Sunday, January 6, 2013
Kitchen Science and Bacon - Smokey Bacon Aioli Panini
Home on the Range Cooking Science - Describe the universe, if Planck's constant were equal to 1.
I can't leave well enough alone. But cook things usually start with the base of a cooking classic. Today's example is the Panini and that creamy spread known as aoili.
Paninis, hot pressed sandwiches, are showing up on menus and on farmhouse tables in the US and Canada, the name referring to a pressed and toasted sandwich in the style of an Italian Panino (though the toasted version of the sandwich made from sliced bread is not actually called "panino" but "tosto" by Italians, and is usually filled with ham and a few slices of cheese, then heated in a sandwich press.
Midwest Chick and Mr. B. have a Panini press and she often makes me a warm, wonderful, gooey Panini when I've gotten off work and have time to visit. A good Panini starts with thick slices of bread that hold up well to the pressing, leaving a dense gooey sandwich that won't fall apart.
Start with some good ham and add a cheese with good melting properties such as Gruyere, Manchego, and Gouda. These varieties balance the final cheese pH to achieve both soluble calcium and soluble protein, resulting in a cheese mass that melts and flows upon heating while keeping the fat trapped within the matrix. In other words. . .
melty. . . mmmmmmm.
Some say it's hard to improve on a sandwich. But then again, all coordinate systems are equal, but some are more equal than others. Especially when you have bacon.
So take your sandwich, and add a smear of aoili. Even better, add an aioli made with smoked bacon.
The HOTR version keeps the egg, omits the mustard, and replaces half of the olive oil with bacon fat. Oh, and a piece of bacon accidentally fell into the food processor. Paired with the traditional ham and cheese on freshly baked sourdough bread, it's a breakfast or lunch treat no one in the family will turn down. The aioli is great as a dipping sauce for pommes frites or other fried veggies, on a burger or served on top of roasted asparagus.
Make the aioli, then let it sit for the flavors to blend while you heat your panini press, slice the meat and the cheese.
A few slices of hardwood smoked bacon
1 large egg yolk
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
1/4 cup bacon grease
1/4 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
In a food processor, puree the egg yolk* and garlic. In a steady stream, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and then the room temperature bacon fat. (if too thick add a couple of teaspoons of water). Toss in a piece bacon and pulse a couple of times, then add add a squeeze of lemon juice and remaining spices and stir well (you can also make this in a pan with just a whisk, whisking constantly during the emulsion process).
It will keep a week, covered, in the fridge.
*Raw eggs should not be served to infants or toddlers, pregnant women, the elderly or those with compromised immune systems. Use a pasteurized egg yolk, when done properly, it will be free of bacteria and still useable to make a mayo type sauce or salad dressing.