Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Childhood Memory Found

One of my childhood memories was of a special, once a year meal that my family and our friends would share while camping. Usually this dinner would happen in August, when fresh produce was amply available and the weather was warm. The thing I most remember about this meal was the anticipation. I also vaguely recall the amount of work the adults all put into the meal, with the women peeling, cutting and chopping the fresh vegetables, while the men stoked the fire and prepared the meat. At the time, it also seemed to be a lot of work just standing around, waiting for our turn at the food.

I then spent almost 30 years trying to track down that recipe. This turned out to be quite difficult as I had no access to the source and couldn't remember the name of the dish. I only dimly recalled that it was an ethnic dish and that I used to call it 'Dirty Bread'. Enter that wonder of the modern era: The Internet. Now, search engines on the internet are great, but they can only do so much. So, I spent many hours, just typing in relevant phrases, hoping to find a clue that would help track down this elusive recipe.

Finally, after many fruitless hours, I found it. Gypsy Bacon, or Hungarian Gypsy Bacon. This was the recipe from my childhood. Reading the article I learned that traditional Gypsy Bacon is cooked over a campfire, and served with sweet onions on rye bread. My family had tweaked this recipe just a bit and that is the method I employ today.

I started out with some fresh vegetables. Today I had cucumber, green bell pepper (since my homegrown red bell wasn't quite ripe yet), homegrown tomatoes, Roma lettuce, red onion and Vidalia onion.

All of the vegetables have been sliced except for the tomatoes. Tomatoes are best when sliced just before serving. It is also important to not refrigerate tomatoes, as the cold will diminish the taste.

I purchased a slab of pork jowl bacon. The only seasoning needed is sweet paprika.

First, score the bacon on both sides.

Then generously rub the paprika over all the surfaces of the bacon.

The final player in this dish is the rye bread.

Cook the bacon over a low to medium heat (depending on your grill). As the grease comes to the surface, take the meat off the heat and pat on the slices of rye bread (now do you understand the nickname 'Dirty Bread'?)

Be patient, this takes a bit of time. Coat both sides of the bread with the juices from the meat.

Once the bread has been coated, slice the bacon and finish cooking until done.

Now, we're ready for the veggies.

A while back I had Asked Rosietm for another green bean recipe. She had responded with this dish, which I have altered to fit my family's tastes.

Here I have green beans, of course, green bell pepper, red onion, dried Herbes de Provence, and feta cheese.

I followed Rosie's advice and cooked the green beans until tender in salted boiling water before blanching in ice water.

Fortunately, I came to my senses after I took this picture and swapped out white wine vinegar for the rice vinegar pictured.

As luck would have it, I didn't have any Italian seasoning packets on hand, so I made Italian vinaigrette from scratch.

I did use dried Herbes de Provence, white wine vinegar, garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, sea salt and vegetable oil.

Mix to taste and pour over the green bean salad.

My daughter and I liked this dish, Rosie. My husband would have just rather had the green beans without the additions. Oh well, two out of three isn't bad, I suppose.

And this is the finished dinner. Gypsy Bacon is served with the fresh veggies on the bread and is eaten as an open faced-sandwich. Again, we had to be happy with just satisfying two out of three palates with this meal. But, as this is a meal I only make once a year, he'll just have to accept this.


Rosie Hawthorne said...

Does Mr. P. need a taste bud transplant?

Marilyn said...

One could only hope.