When I titled the blog, I was still intending to review mostly books. But since I left the the door open, and since the weekend is the time for grocery shopping (otherwise, you miss the really long lines, and the fact that they’re out of a lot of stuff), I’m going to pass along a few tips. Specifically, I highly recommend Wright Brand Bacon for my bacon-eating friends and Dei Fratelli Brand Tomato Sauce for everyone.
As many of you know, I am not the amazing chef that my wife Carol is. She can make pretty much anything, and typically starts with, you know, flower and yeast and things she picks out of the herb garden. Her cook usually involves a trip to the Farmers’ Market. My skills are more limited, but what I do (steaks and burgers on the grill or roast beef with Merlot Wine Sauce, for example, and absolutely amazing scrambled eggs—don’t laugh, God gave me a gift) I like to think I do pretty darn well. I cook the steaks over real wood, when I can, and my eggs are light and fluffy.
Okay, qualifications established.
But being a man, my speciality is, of course, chili. Sadly, I am not at liberty to divulge all of my secrets. But I will tell you this much: I used canned tomato sauce. I know, I know. Most recipes tell you to use diced tomatoes or even fresh ones. Don’t believe it. Canned tomato sauce gives an extra dimension of flavor and spice. Up until recently, I suffered under the belief that all canned tomato sauces were pretty much the same. I generally used Hunts, or even the Kroger or Publix store brands. They were just fine. And then, one happy day, I discovered Dei Fratelli brand tomato sauce.
Honestly, I not really sure what the difference is. It is nicely spiced, has a full, rich, and fresh taste (despite the fact that it comes from a can), and it adds a surprising but subtle sweetness that blends with the chili spices in a truly delicious way. I’d thought my chili had reached a plateau—if you’ll forgive the immodesty, how does one improve upon perfection? I am delighted to learn that there are still discoveries to make. Better still, I discovered it just in time for fall: chili weather!
Speaking of scrambled eggs, they are best served with bacon (or sage sausage, but I’m not reviewing that today). When it comes to bacon, I have to go with Wright Brand. It’s sliced thicker than most (or in fact, any) other brands that I’ve tried, and has a rich, bacony flavor that actually tastes even better than it smells. The secret (aside from the thick slices, which one cannot praise highly enough) is in the quality of the pork itself and the smoke. It’s smoked over real hardwood, and the result is terrific. They have four varieties: natural Hickory Smoked, Peppered, Applewood Smoked, and Maple. The applewood is far and away the best choice. Alas, it is also the most difficult to find.
I should note that my wife thinks the Hickory Smoked—the variety we buy the most often, is a little too salty. She has, however, been wrong before. Also, the size can be an issue. You have to use a very large pan (microwaved bacon is only for emergencies, of course), and you have to move the pan and the bacon around to ensure that the ends are properly cooked without overcooking the middle. Trust me. It’s worth the trouble.