Category Archives: Off The Grill

Risotto ai Funghi Porcini Con il Pollo

Risotto ai Funghi Porcini Con  il Pollo
(Risotto with porcini mushrooms and chicken)

* 4 cups roasted chicken, in rough chunks
* A one-ounce packet dried porcini (25 g, about a packed half cup)
* 1 small sweet onion, finely sliced
* 3 tablespoons olive oil + 1/4 cup butter
* 1 1/2 cups short-grained rice, for example Arborio or Vialone Nano
* 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano
* The water the mushrooms were soaked in, strained, and a quart of roasted chicken stock (see notes), simmering.
* 1/8 cup (each) Italian parsley and fresh basil, minced
* Salt and pepper to taste


Steep the porcini in a cup of boiling water for fifteen minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the onion finely and sauté it in three tablespoons of oil. When it’s lightly browned remove it to a plate with a slotted spoon and stir the rice into the drippings in the pot. Sauté the rice for 10-15 minutes, until it becomes somewhat translucent, stirring constantly so it won’t stick and burn.

Return the onions to the pot, then stir in a first ladle of stock, and while it’s absorbing, chop the mushrooms and strain the liquid they soaked in, which can contain sand. Add the mushrooms and their liquid to the rice, then continue adding stock a ladle at a time, stirring constantly until absorbed.

About five minutes before the rice is done, check seasoning. As soon as the rice is al dente, turn off the heat, stir in the butter, half the cheese, a little bit of ground pepper, the parsley and basil, and cover the risotto for two minutes.

Serve with the remaining grated cheese, sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs.

Serve 4-6


#1: Making your own roast chicken stock is KEY to this recipe. Yes, you can use the canned stuff, or even (god forbid) bullion, but I promise you it will not taste nearly as good. Plan to make this the night after serving roast chicken (if you’d don’t want to roast a chicken, the Costco ones taste great!) See my recipe, below.

#2: Do NOT try to make risotto with cold stock. The stock must be simmering (or at least very hot) when you add it to the rice, or it will impede the cooking process.

#3: As you can see in the pic, I like to serve this with some roasted zuchinni and yellow squash. Simple rinse, slice, and toss with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and a pinch of those fresh chopped herbs. Sprinkle with a little asiago cheese, and roast under broiler (500f) for 5 minutes or so.

Roast chicken stock

Plan on leaving at least 1/3 of the meat on the bird after the meal. The next morning, trim away all the good meat (but not TOO close) and set aside to top risotto. hack the carcass into three chunks (I do this to expose more marrow) and throw the whole mess  into a pot and cover with water, add 2 Tbs salt, some pepper, some garlic, two chopped onions, and 4-5 stalks of chopped celery, and a bay leaf.

I also add some fresh chopped basil and Italian parsley. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a very low simmer and let ‘er cook for 6-8 hours, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Very carefully strain through cheesecloth (toss all the “parts”). Return liquid to a slow simmer.

Now you’re ready to make risotto!

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Sourdough Blueberry Pancakes – Trial #2


So…sourdough blueberry pancakes trial #2 was a roaring success!

I still don’t know if I would call these the “perfect” pancakes, but in both taste and fluffiness categories, they blew trial #1 out of the water. (And, trial #1 was pretty darn good.)

Lighter and sweeter, the prep and ingredients were both very different, requiring me to “proof” the batter, starting the night before. (Slim calls it the “sponge” in the video (below), but I didn’t like that term, lol.)

1/2 cup sourdough starter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup luke-warm water
3/4 cup flour

Stir all together to a wet paste consistency. Cover lightly and allow to rest over night in a warm place. The next morning, add:

2 tsp oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg

Stir all, and then add 2 cups fresh or thawed blueberries, drained in necessary.

Preheat griddle to 375d, oil lightly. (Or, cook on cast iron, as in the video.)

Combine 1 Tbs baking soda with 1/8 cup warm water. Stir lightly into batter, allow to rise for a minute or two.

Spoon batter (a 1/3 measuring cup works perfect) onto griddle. Cook 6 minutes, or until bubbles have stopped popping and the surface is beginning to dry. Flip and cook 1-2 minutes on the second side.

To serve, layer pancakes with butter and maple syrup between each, sprinkle top pancake with powdered sugar, if you like. (That makes them just a litlle TOO sweet for me.)

Serve with bacon, of course.

Here’s the YouTube video where I got this recipe…you’ve GOT to watch this, it’s pretty dang funny! This guy makes me think of Pop Fairrington. I’m totally going to call my measurments “Hermans” from now on, lol!

PS – Look at this AWESOME jar I found for my starter! This is the bigges Ball jar I’ve ever seen; it was waiting for me in the garage of the new condo. After a good bleaching and some boiling water, I just added a little cheesecloth and a rubber band, and voila!

SO cool!

Okay…I know…I’m a food geek.


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Your favorite clam recipes?

Photo by Justin Collins

Hey everyone,

I’m finishing up an article for March/April 2011 issue of Oregon Coast Magazine, on the upcoming 2011 clamming season here in Oregon.

I want to give them a selection of a dozen or so recipes to go along with the article, from which the editor will pick 2-3 for publication along with the article. (Credit will be given with each recipe, unless you wish to remain unnamed.)

I’ll make sure the recipe authors get a complimentary copy of the published issue, as well.

Sooo…what’s you favorite clam recipe? Anything unusual or exotic? An old family favorite? You favorite version of a classic?

Please post your recipe below!

I’ll probably know, by mid-December, the editor’s picks.



PS – PLEASE feel free to pass this offer around, and to submit multiple recipes!


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Sweet Brie Pastry Puffs

This is one of those “happy accident” dishes. I’d intended to make my traditional baked brie, which is wrapped in puff pastry sheets before baking, then slices and eaten with crackers.

When I got to that step in the recipe, I discovered that I had grabbed “Puff Pastry Shells” by mistake.

Opening the box, I found a half dozen little frozen “discs”  of dough, instead of the sheets I was expected.

I thought, “What the heck…” (Okay, more precisely I ranted and raved for a couple of minutes, cooled down a little, and then thought, “What the heck…”)

Now, as is often the case, I’m sure glad I grabbed the wrong box. This is how I’ll be making this recipe from now on!

Sweet Brie Pastry Puffs

1 (7 to 8-inch) wheel brie cheese
1/4 cup dried cramberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tbs yellow mustard
6 puff pastry shells (1 box) baked.

Bake pastry shells according to box instructions.

Blend mustard and brown sugar into a thick paste.

Using a warmed sharp knife, or unflavored dental floss, cut the wheel of brie in half horizontally and separate the top half of the wheel from the bottom half.

Set each half “skin” down in a buttered baking dish. Spread each half with sugar/mustard paste. Sprinkle with cranberries and walnuts

Cover dish with foil and add to oven for the last 10 minutes of cooking time.

Remove the pastry “lids” and spoon in the softened brie mixture until full, replace lid.

Allow to cool slightly, and serve.


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Blueberry Sourdough Pancakes

Adapted this recipe from a popular TV foodie…I liked mine a little sweeter, so I upped the berries, sugar and vanilla. This was my first test of the sourdough, and I couldn’t be happier. These were awesome!

BTW, if it doesn’t look like there are any berries in the photo, that’s because I added them after pouring the batter, so they’re all on the bottom side. Probably would look prettier if I mixed them with the batter first.

Dang, I’ll just have to make another batch!

Blueberry Sourdough Pancakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 cup milk
1 cup sourdough starter
1/3 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, greasing the pan
2 cups fresh blueberries
Butter, accompaniment
Syrup, accompaniment

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, starter, melted butter, and vanilla until well blended. Add the dry ingredients, and stir just until combined, adding more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, if necessary to bring the batter to the thickness of heavy cream. Be careful not to overmix, and don’t worry if batter is slightly lumpy.

Lightly grease a large, heavy griddle or skillet with vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle for each pancake, allowing space for spreading. As the topsides start to bubble, about 1 minute, sprinkle blueberries into each pancake. When the undersides of the pancakes are golden and the blueberries are set, flip with a wide spatula. Cook until golden brown, 1 to 1/2 minutes. Cook over break. Serve immediately with fresh butter, syrup, and farmer’s sausage.

Makes 18 pancakes, serves 6


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Hangtown Fry (Eggs & Oysters)

People often ask me what my favorite foods are, since I seem to be all over the board when it comes to styles and cuisines. It’s a hard question to answer, and the list changes on an almost daily basis (I think that’s a good thing) but here’s a breakfast recipe that always in my top five.

If I see this on the menu, I close it up and order…with a side of rye toast, please…

Hangtown Fry

In 1849, a prospector rushed into the saloon of the El Dorado Hotel announcing that right there in town, along the banks of Hangtown Creek, he had struck it rich. Untying his leather poke and spilling its shining contents of gold dust and nuggets. Turning to the bartender he loudly demanded, “I want you to cook me up the finest and most expensive meal in the house.”

The Bartender called to the cook who said, “The most expensive things on the menu are eggs, bacon and oysters. Take your choice. I can cook you anything you want, but it will cost you more than just a pinch of that gold dust you have there.”

“Scramble me up a whole mess of eggs and oysters,” the prospector said, “throw in some bacon, and serve ’em up. I’m starving!” The cook did just that, and thus the Hangtown Fry was invented.

It consists of fried breaded oysters, eggs, and fried bacon, cooked together like an omelet. In the gold-mining camps of the late 1800s, it became a one-skillet meal for hungry miners who struck it rich and had plenty of gold to spend. Live oysters would be brought to the gold fields in barrels of seawater from as far away as Shoalwater Bay on the Washington Coast.

Such a meal cost approximately six bucks. As a dollar had the equivalent buying power of around thirty dollars today, this was a hundred-and-eighty dollar breakfast. The recipe swept the entire Northwest Territory, from California to Seattle, in the mid-1800s.

A few drinks and a Hangtown Fry were considered a gentleman’s evening.

Hangtown Fry Recipe

This is an honest-to-goodness “traditional” recipe, shared generously with me by a 4th-generation oysterman, in Oysterville, WA. He told me that it went back at least as far as his great-great-grandmother, who ran the kitchen in one of the first hotels on Shoalwater Bay!  (Pretty freakin’  cool, huh?)

6 small to medium Pacific oysters
4 Tbsp. butter
6 eggs, well beaten
3 Tbsp. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
½ tsp. garlic powder (I like Garlic Gourmet Zesty)
3 slices crisp cooked bacon, diced (Center cut, peppered bacon is very nice!)

Shuck oysters, dust in flour, and fry until golden in melted butter in a medium frying pan.

Blend together eggs, cream and salt; pour over oysters.

Reduce heat to low and cover.

Serve when eggs are set. Top with crisp cooked bacon.

Makes 2 to 3 servings.


This recipe is taken from THE SHOALWATER COOKBOOK: Incredible edibles from the novels Just Past Oysterville and Shoalwater Voices, by Perry P. Perkins

One cool June morning, a Saturday, Jack rose at first light. After scrambling up some eggs and oysters, a dish known to the locals as Hangtown Fry, he bustled around the house, preparing for their weekly visit to the bookstore.
Dottie had assured him the latest John Grisham legal thriller would be in that week, and Jack was excited to get the book in his hands.

Just Past Oysterville: Shoalwater Book One – pg 246

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Traditional Mexican Barbacoa in La Caja China

Barbacoa whole cow head in La Caja ChinaMy latest La Caja China cooking adventure, this is a dish that I had twenty-five years ago, on a missions trip to Mexico.

I’ve spent the two and a half decades since, talking about those wonderful “beef tacos” we had at a tiny tortilleria in Trinidad Valley, where the corn tortillas were hot off a centuries-old stone tortilla oven, and bemoaning that I couldn’t find anything like them here in the states.

Last night I followed this thousand-year-old recipe for barbacoa and, quite unexpectedly, realized, “That’s it!”

The ancient dish of barbacoa, which is where we get the word “barbecue,” runs deep within the culture of Mexico.

A traditional Mexican way of eating barbacoa is having it served on a warm soft taco style corn tortilla with guacamole and salsa for added flavor; the meat or the tacos are often served in the banana leaves they were cooked in. It is also eaten with onions, diced cilantro and a squirt of lime juice.

Throughout Mexico, from pre-Mexican times to the present, barbacoa (the name derives from the Caribbean indigenous Taino barabicu – or Sacred Fire Pit) was the original Mexican barbecue, utilizing the many and varied moles (pronounced “MO’-less”, from Nahuatl molli) and salsa de molcajete, which were the first barbecue sauces., turkey, and fish along with beans and other side dishes were slow cooked together in a pit for many hours.

Following the introduction of cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, and chickens by the Spanish, the meat of these animals was cooked utilizing the traditional indigenous barbacoa style of cooking.

“Barbacoa” actually has its origins in all the countries that  and other Indian populations inhabited, not just Mexico. The Tainos themselves were pre-Columbian Indians located throughout the Caribbean and which some believe included the Arawak Indians who especially dominated the most leaward Caribbean islands themselves. Arawak were first and foremost those who historically used the green and fire resistant flexible limbs of the hanging branches of the giant Bearded Fig Tree (Los Barbadoes) to cook meats and fish over an open fire while first marinating their foods in tropical herbs and spices found naturally throughout the southern islands to South America. (Wikipedia)

In the original, Indian pit-cooking process, the meat was seasoned, wrapped in either maguey or banana leaves, then placed on a grill over a cauldron of water that is set over glowing coals in a pit about three feet deep. The following recipe uses beef for the barbacoa, and takes a bit less time to cook. You can use a bone-in pork shoulder, too.

Oh, and no need to dig a hole with this recipe!

BTW, if you can find a Hispanic market that makes fresh corn and flour tortillas (we have one here in town), find it. You’ll never go back to those tasteless, pasty imitations at the grocery store! Or, even better, make your own!

You can find these, and many other, step-by-step recipes in my cookbook, La Caja China Cooking, as well.

Mexican Barbacoa in La Caja China

I rubbed the completely thawed beef heads (obtained by special request from a local Asian market) with a spice rub (see below), and let them sit in the bottom of the fridge for 24 hours, before roasting in the box, for 8. I tented the part of the heads that came nearest the underside of the La Caja China’s coal grate loosely in foil when they started to get dark.

Once it was done roasting, I wrapped the whole head in a double layer of heavy foil, and let in rest in a marine cooler for 2 hours, before pulled the meat. It was AMAZING! Buttery, soft, and savory like the best pot-roast you’ve ever eaten!

Can;t wait to do it again!

Okay, okay…if your local Piggly-Wiggly doesn’t carry whole cow heads, your can do it THIS way, too… 🙂

3 Lbs. Beef roast
1 Qt cold Water
5 – Chiles Ancho
5 Cloves garlic
1 Large onion, quartered
2 banana leaves
2 Tamarind pod
2 Lg bay leaves
1 tsp cumin
3 Tbs Fresh cilantro, chopped
Sour Cream
Bubba’s easy guacamole (see below.)
2 dozen fresh tortillas one chimney of coals, and spread under one end of the La Caja China top grill. Toss on a small handful of hickory chips. Sear meat, in smoke, 10 minutes pre-side until starting to char.

Move roast to “off” side and grill, with indirect heat one hour, adding smoke every 15 minutes for the first hour.

UPDATE: If I’d had my a-maze-n smoker, back when I posted this, I would have done this hour inside the box. (see the video at the end of this post for just how easy it is to use the a-maze-n smoker!)

Drape 2 banana leaves over a “deep-dish” disposable pan (lined with enough foil to wrap all of the ingredients), pressing to the bottom, then add a layer of chopped onion.

Remove the meat from grill and place in the pot on top of the onion, then add the cold water, chiles ancho, tamarind, bay leaves and garlic, fold banana leaves over the top and secure with a couple of toothpicks, and enclose in foil.

If cooking with La Cajita China (as I did), place the the pan inside the box and add another chimney-full of coals. Roast two hours, adding coals again, halfway through, then flip the whole foil packet, roast four more hours, add coals as needed, to keep the interior temp of the boc around 200F.

If not using La Caja China, place pan, uncovered, in a pre-heated oven (425d) for 20 minutes. Once simmering, reduce heat to 175d and cover the pan with foil. Let simmer 6 hours, turning the meat 2-3 times.

FYI…I’ve just launched the “La Caja China Cooking Newsletter!” Exclusive recipes, chef’s tips & tricks, giveaways!  and I’ll send you my FREE PDF, the “La Caja China Pro Guidebook.” The best mods and techniques I’ve learned in over 10 years of roasting, grilling, and smoking with the Magic Box!  Sign up here!

After 6 hours, give the tamarind pod a few good smacks and pick off the shell, the stem and the thick fibers that run down its length. Remove the seeds and add the gummy pulp to the pan. Add the cumin and simmer one hour more.

Then, fish out any bones, ancho chiles, bay leaves, and banana leaves. Pour off fluids, and place the pan, uncovered, back on the grill for about an hour to let the juices bake down and thicken.

Stir frequently.

Just before bringing to the table, stir in most of the chopped Cilantro.

Serve with Bubba’s Easy Guacamole (see recipe, below), your favorite salsa, Mecian Crema, and hot tortillas.

If you’re a chile-head, roast some whole jalapeños over the coals, slice, core (to remove the seeds) and serve on the side.

Traditional Barbacoa

Chef Perry’s Easy Guacamole is an avocado-based dip which originated in Mexico. It is traditionally made by mashing ripe avocados with a molcajete (mortar and pestle) with lime juice and salt.

Guacamole was made by the Aztecs as early as the 1500s.  After the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, guacamole became popular in Spain.

When I say “easy” it really doesn’t get much easier than this. In this grill guy’s opinion, the avocado is one ingredient where less really is better than more.

You can add salsa, peppers, or whatever to your guacamole, but for me, it’s all about the avocado!

3 Haas avocados
1 lime, juiced
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp black pepper

Halved, seed, peel, and dice avocados.

Mix all ingredients with a fork until coarsely blended, chill briefly, and serve immediately.



Filed under In The Box Recipes, Off The Grill

An ode to my favorite snack – the Cheez Doodle

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Cuban Pork Sandwiches

Hey all,

We made Cuban Pork Sandwiches the other night with pork left over from the Kalua pig we roasted last week, man where they good! Michelle had the perfect cast-iron skillet and electric sandwich press for these, and the roast pig was over the top!

As with Cuban bread, the origin of the Cuban sandwich (sometimes called a “Cuban mix”, “mixto sandwich”, or “Cuban Pressed Sandwich”) is somewhat murky. The sandwich became a common lunch food for workers in both the cigar factories and sugar mills of Cuba and the cigar factories of Ybor City around 1900.

At that time, travel between Cuba and Florida was easy, and Cubans frequently sailed back and forth for employment, pleasure, and family visits. Because of this constant and largely undocumented movement of people and culture and ideas, it’s impossible to say exactly when and where the Cuban sandwich first became a common worker’s meal. By around 1910, however, workers’ cafés in Cuba, Ybor City, and the older Cuban enclave of Key West were serving many such sandwiches daily.

In Cuba (where it is more commonly known as a mixto), the sandwich was served in kiosks, coffee bars and casual restaurants, especially in the big cities such as Havana or Santiago de Cuba. In Tampa’s bustling Latin enclaves of Ybor City and West Tampa, it was served in mainly in cafes catering to workers in the cigar industry. By the 1960s, Cuban sandwiches were also common on Miami cafeteria and restaurant menus, as the city had gained a large influx of Cuban residents after Fidel Castro’s 1959 rise to power in their native land.

While there is some debate as to the contents of a “true” Cuban sandwich, most are generally agreed upon. The traditional Cuban sandwich starts with Cuban bread. The loaf is sliced into lengths of 8-12 inches (20–30 cm), lightly buttered, or brushed with olive oil, on the crust, and cut in half horizontally. A coat of yellow mustard is spread on the bread. Then roast pork, glazed ham, Swiss cheese, and thinly-sliced dill pickles are added in layers. Sometimes the pork is marinated in mojo and slow roasted.

Sometimes, mayonnaise, lettuce, and/or tomato  are also added. These additions are often available in restaurants in Miami and Tampa, but are frowned upon by traditionalists there.

When assembled, the sandwich is lightly toasted in a sandwich press called a plancha, which is similar to a panini press but without grooved surfaces. The plancha both heats and compresses the sandwich, which remains in the press until the bread is crispy and the cheese is melted.

It is usually cut into diagonal halves before serving. (

Cuban Pork Sandwiches

1lb roast pork
1/4 cup Cuban Mojo Criollo
9 thin slices Black Forest ham
9 thin slices of Swiss cheese (Jarlsberg)
9 slices of pickle
1 loaf French bread
4 Tbs brown mustard
2 Tbs mayo

Brush pork with mojo and warm in microwave.

Mix mayo and mustard. Split bread length-wise, and spread some of the mixture on each side.

Layer the cheese and the pickles and on bottom half. Next the pork, and finally the ham.

Cover with the other half of the loaf and butter both sides. Slice in half, or thirds, to fit your pan. Heat up the cast iron pan to medium-low heat, and put the sandwiches in. Place a second cast iron pan on top of sandwich and press down firmly while the sandwiches are grilling. Flip the sandwiches after 3 to 4 minutes and grill on the other side for the same amount of time.

Cut the sandwiches along a triangular bisect. Serve with potato chips and fruit-flavored soft drink.

Cuban Mojo Criollo

6 oz. orange juice
2 oz. lemon juice
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon bay leaves
1 garlic bulb
1 teaspoon cumin
3 teaspoon salt
4 oz. of water

Peel and mash the garlic cloves. Mix all the ingredients and let it sit for a minimum of one hour.
You can also buy a great pre-made mojo criollo, here!


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Bacon Crusted Maple Doughnut Holes

Hey all,

So, every year at church camp-out, I make doughnut holes for all the kids, ususally just a simple cinnimon and sugar concoction. This year (ie: tomorrow) I’m going to step it up a notch with:

Deep Fried Candied Bacon Crusted Doughnut Holes with Maple Glaze

Candied Bacon
1 lb bacon
1 cup light brown sugar

Maple Glaze
¼ cup real maple syrup
1 cup powdered sugar
¼ cup water
½ TBS vanilla extract

Doughnut Holes
Canola or Peanut Oil for frying
2 cans refrigerated biscuits (buttermilk preferred over flaky kind)
¼ cup flour
Doughnut hole cutter

Bacon Prep:
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Lay bacon strips flat and coat each side liberally with brown sugar. Place on broiler pan. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Watch bacon carefully as sugar and fat will drip and combine and can smoke.

Remove from oven. Allow bacon to cool on a cutting board for at least 2 hours until crispy and dry.

Chop into very small pieces.

Maple Glaze Prep:

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan. Whisk together until blended and heat on medium heat. Stir frequently. When combined and bubbly, reduce heat and simmer on low. Remove from heat before drizzling on doughnuts.

Doughnut Prep:
Heat oil in large pot on high heat. Remove biscuits from roll and place on flat, floured surface. Assure both sides of biscuit are floured. Using a floured doughnut hole cutter, cut small circles out of the dough. Flour your hands and roll circles into ball shapes.

To fry: add 2-3 doughnut holes to pot at a time. Brown on each side for 1-2 minutes and flip over. Remove from pan and place into bowl. Continue until all doughnuts are fried.

Place fried dough balls on a cooling rack above a cookie sheet (as syrup will drip).  Drizzle all sides lightly with maple glaze. Allow glaze to set for 20 minutes. Roll each doughnut in bacon crumbles. Place back on cooling rack and drizzle again with maple glaze. Serve immediately or store in airtight container.

Note: Bacon will stick to better doughnuts if it’s very dry and crumbled. Larger circles left over from biscuits can be fried and glazed and bacon covered as well!

Makes 16 holes.


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