Friday, October 22, 2010

Bacon Bacon Bacon!

"Note to chefs: If you want to make people happy, give them bacon." – Ted Allen

            OK, I know bacon is everywhere.   One would think that people’s appetite for crispy, salty unctuousness would be unabated, but bacon’s 15 minutes of fame seems to be fading fast.  Bacon chocolate, bacon vodka, Baconnaise, what can’t they put in, with and on bacon. But before you swear bacon off, consider what bacon did for you before the hype.  It cured your hangover.  It made the BLT.  It made easy hors d’oeuvres.  Bacon is GOOD thing and Ted Allen is right - it is an easy and fool-proof method to transform a dish from “Bleh” to “Holy @#$?!”
            But what about if one took bacon a step further?   I stumbled upon this candied bacon recipe, and since then, I think I may have to enter a CBA – a Candied Bacon Anonymous – group.   It took a good thing and made it even better.  With candied bacon, you get a sweet, chewy, salty, crispy greasy treat that cannot be replicated with other means. I found myself eating it alone, putting it in pancakes, in salad (take that, Bacos!) and, thanks to my friend Victoria Landau, in ice cream.  Give it a whirl and if you find yourself addicted, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Candied Bacon
(Adapted from the September 2009 issue of Gourmet magazine)
Any bacon is fine, but the cooking times will vary with thickness. Also, the bacon must be somewhat crispy in order to keep its texture while caramelizing.

10 strips of bacon
1/4 c. sugar

  1. Cook bacon in one layer in a heavy pan over medium heat. Cook in batches if bacon does not fit easily in one pan. Cook until the bacon is crispy and shrunk, but not too browned (about 5 minutes).  Drain bacon on paper towels.
  2. Pour fat from pan. Cut bacon into half (makes it easier to fit into the pan for caramelizing).  Place cut bacon into the pan in one layer and sprinkle sugar over the bacon.  Place over medium heat and let the sugar cook undisturbed. 
  3. Once the sugar melts, turn down the heat to low.  Carefully (caramel will cause a 3rd degree burn), use tongs to coat the bacon with the caramel syrup.  Keep an eye on the sugar for once it starts caramelizing, the process will go quickly.
  4. When the bacon looks dark and shiny and the sugar is a light brown color, take out the bacon to cool – preferably on a greased cookie sheet.  Do NOT place on paper or any other substance that will stick to the bacon (e.g. foil, baking paper, etc).  Nothing worse than trying to eat bacon with pieces of foil on them.
  5. Eat away.  It will keep for a day in the fridge, but it will lose its crispiness.  It never lasts that long in our house anyway.

If you want, you can also add some spices, such as cinnamon, coriander or chili powder.  Just mix with the sugar before you sprinkle it on the bacon.

Salade Lyonnaise
This recipe is traditionally made with lardons, a French uncured bacon akin to pancetta.  However, if you make it with candied bacon, it transforms from a staid (but delicious) French salad to an avant-garde masterpiece.  This is also a nice way to use leftover bacon grease from the candied bacon.

4 cups of frisée or other strong tasting greens (escarole, arugula, etc.)
1 recipe for Candied Bacon 
Bacon grease from candied bacon recipe
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 to 4 tbs sherry or other wine vinegar
1 tbs Dijon mustard
4 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

1.     Place washed and dried greens in a salad bowl.  Heat bacon grease in a small skillet over medium heat.  When hot, add shallot and sauté until softened.  Add vinegar and mustard, and let the mixture come to a boil and then turn off the heat.
2.     Meanwhile, boil salted water in a small, deep skillet until it is barely bubbling.  Crack eggs, one at a time, into a small bowl and slip them carefully into the water.  Cook each egg until whites are barely set and yolks are still runny (about 3-5 minutes, depending upon the size and temperature of the eggs).  Remove eggs and drain briefly on paper towels.
3.     Crumble candied bacon into the greens and toss lightly with the dressing until coated.  Distribute greens among 4 plates and place a poached egg on top of each. Serve immediately. (Have each person break their own egg)

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