Mel’s Diner

Sharp Knives, Raw Meat and Fire


Yes, I did Bacon Ice Cream again.  C’mon, after you’ve had bacon ice cream, why wouldn’t you do it again and again?  Well, if your insane, Orthodox Jewish or a vegetarian – then, maybe.  But, being a Republican, meat-eating Catholic, I’m obviously none of the prior, so I had to do it again.

And I did.

This time I followed the Dave Lebovitz  recipe to the letter.  Last time I made a maple ice cream, thinking the candied bacon would just be perfect with a maple ice cream.  And gosh darn it, it did taste really good!  But, I swore to follow the recipe next time, and so I did!

For the candied bacon:

  • 5 strips bacon
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).

Lay the strips of bacon on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or aluminum foil, shiny side down.

Sprinkle 1½-2 teaspoons of brown sugar evenly over each strip of bacon, depending on length.


Bake for 12-16 minutes. Midway during baking, flip the bacon strips over and drag them through the dark, syrupy liquid that’s collected on the baking sheet. Continue to bake until as dark as mahogany. Remove from oven and cool the strips on a wire rack.


Once crisp and cool, chop into little pieces, about the size of grains of rice.

For the ice cream custard:

  • 3 tablespoons (45g) salted butter
  • ¾ cup (packed) brown sugar (170g), light or dark (you can use either)
  • 2¾ (675ml) cup half-and-half
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons dark rum or whiskey
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

To make the ice cream custard, melt the butter in a heavy, medium-size saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar and half of the half-and-half. Pour the remaining half-and-half into a bowl set in an ice bath and set a mesh strainer over the top.

In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the warm brown sugar mixture to them, whisking the yolks constantly as you pour. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.

Cook over low to moderate heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.

Strain the custard into the half-and-half, stirring over the ice bath, until cool. Add liquor, vanilla and cinnamon.

Refrigerate the mixture. Once thoroughly chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the bacon bits during the last moment of churning, or stir them in when you remove the ice cream from the machine.


So?  How was it?  Well, once again, I brought it into work for the final decision.  This time, to the man (including me!), everyone thought it was fantastic.  It scared a lot of people and many needed to be coaxed into trying it, but, all to rave reviews!  Was it as good as the maple ice cream version?  Well, no.  But, it was still damn good eats!


August 7, 2009 Posted by | Dessert, Pork | 1 Comment


Quite a while back I picked up Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman.  It was in Charcuterie that I got the basis of the Corned Beef recipe I’ve used.  Soon there after, I loaned it to a friend and never saw it again for two years.  Just a few weeks ago, I got it back and I had forgotten how wonderful it is.  Flipping through the book, I stumbled upon his sausage recipes and vowed to try the Italian Sausage recipes, mainly because it wasn’t intended to be cased.  I picked up some ground pork and went to town.


  • 4 pounds of boneless shoulder butt, diced (I used the ground pork I bought)
  • 1 pound pork fat back, diced (I used about ½ pound of lard I had)
  • 1 ½ ounces (3 Tbls) kosher salt
  • 2 Tbls Sugar
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbls fennel seeds, lightly toasted (maybe 1 Tbls would be better)
  • 2 tsp coarsely ground pepper
  • 2 Tbls sweet paprika
  • ¾ cup of ice water
  • ¼ cup chilled red wine vinegar
  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the water and vinegar and toss to distribute the seasoning.  Chill until ready to grind.
  2. Grind the mixture through the small die into a bowl set in ice water. (The ice water keeps the mixture cool.  If it warms up, even to room temperature, the fat separates and reduces the quality of the cooked sausage.)
  3. Add the water and vinegar to the mixture and mix with the paddle attachment (or sturdy spoon) until the liquids are incorporated and he mixture has developed a uniform, sticky appearance, about 1 minute on medium speed.
  4. Sauté a small portion, taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

OK, a few things.  Obviously, you need a meat grinder or, more likely, a KitchenAid with the grinder attachment, like I have.  I bought ground pork, but I still mixed it with everything and put it through the grinder anyway. 


It was good.  It was very good.  Maybe a little to fennel-y, but, still very good.  Still, I wondered if the texture wouldn’t be better if I ground the meat myself. 


Last week, I bought some pork butt and found some pork belly, oddly cut into 2 inch thick slices instead of being baconfied, so I bought that for the fat back part of this recipe.  I did make it again, but because it was Ash Wednesday and I’m Catholic and I couldn’t eat meat, so I didn’t actually try it.

February 28, 2009 Posted by | Pork, Recipe | 2 Comments


I’m not a big grill fan.  I mean, I’m not a big griller.  I know, I know, guys are supposed to love grilling!  Standing outside, cooking slabs of meat over fire – now that’s a guy thing! 

Uh….not for this guy.  Grilling time is summer time and summer time means heat, bugs, humidity, etc.  I hate it.  That’s why I have a gas stove – I get cook with fire every night.  So, when the lovely and gracious Sara picked grilling as the theme for this month’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge, I was concerned. 


Before moving to New Hampshire, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I lived in North Carolina for five years.  And North Carolina means two things – College Basketball and Barbecue, often at the same time.

Now, I don’t know what “barbecue” means where you are, but in New England it means hot dogs and hamburgers cooked on a grill.  In North Carolina, it means a Boston butt (in a case of confused geography, it’s really a cut from the shoulder of a pig) smoked for 8-12 hours until the juicy meat falls from the bone.  Oh, baby!

Smoke it?  Yes, you need a smoker for this.  You may be able to jerry-rig a smoker with your grill, but a dedicated smoker will make a better butt.  A smoker usually has a separate smoke chamber so the meat isn’t over a direct flame.

I don’t have one of those.  I don’t know anybody who does.  BUT, I do have a friend with the king of ceramic cookers, the Big Green Egg.  And the Big Green Egg acts as a damn fine smoker.

Equally as important to the meat is the sauce (or dip).  This is where the schism happens.  There are two kinds of sauce, Eastern-style and Lexington and may God have mercy on the souls of those using the wrong one.  The wrong one is the one you don’t use.  And your loyalty here is required and must be all consuming – there is no “this-way, that-way”.  In North Carolina, apathy to barbecue sauce is akin to rooting for more than one college basketball team – it’s just not done.  You have three teams to pick from, Carolina, Duke or State and then you fight to the death for your team.  And it’s the same for your barbecue sauce.

Both sauces are vinegar based, not at all like the sickeningly sweet Kansas City-style barbecue sauces you buy in the bottles at the grocery store.  The main difference between the two Carolina styles is tomato.  There is none in Eastern and some in Lexington and people come to blows over which one is best.



7-9 pound Boston butt

(That’s it for the meat.  Some people want to add a rub to the meat.  That is an unnecessary distraction.  We want the flavor of the meat and the smoke, nothing else.  There was one more step for me – give the meat to my friend Joe to cook on his Egg.)

Smoke the meat until the internal temperature is between 190 – 200 degrees.  The meat will be so succulent, so juicy that you can shred it with your gloved hands or two forks.  Serve with a Lexington barbecue sauce and don’t be prissy with it.

Check out the pink “smoke ring” – that means it was done right.


(From the Yadkin County Homemakers Extension Club Cookbook)

  • 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 onion  – chopped
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and boil slowly for 15 minutes.  Strain and put in a squeeze bottle.

August 17, 2008 Posted by | Main Dish, Pork, Weekend Cookbook Challenge | 5 Comments


Wow – a double here.  It’s been OVER A WEEK since I posted and my reasons/excuses run the same gamut Jake Blues (John Belushi) gave the jilted lover (Carrie Fisher) in The Blues Brothers:

“I ran outta gas. I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from outta town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake, a terrible flood, locust’s. It wasn’t my fault!! I swear to God!!”

And just as truthful, too.

And secondly, I’m squeaking in just under the wire for this month’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge.  It’s so late, I was even taunted by the lovely and gracious Sara about it.  Deservedly so, mind you, considering I am the host of next month’s challenge!

Yesterday, while watching Jamie At Home, I suddenly remembered I hadn’t submitted an entry, heck, I hadn’t even THOUGHT of an entry!  So, as I turned to the TV screen, Jamie started a Rhubarb Marinated Pork and I said, “OK, Rhubarb Marinated Pork it is!”

Of course, the Food Network DIDN’T post this recipe, but I managed to find a link to it on Jamie’s site, in the forum section.  Jamie uses pork belly in the recipe because he likes the layers.  I didn’t have any pork belly, but I did have some pig jowl, which is much like pork belly, so I used that.

Rhubarb and Crispy Pork

Wet Stuff:

  • 1 pound rhubarb
  • 4 tbsp runny honey
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 fresh red chilie, chopped
  • 1 heaped tsp five spice
  • thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

Not wet stuff: 

  • 2 pounds of pork belly or jowl, cut into cubes.
  • Vegetable oil
  • Diced red chilies
  • Diced green onions
  • Cooked noodles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put all the wet stuff ingredients in a food processor and whiz up until juicy, then add ½ cup of water.  

Put pork in an oven safe dish (and one you can put on the stove if possible, if not, don’t fret) with wet stuff and cook in oven for 90 minutes, watching for boil over.

After dish comes out of oven, remove pork with a slotted spoon.  Cook remaining marinade for a few minutes to reduce, skimming fat, if possible, to thicken.  Set aside. 

Heat oil in sauté pan and brown pork in batches.  It browns quickly because of the honey, so don’t walk to far away. 

Serve pork and sauce over noodles, garnished with chilies and green onions, if desired.

Now, after the pork came out of the oven, I though it was going to be pretty disgusting.  Pork jowl and belly are very fatty* and I had these big, ole’ hunks of pork fat facing me.  Well, I soldiered on, not even bothering to make noodles and took one for the team, only to find out it was really good!  Now, it’s definitely a modern take on a very old dish, but that’s part of it’s charm.  Eating  hunks of fried pork fat is encoded in our genes and I immediately understood I was eating as my ancestors did.  In my last WCC entry, I made a hundred year old baked bean recipe and commented on how the beans were there to compliment the salt pork, not the other way around and this is very similar.  You can’t eat a lot of this pork and getting 2/3 of the women today to even entertain the idea is ludicrous, but that doesn’t make it bad. 

Go Jamie!


May 25, 2008 Posted by | Pork, Recipe, Weekend Cookbook Challenge | 6 Comments