Hog Heaven

No matter how you like your bacon — smoked with cherrywood, cured in dark maple syrup, stuffed in jalapenos, tossed with kale, baked in a cookie — there are exciting new discoveries in store for you starting March 2nd. Here are just a few to get your grocery list going: 

Artisan and Specialty Bacons
Spring Valley Iberico Bacon features nutty, sweet pork belly imported from Spain that’s been dry cured for 21 days and Hickory smoked for 12 hours.
Wolf Family Smoked Pork Belly is rotisserie smoked by whole wood logs for a moist, tender bite. It’s fully cooked, so just warm it in the oven or crisp it under the broiler, and you’ll be in hog heaven.

Sweet & Salty
Peanut Butter Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies which is probably all I need to say here. Other than, “Thank goodness Central Market’s ovens never sleep because I’m going to need a lot of these.”
Mayana Heavens to Bacon Bar is made with bacon-almond praline, potato chips, smoked sea salt caramel, puffed rice and dark chocolate. It’s perfect when you don’t know exactly what kind of craving you’re having. Sweet? Salty? Crunchy? Chocolaty? Yes.

Make It a Meal
Grilled Salmon with Bacon Jam features our housemade, sweet and tangy bacon jam. A Bacon Fest limited edition!
Kale Salad with Bacon, Almonds, and Tomatoes is topped with grated Pecorino Romano and tossed in Caesar dressing.

Bacon is Teacher’s Pet at Cooking School
Southern chef Kevin Gillespie says, “Like Bubba Gump and his shrimp, I have a million ways to cook pork because I love it so much." Sign up for a cooking class near you and let him introduce you to just a few of his favorite bacon recipes: Arugula, Fig & Prosciutto Bundles; Revival Meatloaf; Sweet Potato Pancakes with Maple-braised Bacon; and Banoffee Triffle with Candied Bacon.  

Bacon Recipes
If you can’t make it to Kevin’s class, we have a few delicious ideas of our own to up your bacon game at home:
Ibérico Bacon Stuffed Mushooms
Cob Smoked Bacon and Corn Chowder
Cherrywood Smoked Bacon Quesadillas
Berkshire Bacon-Shallot Dressed Brussels Sprouts 
Alsatian Tart with Hickory Juniper Smoked Bacon
 
And more here!

So, Make Room (in your cart, fridge, and mouth) for Bacon.
 

What�s Your Bacon Style

Slab Bacon — Whole, smoked, and unsliced pork belly that may be sliced to any thickness or chopped into any size or form. This is the bacon style wins our vote for Biggest Over-Achiever.
 
Sliced Bacon — It is hard to discount the bacon regularly voted Most Popular. Available from thin to extra thick strips all of which are easily pan fried or chopped into pieces. There is a BLT calling it's name as we speak.
 
Smoked Jowl — Cured and smoked pork jowls are fattier than pork bacon, and may be eaten, sliced or fried, also great chopped and added to recipes or stews, and voted Most Likely to Never Be Single.
 
Canadian Bacon — This Most Dependable bacon from the north, is brined, smoked lean pork loin that is sliced for pan frying, grilling, pizza topping, sandwich accoutrement, and more. 
 
English and Irish Back Rashers — This is a brined or dry-cured pork loin, perfect for pan frying and a staple of the full English breakfast. Available smoked or unsmoked, and Most Likely to Never Change.
 
Tasso Ham — Pork shoulder that is cured in salt and sugar, rinsed and seasoned with spices, including cayenne and garlic, then smoked and often used to flavor southern or Creole dishes. Also voted, Best Shoulder to Cry On. 
 
Pancetta — Well deserving of the title Most Helpful, this Italian-style, dry-cured, unsmoked, spiced pork belly is used from breakfast to dinner to enhance any recipe Wallflowers.

What�s Your Bacon Style

Slab Bacon — Whole, smoked, and unsliced pork belly that may be sliced to any thickness or chopped into any size or form. This is the bacon style wins our vote for Biggest Over-Achiever.
 
Sliced Bacon — It is hard to discount the bacon regularly voted Most Popular. Available from thin to extra thick strips all of which are easily pan fried or chopped into pieces. There is a BLT calling it's name as we speak.
 
Smoked Jowl — Cured and smoked pork jowls are fattier than pork bacon, and may be eaten, sliced or fried, also great chopped and added to recipes or stews, and voted Most Likely to Never Be Single.
 
Canadian Bacon — This Most Dependable bacon from the north, is brined, smoked lean pork loin that is sliced for pan frying, grilling, pizza topping, sandwich accoutrement, and more. 
 
English and Irish Back Rashers — This is a brined or dry-cured pork loin, perfect for pan frying and a staple of the full English breakfast. Available smoked or unsmoked, and Most Likely to Never Change.
 
Tasso Ham — Pork shoulder that is cured in salt and sugar, rinsed and seasoned with spices, including cayenne and garlic, then smoked and often used to flavor southern or Creole dishes. Also voted, Best Shoulder to Cry On. 
 
Pancetta — Well deserving of the title Most Helpful, this Italian-style, dry-cured, unsmoked, spiced pork belly is used from breakfast to dinner to enhance any recipe Wallflowers.

How do you say bacon in Spanish? �Delicious!�

In other words, the Spanish know what they’re doing when it comes to pork. (They were the ones who introduced it to the Americas, after all. Gracias, Hernando de Soto!) So imagine what happens when this superior pork’s belly is dry cured for 21 days and gently Hickory smoked for a final 12 hours. You guessed it: Ibérico bacon with the distinctly nutty, slightly sweet flavor that began in the mountains of Spain.

We recommend using the exceptional Spring Valley Ibérico Bacon highlighted during Bacon Fest to make a tapa dish that is full of the flavors of Spain: Ibérico Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms. (Cook it low and slow to preserve the flavor.) It’s an easy appetizer or side dish that lets the bacon flavor shine and would be great with a bottle of Anthony & Dominic Pinot Noir from our Wine department. Perfect for raising a glass of thanks to the Spanish mountains, acorns, Pata Negra…and Hernando de Soto.

Four Steps to Good Grillin’

1. Clean the grill thoroughly and oil it lightly.

2. Season fish as desired. If the fish has skin, slash it lightly before cooking to prevent curling.

3. Use a hinged wire grill basket for whole fish and fillets of tender fish. Firmer fish can be cooked directly on the oiled grill. Skewers (metal or water-soaked wooden ones) work great for small shellfish or two-inch chunks of firm fish like tuna or swordfish. Shellfish can be cooked directly on the hot grill or in a basket, depending on size. They’re done when the shell opens. Discard those that don’t open.

4. Grill over medium to medium-high heat (400°- 450°). Turn only once to avoid breakage. Estimate a total cook time of 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness for steaks and fillets and 10 minutes for whole fish. Start checking for doneness two minutes before the estimated time, keeping in mind food will continue to cook for a bit after coming off the grill. Now, that being said, you don’t want to go opening the lid all willy-nilly. This will let all the heat out, lengthening your cooking time and delaying your feast! Oh, and one more note; if you’re using a grill basket, remove the fish from the basket as soon as you take it off the grill.

For details on other methods of cooking, check out our Seafood Guide.

Four Steps to Good Grillin’

1. Clean the grill thoroughly and oil it lightly.

2. Season fish as desired. If the fish has skin, slash it lightly before cooking to prevent curling.

3. Use a hinged wire grill basket for whole fish and fillets of tender fish. Firmer fish can be cooked directly on the oiled grill. Skewers (metal or water-soaked wooden ones) work great for small shellfish or two-inch chunks of firm fish like tuna or swordfish. Shellfish can be cooked directly on the hot grill or in a basket, depending on size. They’re done when the shell opens. Discard those that don’t open.

4. Grill over medium to medium-high heat (400°- 450°). Turn only once to avoid breakage. Estimate a total cook time of 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness for steaks and fillets and 10 minutes for whole fish. Start checking for doneness two minutes before the estimated time, keeping in mind food will continue to cook for a bit after coming off the grill. Now, that being said, you don’t want to go opening the lid all willy-nilly. This will let all the heat out, lengthening your cooking time and delaying your feast! Oh, and one more note; if you’re using a grill basket, remove the fish from the basket as soon as you take it off the grill.

For details on other methods of cooking, check out our Seafood Guide.

Oscar Worthy Concession Stand

I am no Billy Crystal, but after a few years of hosting under my belt I have changed up the menu to really fit the evening. I ditched a big dinner a few years back for easier snacking foods, and this year going all in on items easily munchable, with what I am calling my Central Market Concession Stand.
 
The first, and most iconic, thing first, popcorn – Gary Poppins Popcorn specifically, and for Sunday I choose three: A Chicago-style (caramel, kettle, and cheese mixed together), Kettle, and White Cheddar Jalapeño. Or feel free to make your own.
 
Then for my sweet tooth group, I raided our bulk candy section – and grabbed just the right amount of gummy bears, strawberry licorice pinwheels, chocolate covered pretzels, mini peanut butter cups, and candied sunflower seeds (a fun way to mix it up, instead of grabbing M&M’s). If you are feeling extra glamorous you can always add celebrity favorite John Kelly Chocolates Chocolate Fudge Bars to the list, they have been part of the actual Oscars swag bag for a few years now.
 
Because crunchy items are my snacking preference, I grabbed: Wackym’s cookies in Salted Caramel, Central Market Exotic Blend Veggie Chips, then pistachios and butter toffee peanuts both from the Bulk Department. 
 
The great thing about snack-centric items like the ones above is it means there are not a ton of dishes to manage at the end of the night. This year I actually made paper cones out of parchment paper, for people to use to hold all their snacks, so those are no clean-up at all.
 
And finally, because the Oscars are full of sparkle, I picked up beverages all with a touch of effervescence. HEB Grapefruit soda water, Great Jamaican Ginger Beer (the base for my Moscow Mules, but also great by itself for those looking for a non-alcoholic option), and lastly to toast the Best Picture winner, a bottle of Pianello Prosecco.
 
Hope this inspires you to make the most of Hollywood’s biggest night. Now fingers crossed my favorite movie can take home the gold guy.

Help! I’ve Never Bought Fish Before!

And remember, any of the folks behind the seafood counter will be happy to answer any questions you have. Fish and customer service are their specialties! 
 
1.      Look at all these options! What different cuts are available?
There are four basic cuts of fish in our seafood cases.
Steaks: Cut across the fish, usually 1 to 1.5 inches thick.
Fillets: Cut away from the backbone of the fish into long pieces. Cut crosswise into several servings if the fish is large.  
Rolled Fillets:
Smaller fish fillets that can be rolled around in herbs and poached or steamed.   
Whole Fish:
Gutted, with head and tail left on.
 

2.      My in-laws are coming for dinner. How much do I need to buy?
Shrimp: 6 oz (Or closer to 8 oz if your guests are anything like my cousins
who think shrimp is its own food group.)
Fillets or Steaks: 6 oz
Whole Fish: 1 lb
Bottles of Wine: Hey, your in-laws are coming. You might need a couple bottles. For you. But if you really are counting, our best suggestion is to figure roughly three drinks per person over the course of the evening. Keep in mind there are just more than four glasses of wine in a bottle, and do the math from there.

3.      What kitchen tools will I need?
A few key items will get your dinner prep off on the right foot. (Or is that fin?)
Hinged Wire Grill Basket: Holds the flaky fish firmly in place so you can turn it quickly without it falling apart.
Tongs: Essential for turning smaller fish during cooking. Avoid piercing fish with a fork when possible.
Shears: The easiest tool for cutting small fish.
Extra Wide Metal Spatula: Sliding a really big spatula under a fish and steadying it with a pair of tongs is the sure-fire way to turn a fish without breaking it.
Pliers: Use to pull out small bones. (Your Central Market fishmonger will do this for you before packing your fish in ice for the ride home, but it’s important to always double check.)
Deep-frying Thermometer: If you’re frying fish, this is an inexpensive must-have, because the temperature of the oil is your key to success. If you don’t have one, test the oil temperature by dropping in a small bit of batter. If it sinks halfway down, then bubbles back to the top, your oil is hot enough to use. 
 
See? It’s not so scary. Well, at least the seafood isn’t. As for dinner with your in-laws, you’re on your own. Just remember to swing through our wine department after you pick up your seafood and everything will be fine!

Pick Poke

This coastal restaurant craze hasn’t reached us here in Texas — My Google search for “Texas poke restaurant” returned Pok-e-Joe’s Smokehouse. Sounds about right. But, poke has a lot going for it: It’s simple to make at home, flavorful, customizable, easy to eat on-the-go, and (drumroll, please!) it’s healthy. So, whether you’re a seasoned seafood foodie, new to poke and stoked about trying your hand at what is basically the spirit of Aloha in a bowl, or maybe looking for a new a flavor of protein that won’t derail your Paleo diet and Crossfit workouts, poke is for you.

Ready to give it a whirl? Check out this super simple recipe. Pretty much all you need to do is whisk together a marinade, cube the tuna, toss it together, chill it, and serve over rice with whatever add-ins sound tasty to you.

Go for it! And if you have any questions about preparing your poke, ask a Central Market fishmonger when you pick up your ingredients. 

Pick Poke

This coastal restaurant craze hasn’t reached us here in Texas — My Google search for “Texas poke restaurant” returned Pok-e-Joe’s Smokehouse. Sounds about right. But, poke has a lot going for it: It’s simple to make at home, flavorful, customizable, easy to eat on-the-go, and (drumroll, please!) it’s healthy. So, whether you’re a seasoned seafood foodie, new to poke and stoked about trying your hand at what is basically the spirit of Aloha in a bowl, or maybe looking for a new a flavor of protein that won’t derail your Paleo diet and Crossfit workouts, poke is for you.

Ready to give it a whirl? Check out this super simple recipe. Pretty much all you need to do is whisk together a marinade, cube the tuna, toss it together, chill it, and serve over rice with whatever add-ins sound tasty to you.

Go for it! And if you have any questions about preparing your poke, ask a Central Market fishmonger when you pick up your ingredients.