I was really conflicted about extending beets into two weeks. One the one hand, they were really fucking terrible, so I could just take my first loss and be done with it. I mean, it stands to reason there may be some vegetables in the world I wind up not liking, right? Ten weeks ago all I ate was fried okra and creamed corn and now all of a sudden I can’t get enough zucchini? But on the other hand, I do not accept defeat gladly. I like to win. I love to win. And even though I do like to win fairly, I’m also not above lying, cheating and stealing. Considering this intense, overwrought, irrational love of winning, it seemed an embarrassing shame to surrender to a beet. I mean, it’s pink.
So, onward to beet week—round two.
To beat beets I had to get serious, no more of this namby pamby shavings on a salad or ginger (which I don’t like anyway) on boiled beet mush. I was going to have to deploy one or all of my three best weapons again vegetables: meat, cheese or the frydaddy.
Meat Pusher Elwood sent another excellent sounding recipe for beets with bacon, but this one looked a lot harder, especially because it had the words “reduction” and “vinaigrette” in it. I considered reminding Elwood that I don’t know how to cook, thinking I could delay the inevitable one more night (beets! ugh!), but I’m going to have to give up that line eventually because I am actually starting to learn some shit, so I quit being baby and gave it a try.
One of the things I’ve learned about myself and cooking is that I really love being in the kitchen, reading and re-reading recipes, searching Google or my dictionary or the Joy of Cooking for the meanings of words, checking off mental lists, creating and cleaning. I move slowly and methodically, but I’m starting to create my own processes and I really relish my time with myself. Unfortunately for David, he can’t read my mind, he doesn’t know what’s next on the list in my head, he gets in my way, and half the time I run him out of the room with a spatula. But he wants to participate, and I appreciate that, so this week when he offered to help I gave him the grocery list, because one thing that would really help me a lot is not wasting my time wandering aisles of grocery stores looking for mythical vegetables and magical jams.
But of course, not long after I turned him loose he called me. From the grocery store. Lost. “I can’t find beets.” Motherfucker.
Fortunately I still had two from the previous week. I had no idea if they were still any good, but I had them, so I used them. And then I got to work on Elwood’s recipe:
- Haystack Mountain goat cheese (I used plain brand, it was great)
- 4 garden beets; place beets in saucepan with enough water to cover. Simmer in water for about 45 minutes, or until tender. Let cool and peel. Slice each beet into 4 rounds. Set aside. (I only had two, this was fine, I figured more bacon and fewer beets was probably a good ratio)
- 12 slices bacon; cook until slightly crispy.
- 2 cup balsamic; simmer in small pot, reduce by 1/3 and lightly coats the back of a spoon. Let cool.
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 each garlic cloves – minced
- 1 ea shallots – minced (Obviously I skipped the shallots)
- 1 cup Dijon
- 1/4 cup brown sugar (I forgot the brown sugar, oops)
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Black pepper
- Emulsify all ingredients in a blender, pouring oil in slowly to blend.
Set oven to 350 degrees. Place slice of beet on sheet tray. Smear 1/4 tablespoon Haystack Mountain goat cheese. Dot of Black Pepper. One Slice of Bacon. (Repeat two times.) Add more goat cheese to top. Place in oven for about 6 minutes or until warm. Use spatula to set on plate. Drizzle balsamic and Dijon vinaigrette on plate and serve.
I took my time with this one. I studied the recipe and strategized what to do first. I spent a few minutes cursing Elwood for sending me something so complicated looking with so many ingredients and moving parts, but then I remembered it had bacon in it and got excited again. So, curse Elwood, done. Get over it, done. Next up, simmer some beets and reduce some balsamic. I figure this is where knowing how to cook would probably have come in handy.
I popped the beets in a pot with water and poured balsamic vinegar in a sauce pan and put them both on the stove to “simmer,” even though I had no point of reference for what that instruction meant. I took a guess, turned the heat on just above low-ish and went to work on my vinaigrette. While I was doing that I noticed not much was happening with the balsamic. Then I thought, huh, maybe something’s not right, maybe I should do something. But I don’t know shit about reducing. I’ve never “reduced” anything before, ever, in my life, and it would be fair to say I probably only learned that use of the word “reduction” in very recent weeks or months, so noticing not much was happening with my balsamic and suddenly thinking that meant I should do something about it was, like, the cooking gods shining their love down on me and saying, “You got this one, Julie.”
I asked David how high the heat should be for simmering. Whereas I like everything hot and fast, David thinks everything in the world can be cooked low and slow. So of course he said, “Low.” Since the heat was already just above low and nothing was happening, I found this answer suspect and decided to consult with Google instead. Google said simmering is just below boiling; some bubbles should form on the bottom and rise to the surface but not enough to boil or thoroughly cook. I turned the heat up on that shit and my balsamic started reducing immediately. I’m telling you, there’s something to cooking hot and fast. Don’t knock it, yo.
But, what the cooking gods giveth, the cooking gods can taketh away. While I was being distracted by learning, I forgot to add the brown sugar to the vinaigrette. I later thought really complex recipes should come with check boxes so I can mark off when I’ve completed certain parts, like a to-do list, but then I might get pissed about having an incomplete list at the end because I didn’t check “add shallots,” and I really hate leaving lists undone, so maybe the check boxes aren’t the best idea for recipes. I’ll keep thinking about this. In any case, a fourth cup of brown sugar is nothing to sneeze at so I imagine it would have changed the taste in no small way, but the vinaigrette turned out super awesome anyway, so I wasn’t too upset about it.
Then I cleaned up and sliced the beets, laid them out, smeared on a ton of goat cheese, added strips of bacon, then more goat cheese, warmed them in the oven for a bit, and then added the prettiest parts of all: my very first ever vinaigrette and my very first ever reduction of something. I poured them on top all fancy like, the way they do in restaurants and admired my handiwork. Sexy. That was the prettiest fucking meal I’ve ever made.
And I loved it. I mean, it was covered in bacon and goat cheese and a balsamic reduction, of course I loved it. And David was so beside himself he was speechless (I feel sure anyone who knows David will find this unbelievable, but it’s true, he actually couldn’t talk), so even though he was pretty useless at the grocery store and in the kitchen, he redeemed himself at dinner because he loved my beets.
So I beat beets, obviously. Then when I was telling Seriously Rude Naysayer John yesterday about my huge victory, he asked (rhetorically, not interrogatively, John), “That kind of makes the beets more of an ingredient though, doesn’t it?” I can’t repeat what I said to him on this clean, family friendly blog, but it prompted him to follow up with, “….not to downplay the culinary success of the endeavor.”
And he’s right about that. Beating beets was the overall goal of these two weeks, and thank the cooking gods I did that, but I’m proudest of the “culinary success.” I made a vinaigrette, yo.