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I always appreciated spending time at my aunt’s or my uncle’s house when I was a kiddo. My Aunt Pegi, my mom’s “kid sister,” was simply a cool chick: whip-smart, independent, creative, spirited, funny, slightly badass, mostly girl-next-door with a lifelong love of learning. I like to think I take after her in many ways. Like others in my family, she had serious kitchen skills, and shared her love of good food and many of life’s finer things with me. That’s my mom holding me with Aunt Peg next to her.

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Way back in the day, I remember AP taking us to L’Americain, a rather sophisticated restaurant in downtown Hartford–especially so for a kid. That’s where I tried steak tartare for the first time. I’ve always loved mooing meat. It was fantastic. And how cool were we kiddos eating at such a schmantzy place? We were lucky in so many ways.

Sadly, as was the case with too many of my family members, we lost AP too young–she was just 51. Today would have been her 71st birthday. Easy to remember because it’s also Bastille Day. So, as I sat watching the Tour de France yesterday with many reminders of the day to come, I was moved to celebrate AP’s birthday in a way she’d completely appreciate. I had to pull it off a day early because that’s when Meadow Meat is open, and one should source meat carefully when eating it raw.

STEAK TARTARE
inspired by Pegi Maturo
with input from Emeril Lagasse, Anthony Bourdain and The Polo Lounge (via chow.com)

12 oz. sirloin (.85 # is what they gave me at Meadow Meat), cut into very small cubes
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons capers, drained
2 teaspoons coarse ground mustard
1 tablespoon Cognac
1/3 cup chopped Vidalia (or other sweet) onion
fresh parsley–I added a handful sprigs as that’s what I had growing. A bit more would be even better.
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon olive oil (I used Ariston lemon olive oil)
More olive oil (again, I used Ariston lemon) to drizzle over top
½ teaspoon anchovy paste (I promise you will NOT taste fish!)
Salt (not much, taste at the end and maybe add just a bit)

Trim any fat and slice the sirloin into small cubes. Store in the fridge as you prep the rest of the dish.

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In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, mustard and anchovy paste. Add capers (mash a bit with back of a large spoon or a fork), Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and black pepper and mix well. Slowly whisk in the oil, then add the Cognac and mix again. Fold in the onion and parsley, then the meat and combine well.

"Oh, mooing meat...on my plate...you taste so great!"

“Oh, mooing meat…on my plate…you taste so great!”

Serve immediately over a bed of lettuce. We enjoyed ours with the first San Marzanos of the season, straight from the deck, and a nice glass of Pinot Noir. And to keep it real, I made mini Ore-Ida Tater Tots–drizzled with truffle oil because we’re genetically predisposed to be a little different.

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This one’s for you, Auntie Peg–you’re with me in spirit and in my heart, always! Thank you for being my good friend, my teacher and my staunch supporter. You were truly one of a kind. And whenever I hear Linda Ronstadt or John Denver, I know you’re with me, too. “Happy birthday toooooooo thouuuuuuu!” Till we meet again…

Much love,
Hopey ♥

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In the dead of winter, it’s hard to think about BLTs. ’cause as much as bacon’s the star in that sandwich, where is it without the supporting role of a nice native tomato? I loathe the cold and lack of sun this time of year. Apparently, tomatoes do, too, since they don’t grow here now (well, nothing does, that’s part of the problem, but I digress).

Luckily, grape tomatoes always taste good. Sure, they are sweeter to me straight off my deck in the summertime, but no matter where they come from, they never disappoint. And working them into a sexy salad is a fun way to get your off-season BLT fix. I should mention, I invited avocado to the party by making a little bacon guacamole. It’s more of a formula than a recipe. Let me show you how.

KATTY’S BLT SALAD
for two, or barring someone to share with me, I eat the whole thing myself 🙂

spring mix (or whatever lettuce combo you like best)
2 slices of your favorite bacon, cooked and chopped (mine comes from M’town’s Meadow Meat)
1 ripe avocado
a wedge of lemon or lime
a handful of grape tomatoes (maybe 5-7, depending on size, doowutchyalike)
a slice of sweet onion, diced
a kitchen teaspoonful of mayo (i.e. grab a teaspoon from the silverware drawer and don’t be shy)
Kosher salt to taste

Cook the bacon, drain, set aside to cool and chop.

Meantime, chop a slice of sweet onion and cut up the grape tomatoes–add to a medium bowl. Dice the avo and add to the bowl. Squeeze the lemon or lime over the top. Add chopped bacon and mayo; add salt to taste.

Plate your spring mix (or lettuce)–spoon the bacon guac over the top. Toss together–it’s your dressing, so enjoy it!

Counting the days till spring (45!), I remain, your friend,
The bacon-loving Kat >>^..^<<

Smack dab in the middle of the Land of Steady Habits (in Meriden, CT) is a stellar meat market by the name of Noack’s. Besides other smoked meats and German specialty sausages, Noack’s makes the very best wursts.

I picked up some weisswursts and thought I should honor their heritage by making warm German potato salad to go with. Then it hit me: I don’t think you LIKE German potato salad. So, how about those not quite mashed potatoes you make, but with BACON?! That’s it! Achtung, baby, let’s make crash potatoes with the delicious addition of PIG!

KATTY’S CRASH POTATOES WITH BACON

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut in chunks
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
2 cloves garlic, pressed
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
5 slices bacon (if you are local, please visit Middletown’s Meadow Meat–their slab bacon is OUTSTANDING!)
½ large sweet onion, finely chopped
handful fresh parsley, chopped
¼ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
¼ tsp. salt

To a large stockpot, add potatoes, chicken stock, milk, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to boil over medium high heat, then reduce to medium or just below. Cook potatoes for 10 minutes or till you can fork through them. Reserve the cooking liquid from the badadas (yes, potatoes, I know–it runs in the family). You’re going to add some of that liquid back when we put everything together. Remove bay leaf and thyme stems.

While your potatoes are boiling, cook and drain the bacon, but SAVE THOSE DRIPPINGS in the pan! Remove only maybe a teaspoon or so. Chop the bacon, set aside. Chop the parsley and set it aside, too.

Cook the onion in the bacon drippings over medium heat. Once the onion is nice and golden and soft, it should be about time to add them to the potatoes.

It’s showtime! To the cooked potatoes, add the onion, bacon, 1/4 cup reserved stock/milk from cooking the potatoes, sour cream, salt, parsley and coarse ground mustard. Stir. No need to mash. They naturally “crash” into deliciousness without manual intervention. And are a fine accompaniment to the best wursts I know!

I told my Uncle Ralph I was making badadas this weekend. “Badadas! Uncle John used to call them that. But I’m pretty sure they’re potatoes.” Be that as it may, badadas is fun to say.

So, with a proud nod to my own somewhat humorous heritage, here is Uncle John with Poppy way, way back in the day. Yup, that very handsome devil on the right is my grandfather: the original Alfred Anthony. Happy birthday a little early, Poppy! As always, I wish you were here. Love, Hopey