Garden & Gun (September 2014)
We don't have a huge list of current culinary heroes.
In fact, it's pretty short. Here are a few people on it:
Mark Bittman (who was at our farmers market in DC on Sunday!), who we have long admired for his work and writing.
Ruth Reichl, who wrote what we think are some of the best memoirs ever.
Christina Tosi, because she invented the Compost Cookie.
Contessa, because she's Contessa.
And then there's Chef Ouita Michel, who most of you probably haven't heard of -- at least not yet.
Clay first met Ouita during college. They were in the same fellowship program, though in different years. When he was an undergraduate, Ouita had already started her first restaurant, Holly Hill Inn, just outside of Lexington, Kentucky. Since then, she's built a bit of an empire, with five restaurants now in the Bluegrass. We visited a few of them earlier this year and wrote briefly about it in our post about 72 Hours in Lexington, KY.
Why is Ouita one of our heroes? First there's the fact that her food is amazing. We've loved everything we've ever had at one of her restaurans. She prioritizes local ingredients from Kentucky, which we love. And then there's the fact that she has stayed in Kentucky to build her restaurants, showing people a new way to eat and employing hundreds of people over the years.
When a recipe from Ouita popped up in the most recent Garden & Gun, we got to cooking. And if it wasn't enough that we were already fans, there were these two beautiful words: Bacon Jam.
We loved this recipe, but we could rave for days about the Bacon Jam. Really, cooking these Kil't Greens is just an excuse to eat the jam, which is a breeze to make. Simply brown small pieces of bacon. Add some onions until then soften and begin to brown. Then add and cook down a mixture of bourbon, vinegar, brown sugar and mustard.
Once you're ready to eat, you simply melt a bit of bacon jam in a skillet, add the greens, let them wilt and that's it.
This entire recipe is supposed to be cooked in a cast iron skillet. But we made this on vacation, and our beach house didn't have any cast iron. It turned out fine, and if you don't have cast iron, don't sweat it. (But seriously, you should get a cast iron pan. You deserve it. Treat yo' self!)
The best -- best -- thing about this recipe? It makes way too much bacon jam. We enjoyed it the whole rest of the time we were at the beach. We spread it on biscuits, used it as a condiment on BLTs, added it to sauteed green beans, and even mixed it into some mac 'n' cheese. SO GOOD.
Here's an excellent goal for fall: Make this Bacon Jam. And if you're able, go visit Kentucky and eat at one of Ouita's places.
You'll be glad you did.
2 lbs. mixed young greens, such as mustard, chard, kale, and spinach
1/4 cup bacon jam (recipe follows)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Optional garnishes: hot pepper vinegar, red onion, sliced boiled egg
Submerge greens in standing water, remove any large stems, and rip leaves into bite-size pieces if necessary. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high, add bacon jam, and melt. Add greens, turn heat to high, and toss until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish as desired and serve immediately.
Holly Hill Inn's Bacon Jam
Makes about 2 cups
1 lb. good-quality bacon, diced
1 1/2 cups diced onion
1/8 cup bourbon
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup whole-grain mustard
Cook bacon in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until a good amount of fat has rendered and bacon just starts to turn golden, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add diced onion, turn the heat down to low, and cook together until onion is tender. Add bourbon, vinegar, brown sugar, and mustard, and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to use.