Tuesday, April 29, 2008

April 29: Corn Saute with Canadian Bacon, Potatoes, and Peppers

My father-in-law has Menier's disease. It's an inner ear problem which gives him both a constant ringing in his ears and a constant, low-grade case of vertigo. If you've never had vertigo, imagine that the floor that you were standing on was constantly tilting at anywhere from a 15-degree angle to about a 70-degree angle, randomly. There is no cure for it, nor is there a consistantly successful treatment.

One thing that does seem to help is a low-sodium diet. My father-in-law is an absolute peach of a guy; I'm crazy about him. He is a soft-spoken, true old-fashioned gentleman with an incredible work ethic, is pathologically cooperative, and infinitely patient with his youngest grandson. He also loves my cooking, and nothing endears someone to me like loving my cooking does.

My mother-in-law has gotten pretty decent at making low-sodium substitutes for her husband. She makes a salt-free bratwurst and a salt-free breakfast sausage. Both are outstanding. But one thing that Leo always asks for when he's here or when we're in Michigan is homemade pizza. I love making pizza, way more than I love ordering it, but it's a struggle to accommodate everyone. I am not a fan of ham, and it's too high in sodium for Leo, as are olives, which I love. Kitty, my mother-in-law, can't eat pepperoni or peppers of any kind, and a lot of dried herbs and spices that generally go into pizza sauce bother her stomach as well. Dan loves peppers, but they don't love him. Max likes pizza with cheese and maybe sausage. Everything else is "too bad," according to him.

One thing we all can get together on, though, is Canadian bacon. If you've never had it--I'm just not sure whether it's popular anywhere other than in Michigan, which is practically attached to Canada--it's a lightly smoked and pressed pork loin. It is a little like ham, only without being so salty, and I am a big fan. Most of the time you see it in Eggs Benedict--an English muffin, a grilled slice of Canadian bacon, a poached egg, and Hollandaise sauce--but it is an outstanding pizza topping as well.

Unless you're serving brunch, or pizza, though, that Canadian bacon is not exactly highly popular. I do like it on a grilled cheese sandwich, but it's not that versatile.

Here's something you can do with that half a package of Canadian bacon that's left over after the Eggs Benedict or the homemade pizza. It's on the back cover of an old Fine Cooking magazine, and summer is coming and these are the vegetables that we're going to start seeing in the farmer's markets. I can't wait. When it comes to that leftover Hollandaise sauce, though, you're on your own.

Corn Saute with Canadian Bacon, Potatoes, and Peppers

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup small-diced Canadian bacon (3 oz.)
1 cup small-diced red onion
1 cup small-diced red potato
1/2 cup small-diced green bell pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 slightly heaping cups fresh corn kernels
2 tsp minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp thinly sliced fresh chives
1/2 tsp green Tabasco, more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
One-half lemon

Melt 1 tbsp. of the butter and 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a 10-inch straight sided saute pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the Canadian bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is brown around the edges, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.

Add the remaining butter and oil to the pan. Add the onion, potato, bell pepper, and 1/2 tsp. of salt. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and cook, stirring frequently, until the oinons and peppers are well softened and the potatoes are barely tender and starting to brown, 5-7 minutes.

Uncover, increase heat to medium, and add the corn, garlic and remaining salt. Saute, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, until the corn is tender but still slightly toothy to the bite, 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the parsley, chives, Tabasco, a few generous grinds of pepper, and a small squeese of lemon. Stir, let sit 2 minutes, and stir again. Fold in the Canadian bacon, season to taste with more salt, pepper, or lemon juice. Serve warm.

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