I made a few substitutions that I believe really elevated the original recipe. Firstly, I used bacon fat instead of vegetable oil, which adds an extra layer of smokiness to the cornbread. I’ve been saving all the bacon fat from my various bacon baking experiments, and it definitely came in handy. I also used water instead of milk because I didn’t have milk, but I am of the understanding that milk’s function in most cake recipes is just to add moisture so I felt comfortable subbing it out. I also made this in a muffin pan instead of a cake pan, which meant more crisp, browned edges. Greasing the muffin pan in bacon fat also added a savory crunch to the outside of it. The best alteration was probably the addition of whiskey. I had half a cup of bacon-infused bourbon (recipe) sitting around, and decided to throw it into the mix. I had thought the original batter looked a bit dry, and I’m glad the bourbon didn’t make the cornbread soggy.

Bacon Whiskey Cornbread
Makes 12 muffins
Adapted from Allrecipes

1 cup yellow cornmeal (finely ground)
1 cup milk or water (I used water)
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg, lightly beat
1/2 cup of bacon-infused bourbon or just plain bourbon
1/3 cup bacon fat or vegetable oil (I highly recommend using bacon fat)
3 slices of bacon cooked till crispy, then cut into small pieces, slightly larger than 1/4 inch squares

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 12 muffin tins with bacon fat.
2. In a large bowl, combine cornmeal and milk (or water) and let sit for 15 minutes. Combine with flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, bourbon and bacon fat. Stir in bacon bits.
3. Bake in oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then cool completely on cooling rack.

Bailey’s Icebox Cake with Homemade Chocolate Wafers


Most bakers are usually reluctant to bake in the summer time, because no one wants to have yet another source of heat bearing down on them. Out comes the no-bake recipes: no-bake cheesecakes, puddings, trifles. Icebox cake (or zebra cake) is one variation of the ever-classic trifle. I strongly believe that contrasting textures makes a dish especially compelling, and the basis of most trifles: a creamy spread and a cakey layer offers that palate-teasing complexity.

I opted to make my own chocolate wafers, but I’m sure you can purchase them if you preferred to save some time. However, these wafers are top-notch, and if you’re one of those people that prefer the cookie bit of an Oreo to the cream (it’s an atrocity but I used to discard the cream bit), these cookies would really hit the spot. I also added a couple of tablespoons of Bailey’s in the whipped topping – because why not, right? It added a subtle alcoholic touch to the dessert with an accented chocolate taste Because of how light this dessert tastes in your mouth, it’s very easy to eat quite a lot of it. Restraint, my friends, restraint.


Icebox Cake
Serves 3 normal people, 2 sweet-toothed people

1 batch of chocolate wafers (recipe below)
1 cup whipping cream, chilled
2 tbsps of powdered sugar
2 tbsps of Bailey’s (optional)

Whip the cream till stiff peaks form. Add in sugar and Bailey’s, if using. Alternate layers of chocolate wafers and whipped topping in a bowl, with the wafers forming the bottommost layer. Leave to set at least overnight or up to a day, until wafers soften and become cake-like.

Chocolate Wafers
Makes about 30 to 40 wafers
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3/4 cups (3.38 ounces) whole wheat flour
6 tbsps (1.2 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 1/2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of food processor and pulse several times to mix thoroughly. Cut the butter into about 1/2 inch chunks and add them to the bowl. Pulse several times. Combine the milk and vanilla in a small cup. With the processor running, add the milk mixture and continue to process until the mixture clumps around the blade or the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a large bowl or a cutting board and knead a few times to make sure it is evenly blended.

Form the dough into a log about 7 inches long and 1 3/4 inches in diameter. Wrap the log in wax paper or foil and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour, or until needed.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the log of dough into slices a scant 1/4-inch thick (I went thinner, closer to 1/8 of inch. If you’re trying to emulate the store-bought wafers, slice as thin as you can, and watch the baking time carefully, as it might be less.) and place them one inch apart on the lined sheets (cookies will spread). Bake for a total of 12 to 15 minutes. The cookies will puff up and deflate; they are done about 1 1/2 minutes after they deflate.

Cool the cookies on the baking sheets on racks, or slide the parchment onto racks to cool completely. These cookies may be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks or be frozen for up to two months.

Note: These cookies should crisp as they cool. If they don’t, you’re not baking them long enough, in which case, return them to the oven to reheat and bake a little longer, then cool again.

Small Batch Chewy Chocolate Crackle Cookies


When you’re craving chocolatey goodness with a chewy texture, these cookies are the answer for you. They are simple to make and comfortingly delicious, with a brownie-like texture with a distinct cocoa taste. The crackling with a glossy top makes it especially visually appealing; I didn’t want to mar it with a sprinkling of sugar. I suspect they would be really good with milk; I also crumbled a cookie on top of some Greek yogurt with a spoonful of blackberry jam and it was a pretty yummy parfait.


The original recipe seemed like it’d make a pretty large batch, so I reduced it by a third with some hocus pocus and good math skills. Click through to the original link for the full recipe, but feel free to use my version if you have a kitchen scale.

Small Batch Chewy Chocolate Crackle cookies
Adapted from Kokocooks
Makes about 20 cookies

83g flour (I used whole wheat flour to no ill effect)
1/3 tsp baking soda (I used a heaping 1/4 tsp)
1/12 tsp salt (try a pinch of it)
2/3 sticks butter
2/3 cups brown sugar
3.5 tbsp cocoa powder
Dash of vanilla essence
1 large egg
2 and 2/3 oz of bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line 3 cookie sheets with a baking liner or parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar together. Beat in the cocoa powder and vanilla until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition. Add the melted chocolate and beat on low until blended. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until just combined. (My cookies turned out fine when I added the flour mixture last, effectively making it a one bowl recipe.)

Shape dough into 1 ½ inch balls. Place balls about 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Flatten the balls slightly with the palm of your hand. Sprinkle sugar over the tops of the cookies. Bake one sheet a time, until the cookies are a bit cracked on the top, 11-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack and cool completely.

Sticky Blackberry Barbecued Pork Ribs


It’s summertime, and all manners of berries and stone fruit are flooding the supermarket shelves. Growing up I was never very fond of berries. Living in tropical Singapore, the only berries that made it to local grocery stores were usually sour and very expensive, and I never developed a taste for them. Come New York City, however, they were usually cheap and abundant (and so full of fiber and antioxidants!) that I never fail to keep some berries around in the summertime.

These blackberry ribs are kind of genius. The blackberry glaze imparts sticky sweetness along with some heat from the red pepper flakes and paprika, while the slow cooking ensures that the ribs are juicy and tender. The recipe is easy enough to do; it just takes a little bit of planning and preparation before you can actually sink your teeth into them. I didn’t have a food processor to chop up the berries, so I mashed it up with a fork as best as I can and ended up with a slightly chunky glaze.

Sticky Blackberry Barbequed Pork Ribs
From The Wall Street Journal
Serves 4

Ingredients

2 racks baby back pork ribs (about 2-2½ pounds each)

2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons black pepper

1 tablespoon hot smoked paprika

1¼ cups honey

¾ pound (about 2½ cups) blackberries

½ cup blackberry preserves

¼ cup maple syrup

3 tablespoons bourbon (or whiskey)

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons red-pepper flakes

What To Do

1. Flip one rib rack over and insert the tip of a butter knife under tough membrane that covers back of rack. Wiggle knife to loosen membrane. Grab membrane with a paper towel and pull it off. Repeat with remaining rack.

2. At least 1 hour before cooking, mix 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon pepper and smoked paprika in a small bowl. Season ribs very generously on all sides with spice mixture. Let ribs come to room temperature, about 1 hour.

3. Meanwhile, set up a grill to cook with indirect heat: For a charcoal grill, light charcoal using a chimney starter. When coals have started to ash over on top, pour them all onto one side of lower grate. This creates a hot zone and a cooler zone. If using a gas grill, light burners on one side of grill, leaving others off to create a hot zone and a cooler zone. Or preheat an oven to 350 degrees to cook ribs indoors.

4. Place ribs meaty-side up on cooler side of the grill and close lid. (Make sure vents are partly open.) Or put ribs in a roasting pan and place in oven. Cook ribs 1 hour. If using a charcoal grill, light more charcoal briquettes in chimney starter and pour on top of coals to replenish the fire. Flip ribs meaty-side down. Cook until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

5. Meanwhile, make blackberry glaze: In a blender, purée honey, blackberries, preserves, maple syrup, bourbon, vinegar, red-pepper flakes and remaining salt and pepper. Scrape into a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until reduced and syrupy.

6. Flip ribs meaty-side up, brush generously with glaze and close the lid. Cook 1 minute. Brush meaty side with glaze again. Move ribs to hot side of grill and flip over. Brush underside of racks with glaze. Close lid. Cook 1 minute or until glazed and caramelized on both sides. If cooking inside, brush ribs with glaze and place under broiler until glazed and caramelized, 1-2 minutes. Season generously with salt and let rest 10 minutes before serving.