Seasons Change: Bœuf Bourguignon

I woke up this morning to the all too familiar dark grey clouds of a chilly autumn Nordic morning.  Yesterday was The Final Day of Summer, and if you weren’t outside enjoying it here in Copenhagen, you might’ve been the only one.   Every street I aimlessly roamed was filled with beaming moment-seizers, devouring ice cream cones and beers in as little clothing as humanly possible.  Last ditch effort at vitamin D absorption, no doubt.

Nørrebro

But alas, Copenhagen’s familiar face is back, and I imagine she’ll be sticking around awhile.  You may never catch me admitting this in public, but I’m pretty excited about fall.  Rainy days and grey mornings mean “hygge” to me, as much as I consciously long for sunshine when it’s absent.  They also mean finally getting things done that I put off in favor of basking in the sunshine all summer long, and dinner parties, and slow-cooked stews expelling delicious aromas that permeate your entire building.

During the summer I can’t bear the idea of eating warm things, and more importantly cooking warm things in an already hot kitchen.  But truth be told, I’m desperate to add them back to my meals by about mid-August.  I think this might be a body constitution thing – heavy and warm foods ultimately feel grounding for me (for you Ayurvedic Dosha fans out there, I’m indeed a textbook Kapha).  Conflicting with this need was the desire to have more sun, and so I strategically planned a trip to Seattle to visit family and old friends for the last two weeks of August in order to get an extension on my summer.  And extend my summer did, but what I also got was an extension on my wanton need for stew.

When seasons change I tend to have this pulsating need to follow suit.  While you’re lucky enough to not be in my head right now, I’ve already rearranged my entire apartment and organized my attic in my mind.  These are the sorts of things that happen when I become anxious, and feel the winds pick back up again – a typical reaction to seasons changing.  It’s at these moments that I subconsciously acknowledge that now is a good time to spend a day in my kitchen.  And what a better way to come back to earth than the earthy aromas of bœuf bourguignon?

I have always associated bœuf bourguignon with France.  Until this morning, I had actually never dared attempt it myself, sure that it would never match the expectations set while sitting in a 400 year old home in the Champagne region of France as my good friend’s husband – a chef – made a pot of it over a real fire in the chimney in a dutch oven that looked like it might’ve belonged to his great grandparents it was so used.  He let it simmer there for eight hours, during which we explored the region, caught up on each other’s lives over an old wooden farm table, played with their children, reminisced about the days working at Château de Nitray and about how long ago 21 years old feels now.  I remember thinking then that there was no way I’d ever be able to duplicate that moment, or those flavors, ever.

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But this weekend I was determined to try.  I spent my afternoon yesterday at one of my favorite Copenhagen places, Torvehallerne, absorbing all of the delectable things on display set out specifically to tempt every passer by.  I restrained from buying more figs, because I’ve eaten them already four times this week.  Already sure a stew was in my future, I eventually ended up at Kødbilen to see what was on order.  After a friendly conversation about the muscle fibers in the hind legs of a cow versus those in the front, I walked away with 2.5kg of grassfed Angus for 250kr and a plan to finally attempt the “impossible.”

While I was certainly not transported back to France, I have to admit that this stew served every purpose I intended it to.  Upon the first bite I felt my feet land back on the ground.  I (momentarily, at least) have stopped reorganizing and rearranging and have come back into the present, ready for the wind, rain, chilly mornings, and dark afternoons having coffee or wine over “hygge” (candles) with friends I never knew I was missing until I found them.

This recipe was inspired by Gordon Ramsay.

BŒUF BOURGUIGNON with MASHED CELERIAC

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tsp rendered goose fat
  • 1kg Angus shoulder beef, cubed
  • 125g lardons (or thick slices of bacon)
  • 350g shallots, peeled and quartered
  • 250g whole chestnut mushrooms
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 bouquet garni (I used 4 leek leaves, 4 thyme sprigs, 5 bay leaves, an unpeeled carrot and some black peppercorns)
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 750ml Bourgogne
  • 600g celeriac, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • rosemary & thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a couple pinches of cardamom
  • salt & pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 160 degrees (C).  Heat goose fat in a large dutch oven or other oven-proof casserole over medium heat.  Add the beef, seasoning with salt and pepper, turning until all sides are browned.  You may need to do this in multiple batches – I had to do it in three.  Once your first batches of meat are browned, remove from heat and strain over a bowl, reserving any drained juices.

Once the meat has finished and has been removed from the casserole, add lardons (bacon), shallots, mushrooms, garlic, and the bouquet garni.  Stir until everything is slightly softened and golden, and then add the tomato paste, tossing to coat.  Add the meat back to the mixture along with the drained juices.

Add the wine and about 100ml of water to the stew – the liquid should not cover the ingredients.  Bring to a boil and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the caramelized fats on the bottom of the casserole.  Cover the Dutch oven with a cartouche of aluminum foil (should fit the inside of the Dutch oven perfectly, leftovers trimmed) and place in the oven, cooking from 3-4 hours (meat should be very tender).

To make the mashed celeriac, heat the olive oil in a large and deep frying pan.  Add the cubed celeriac, seasoning generously with salt and pepper.  After about 5 minutes, add the thyme and rosemary, bay leaves, and cardamom, as well as 200 ml of water.  Turn heat to low, partially cover, and steam for 30 minutes on low heat.

Remove herb sprigs and bay leaves and mash the celeriac with a potato masher and finish with a dash of olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spoon the bœuf bourguignon into bowls and add a spoonful of mashed celeriac on top.

Serves 4-6

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Lagkagehuset

This is me pretty much every single time I walk past the Lagkagehuset by my office:

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Discovery of New Weight-Controlling Gene Mutation

Discovery of New Weight-Controlling Gene Mutation

And now with what we know about epigenetics, the next step is figuring out what food or lifestyle habit is making that weight-controlling gene mutate or disable, and start making some big changes, and fast.

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The Danish Diabetes Bomb

The Danish Diabetes Bomb

Today in the Berlingske - one of the many reputable newspapers here in Denmark – there are two separate articles that attempt to address the issue of some recently released statistics that suggest that, by 2025, the number of Danes diagnosed with diabetes will have doubled from its current mark of 300.000 people, to 600.000.  The big concern everyone is sounding the bells about, is that the health administration has not currently allocated enough money to properly care for this inevitable rise in diabetics over the next 12 years.

Articles like this infuriate me for a variety of reasons.  First, and probably most notably, the blanket statement that the government should prepare for a diabetes “bomb” by 2025 by boosting the budget today is totally one-dimensional and reactive.  Has it occurred to anyone that we might use the current statistic (which states that the number of diabetes has doubled in the past ten years) to change our behavior now, and instead prevent the number from continuing to rise?

Diabetes is one of those diseases that is 100% caused by lifestyle.  You can argue this point with me until the cows come home and I will still stand by this fact.  If you have Type 2 diabetes, you make up 90% of all diabetic diagnoses, and your lifestyle and diet are what caused it.  You may have been genetically predisposed to the disease because of your parent’s diet, but your lifestyle is what pushed you over the edge.  If you have Type 1 diabetes, this is a genetic disorder, but the science of epigenetics (which, by the way, still hasn’t been added to my computer’s dictionary it’s so new) makes a clear case that even here, with a healthy lifestyle and a diet, anything you might have otherwise been genetically predisposed to, can be reversed (to clarify, the disposition can be reversed, not the disease itself, thus preventing the disease from occurring in later generations).  Look it up if you don’t believe me.  In fact, look it up even if you do.

Before I moved to Denmark, one could claim I lived in a hole that we will call New York City.  My closest friends and allies were either in the health industry, or actively involved in it, and we all got off on talking about body chemistry, physiology, spiritual energy, lifestyle, real food…  I’m not joking when I say that it was, and still is, rare to go to a party with these people where one of those topics does not come up, and then proceeds to get discussed ad nauseum for the next three hours.  I will also be totally honest that this fact is one of the biggest among many reasons why I love my friends so much.  They aren’t just interested in maintaining what works and passively listening to the media promote fad diets that serve as an easy button but ultimately never work – they are interested in challenging their threshold of what it means to be healthy, and finding out if it’s possible to feel even better than they do right now, in this very moment.

So suffice it to say, I’m still on the hunt for my crowd in Denmark who is willing to entertain a conversation about sugar, the definition of “healthy” food and what this all means for your body.  I’m feeling pretty thankful that my crossfit friends seem to be totally on board with the topic, so I’m obviously super jazzed about spending more time with these people.  Just last Friday we spent two hours talking about the negative effects of grain and sugar on the body, how that effects your genes if you’re sensitive to it, inflammation and what it means, how certain types of exercises can actually influence the way your cells behave…to sum up, I think I’ve found my kindred spirits of the Danish variety.  :)

But alas, I digress, as I am wont to do.  I simply do not believe that no one in this 12-party Danish political system has come up with the brilliant idea of attempting to reverse reversible diseases via education, knowledge, and access to healthy foods so that the government doesn’t have to keep paying for sick people who wouldn’t get sick in the first place if they knew better, or their parents knew better (how’s that for a run-on?).  I know in the past the most prominent and minimally successful suggestion has been to add taxes to foods that are unhealthy (and we saw how long that lasted before everyone figured out people were just making more trips to Germany for their Haribo fix), but I also wonder if the gains from those taxes were then directed to caring for the very same people who ate the foods that made them sick in the first place.  I honestly doubt it.  At least not directly.

The sad truth is that I can almost expect this sort of reaction from an enormous, capitalistic society like the US, where not just the medical system and insurance companies, but also the agricultural and food industries, rely heavily on people staying sick and addicted to food that is slowly killing them (doesn’t make it right, but unfortunately this is the cold, hard truth).  But when the relationship is [supposedly] directly from people to government, and back again, as it is in Denmark, I believe we should expect more.

Either way, we cannot continue to live in an ignorant world where we blindly consume sugar and cake and candy and soda and then point our fingers at the government to support us when our bodies finally revolt and become diabetic (or develop any other dietary/lifestyle influenced disease).  BUT, in a welfare state like Denmark, we do have the power (and the money) to instead allocate energy and funds toward education, so that people might eventually understand how to live, and then maybe also aspire to maintain, a healthier lifestyle.

And just like that, BOOM, no more diabetes bomb.

(Oh, and apropos, it seems efforts toward becoming healthy and better educated can alter previously negative forecasts with other things too, like Dementia - glad to see Denmark was a part of this study, maybe there’s hope yet.)

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Comeback Cabbage

So summer is in full swing here in Copenhagen, and it’s been about 9 months since I’ve written a post, and I’ve gotta be honest, not only have I not really been cooking up a storm, but I have also just not felt like writing about it.  A lot of my meals at home in the past several months have been makeshift versions of what someone might consider a meal – typically something thrown together that isn’t really worthy of a photograph, or the pain of giving someone the idea of making it themselves.  I have also eaten a lot of roasted chickens.

But alas, I spent some time wandering around Torvehallerne yesterday looking for some much-needed inspiration, because who are we kidding, I love to cook, and I should do it more often.  I was craving vegetables, and wanted something in season (which obviously is your only choice at a farmers market), and had just read a whole chapter in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about all the beautiful leafy greens that are in season this time of year.

Admittedly I was after kale.  I’m pretty much always after kale when I’m craving leafy greens, and typically I never can track it down unless I go to Istedgade in Vesterbro, where they sell kilo bags of it for 15kr.  At Torvehallerne the greens on display right now are romaine hearts, various fresh sprouts, something resembling buk choy, and heads of savoy cabbage.  Figuring savoy cabbage might roast the same way kale does (getting crispy on the darker leaves), I picked up a head, a bag full of cherries (to munch on while roasting my cabbage), and went on my merry way.

Until this afternoon I wasn’t exactly sure what to pair the cabbage with, and then I opened my fridge and stared at the contents (for probably way too long): butter, yogurt, bacon, eggs…

It’s at this point that should admit that I have an unhealthy preoccupation with poached eggs.  They intimidate the hell out of me – I mean, the idea of dropping an egg into a pot of just boiling vinegar water making a funnel…it all sounds so complicated and the opposite of fool-proof (and I know from experience that attempting this would result in the sacrifice of at least a couple eggs before I got it right).  But even despite this reality, I still believe that poached eggs are the perfect way to cook an egg.  Lots of studies out there suggest that over-cooking the egg yolk can lead to health problems (while eggs themselves are actually very good for you), so that only validates my love.

One of my favorite brunch places in Copenhagen, Manfreds, makes a killer poached egg.  I have always admired their talents, and a craving for their eggs and homemade sausage is all I need as motivation to pull myself out of bed on a Sunday morning.  On a recent trip, I sat at the bar with friends, and I finally learned their secret: they don’t actually poach the “french way”.  They throw the whole egg, with its shell, into a sous vide!!!  While anyone who knows me knows I love an awesome kitchen appliance, I’m obviously not about to go buy a sous vide in order to have a poached egg (yes, I want one, really bad, because seriously look at the meat you can make with it – Relæ has been known to make meat slow-cooked in sous vides for up to 68 hours), so I decided to go for the next best thing – makeshift sous vide with a pot and some good old fashioned hot water.  AKA: coddled eggs, onsen tamago (japanese method), slow-poached eggs.

And the final addition to my three ingredient dinner?  Bacon.  Obviously.

ROASTED SAVOY CABBAGE WITH POACHED EGGS & CRISPY BACON

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 head of savoy cabbage
  • three eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 strips of bacon
  • salt, pepper, olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 180C/375F.

Cut your savoy cabbage head half in half (to make two quarters), and cut out the core.  Halve the quarters and slice into 1-inch cubes widthwise.  Separating the layers, throw into a large bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.  Spread the bite-size leaves onto a pan covered with parchment paper, and put into the oven.  Toss after 7-8 minutes, and roasted for a total of 15.

Once the cabbage is in the oven, bring a small pot of enough salted water to completely cover an egg to boil.  Once boiling, remove from heat, add the eggs, and cover with a lid.  After 3 minutes, rotate the eggs to ensure that the whites distribute evenly.  Let sit for 15 minutes total.

Cook bacon according to instructions and to desired crispiness (I assume we all know how to cook bacon here…).

Assemble the roasted savoy cabbage on a plate making indents for your eggs, and gently crack the eggs and release them onto the cabbage (if you’re worried they might not be cooked enough, it might be a good idea to first crack the eggs into a bowl).  Egg whites should be relatively runny, and the yolks will be creamy and just perfectly thickened.  Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle crumble bacon on top.

Makes enough for 1 – double the recipe for 2

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The Cheaters Guide to Real Food

Oh dear readers.  I have been MIA big time.  First things got crazy at work, then things got crazy at home (boyfriend was in exam mode, so I was maintaining life as we know it for two people instead of one), then I started planning my 30th birthday, and THEN I left for two weeks on vacation to New York (much needed, though not even remotely relaxing).

Needlesstosay, while I HAVE been cooking up a storm, I haven’t made the time to share all the good food porn with the blogosphere.

No worries though, the good recipe blogs will be back, but in keeping with the theme of my life for the past couple months, I thought it might be appropriate to share with you the epitome of my survival guide when life gets crazy and maintaining a healthy diet becomes a chore: The Cheaters Guide to Real Food.

I’ll be back soon with more!  Promise!

{grain-free / sugar-free} Cinnamon Swirl Muffins

Like any normal human being, I occasionally get an inkling for baked goods.  Living in Denmark, I’m basically surrounded by cakes and pastries 24/7, and I use a lot of will power to avoid stuffing my face with the stuff at any available opportunity.

FORTUNATELY, all hope is not lost thanks to almond flour, which, with some manipulation, can be magically transformed into things resembling the best pastries and cakes on earth.

One thing I try to keep in mind when I get the urge to bake like a madwomen with my illegally imported almond flour (thanks, Bob’s Red Mill, for keeping your prices so reasonable, and to my expat American friends who bring me back a bulk supply) is Phytic Acid.

I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed the same thing as me when overdosing on nuts, but I get a “heavy” sensation in my stomach that doesn’t particularly feel amazing.  Until recently, I had no idea what this was.  Turns out it’s the effects of an overdose of Phytic Acid, and this article does a pretty good job of explaining why it all happens, and which things have more Phytic Acid than others.

Keeping that in mind, I try to limit my grain-free baking to about once every couple weeks or so, as a special treat.  And these Cinnamon Swirl Muffins (adapted from Comfy Belly) are JUST the ticket for those occasions.  :)

CINNAMON SWIRL MUFFINS

Warning: this 10-muffin batch could mysteriously disappear in less than 24 hours.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk natural yogurt
  • 4-5 tbsp raw honey, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp unsalted organic butter, melted

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 160C (325F).

Mix the yogurt, eggs, and 2 tbsp of raw honey together in a large bowl.  Add in almond flour, salt, and baking soda, and mix until well blended.

Mix butter, cinnamon, and remaining 2-3 tbsp (more if you prefer sweeter, we used 2 in our recipe and it was perfect for us) in a bowl.

Fill muffin tins/cups halfway with muffin batter.  Then add one tbsp of cinnamon mixture to each tin, and cover with remaining batter.  Using a toothpick, make swirls in the batter starting on the outside of the muffin and working your way toward the middle to bring the cinnamon mixture to the top of the muffins.  If you have leftover cinnamon mixture, feel free to add to the top of a delicious crusty muffin top.

Pop it in the oven for 25 minutes, or until tops just start to darken.

Makes 10 muffins

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Crisp Roasted Chicken

You know how it’s usually the simplest things that give you the most pleasure?

Find yourself a free-range organic chicken, give it a little water bath, do a dance with it for 5 seconds, laugh about how funny “naked” chickens are, cover it with salt (I’m serious, COVER, like, it should look like it just snowed salt on your chicken) give it a little bit of pepper, and throw it (gently) into the oven for an hour.  A little thyme in the juices after it’s out, a bit of butter on the breast, and dipped in dijon mustard, and…well…the result is glorious.  The salt helps remove all the moisture from the oven, which makes for a delicious crispy skin which no one I’ve ever fed this chicken to has ever been able to resist.  An easy (and cheap!) dinner for 4 (or in our house, two very hungry adults), and pairs well with just about any green vegetable (I like sautéed green beans with sliced garlic).

Once you’ve finished devouring the chicken (try the oysters on the middle back, that’s my favorite part!), put the carcass into your crockpot, cover with water, throw in some garlic, onions, parsley, celery (and celery leaves), a splash of vinegar, and a couple bay leaves, set to low and cook for 24-48 hours.  The longer you cook, the better quality the broth.  Check out some good tips by Nourished Kitchen about bone broth here.  After a couple days your broth should be a little like gelatin if it cools to room temperature, and that’s when you know you’ve done it right.  Lots of good nutrients and worth keeping around for either daily consumption (ideal world, if you don’t use it for sauces or gravy already), or approaching colds or other ailments (bone broth is particularly effective for constipation or other digestive problems related to the gut).

CRISP ROASTED CHICKEN

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 whole ~3lb chicken (I buy Bornholmers Høn from Irma)
  • salt, pepper, dried thyme
  • kitchen twine
  • grassfed organic butter
  • dijon mustard

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 225C (450F).

Rinse and pat dry both the inside and outside of the chicken.  Place in an 8×11 baking dish.  Liberally pour salt into the cavity of the chicken, and then secure legs with kitchen twine.  Liberally salt the rest of the chicken.  The idea is to give the chicken a nice white hue from all the salt.  Season with freshly ground pepper.  Cook in the oven for 1 hour.

After an hour, remove the chicken and dump about a tablespoon of dried thyme into the drippings of the chicken at the bottom of the baking dish.  Using a large spoon, mix up the drippings and thyme, and baste the chicken with the thyme drippings until all areas of the skin are remoistened.

Carve chicken and serve with butter (if desired) on the meat and dip in dijon mustard.

Serves 4

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Bacon-Wrapped Salmon with Pesto & Roasted Asparagus

I’m not sure a day goes by where I don’t think about eating bacon.  You might’ve already gathered that by the praise I made of the delicious stuff in my Broccoli Bacon Salad post from earlier this week.

When I decided to stop being a vegetarian back in 2010, my first meat was bacon.  I had been planning a trip to Southern Spain with my then “new” boyfriend and figured it would be a sin to go to Andalusía and NOT eat pork products.  While we were in Granada, we tried some mountain air dried jamón ibérico and I still occasionally have dreams about it, it was that good.  I even smuggled some of it with me back to the US in the lining of my suitcase, and spent the next three weeks garnishing just about everything I ate with it.

So back to bacon.  Even though I generally try to avoid Magasin (a large Danish department store with the most amazing basement gourmet market), I have found myself in there a couple times lately because they seem to have the most diverse selection of unhomogenized dairy products.  They also have a delectable way of presenting everything, and I have been eying their bacon-wrapped salmon for about four months now.  So today, I decided to give it a shot.

Asparagus is in season and out in full force in Copenhagen, and a friend of mine just posted a photo of some she roasted in the oven last night that gave me inspiration, so I pass on her recipe to you.

This meal is particularly awesome because it took less than 35 minutes to make the magic happen.  Nothing quite like healthy, delicious AND fast, amiright?

BACON-WRAPPED SALMON with PESTO & ROASTED ASPARAGUS

Ingredients:

  • 2 filets of salmon, skin removed (if you’re as good as I am at removing skin from salmon, ask your fish monger to do it for you)
  • 4-6 fairly thick slices of free-range bacon (depending on how much you love bacon, and how big your salmon filets are)
  • 4 tbsp Pesto, divided (mine isn’t homemade today because we were in a hurry to eat, but it is made with real olive oil. Click the link to see my favorite homemade pesto recipe)
  • one bunch of organic asparagus (about 250 grams)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees (C).

Wash and “break” asparagus at their natural breaking point (see this video to see what I’m talking about).  Lay them out in a baking dish, and drizzle olive oil over them.  Toss with a dash of balsamic vinegar, and salt & pepper to taste.  Set aside.

Roll up each salmon filet (skinned side should be on the inside) and secure with 2-3 slices of bacon each (the bacon should be sticky enough to hold the salmon together, but if it’s not, feel free to use wooden toothpicks).  Place salmon rolls salmon side down in a baking dish, and add 2 tbsp of pesto to the middle of each salmon roll.

Cover the salmon baking dish with aluminum foil.  Put salmon and asparagus into the oven at the same time, and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Serves 2

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Broccoli Bacon Salad

Spring is finally in the air here in Denmark, which means that the entire population of Copenhagen is outside basically as often as humanly possible.  My boyfriend insists on wearing shorts 24/7 now that it’s not freezing, and because we live next to a park, it smells like BBQ pretty much nonstop.

Naturally, this means picnics are back in season, and we had our inaugural one of the year last Sunday on Islands Brygge, complete with some organic pølser.

Danes (and Americans) tend to gravitate toward the meat at picnics and BBQs, and so whenever one happens, I try to bring something sort of resembling a salad that people will actually eat (my subtle way of keeping my friends as healthy as I can).  As a rule of thumb, I’ve found that if you make salad with bacon in it, it becomes about 180 times more appealing to the general audience.

And thus, my new favorite (so easy it’s ridiculous) picnic salad:

BROCCOLI BACON SALAD

Like butter, bacon also makes everything better

INGREDIENTS:

  • One head of broccoli, stems removed and cut into small florets
  • One package of sliced organic free-range bacon (Irma sells this; look for the one with pictures of pigs roaming in grass on the front)
  • One small red onion, diced
  • 100-150 grams crème fraiche (add more or less to taste and depending on how large the broccoli head is)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Slice bacon into quarter-inch pieces.  Heat pan over low heat and once warm, add bacon pieces, stirring occasionally, until it is cooked through (or to desired level of doneness).

In a bowl, mix onions, broccoli and cooked bacon “bits” with the crème fraiche.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

 

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