An Ode to Bacon. How I love thee.
It seems like bacon is still in the midst of its renaissance. For some reason, a few years ago, bacon became a trend. It became really cool to love bacon, of all things. Hipsters started knitting bacon scarves. People started putting it in cupcakes and doughnuts... inventing things like bacon salt... and bacon mayonnaise (gross).
And maybe the bacon trend has seen better days ... first breaking through with the early adapting hipsters, folks who like to take humble pieces of americana, like PBR, cupcakes or extremely tight jeans... and elevate it to something cool, and like... ironic.
Bacon then trickled down the culinary ranks... made its way creatively into the menus of trendy bistros and gastropubs. We watched chefs on the Food Network and Top Chef throw it in things like french toast and ice cream... until finally, bacon made its way down to things such as the Denny's Baconalia "celebration". Whatever that is.
Perhaps bacon has now lost its soul. Perhaps bacon is now the Coldplay of the culinary world. It's too popular to be cool anymore.
But really... can it ever lose its soul? It's always just been bacon. Humble. Beautiful. Simple... bacon.
Long ago and far away, I was once a vegetarian. I flirted with veganism too but soon realized that life wasn't worth living without things like parmigiano reggiano. But doing without meat wasn't too bad... except for one thing... and that thing is bacon.
It's what vegetarians miss the most.
Now, fast forward through dating a lad from Wisconsin who only ate sausages and deep-fried cheese curds, going to dinner after dinner at my parent's house where my dad would shove fork-fulls of glorious pork roasts, steak and barbecue chicken in my face (just to see if it was seasoned right, he'd say)... and finally, getting engaged to a guy who's three major food groups in life seem to be Rally's, Popeye's chicken, and bologna... and my vegetarianism is now but a laughable memory.
But at the end of the day, I'm still not much of a meat eater. I could go days without thinking about it, being perfectly happy with my meat-free fare... and then one day something gets into my head, it says... you don't want that salad... you don't want those vegetables... you want meat. And specifically... you want bacon. So then I'll make some guacamole and crumble some bacon on top... and oh my LAWD, is it satisfying. And then I'm good for awhile. The little devil o' gastronomy hanging out my shoulder goes back to sleep for a bit.
For me, adding bacon to things is kind of like flirting with a little culinary hedonism. I don't want to go into full-out glutton Baconator/Double-Down mode... but I do like to flirt every so often.
Here are a few of my recent flirtations:
1. Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies.
I pretty much used the awesome recipe from the lovely blog Mouth from the South. The only things I changed was instead of all the different kinds of chocolate she used... I used semi-sweet chunks and peanut butter chips. I did this because I have an obsession for the peanut butter/chocolate combination and because for some reason, I think peanut butter and bacon are a marriage made in heaven. Don't believe me? Try the peanut butter bacon burger at Yo Mama's. It's amazing.
(and I apologize for my lack of food-styling skills)
I fried up 9 pieces of bacon nice and crispy. Almost burnt... but not really. That's the way I like it.
You "brown" 10 tablespoons on the stove by gently simmering it until it gets all caramel-y and yummy smelling. But don't let it go too long... it goes from lovey to burned real quick.
After the butter is browned you pour it over the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and let it all melt together.
Mix butter with sugars, vanilla, salt... whisk in egg. Add in the flour/baking soda.
Add in the chips/bacon. Mix... but don't go overboard. Mix until it just comes together.
Bake at 375 for 10 minutes or so. But my oven is a beast... so it was more like 8 minutes.
The show True Blood made me want to try these things called hoecakes. Apparently they're the best southern breakfast ever. And the only way to make them is with bacon grease! Or so says Tara Thorton and Sam Merlotte. Honestly, since the show is set in Louisiana, I figured my southern peeps would be able to give me a decent recipe for hoecakes... but no one had ever heard of them (at least not any of my friends). I suppose it was my yankee naivete that made me think that since it was on a TV show, then it must be true.
So I found this recipe for Sweet N Corny Hoecakes over at Food Network... and added, yep! Bacon.
For starters, the recipe calls for the hoecakes to be fried in vegetable oil. I did not do this... I broke out some bacon grease that I saved from making the cookies.
I have to say... I have never done this before. I have never cooked anything in bacon grease. I'm normally a "healthy oil" girl. Extra virgin olive all the way. But... I had to do this right... right?
I just scooped out a little bit and melted it into my pan. I have to admit that as I did this, I felt like I did when I was 15 years old and tried a cigarette with my friends outside of a Max and Erma's. I felt dirty, ashamed... and a little bit excited.
I mixed everything up and fried these babies in BACON GREASE.
Flip and repeat until you get a glorious stack of bacony hoecakes.
3. Chocolate Covered Bacon.
I made these in much the same way that us folks from Columbus Ohio make buckeyes (balls of peanut butter dipped in chocolate). I could go on and on about buckeyes and how awesome they are, but that could take up a whole other post. So for now if you want to know all about buckeyes, go here. They are awesome.
So. We start off with some bacon.
I used a package of thick-cut bacon and cut the peices in half... and fried all of it. Now, I realize that it seems like I'm using a small pan... but that's seriously all I've got. Most of my pots and pans were absorbed into my dad's extensive collection before I moved to New Orleans. I had to re-buy most of my kitchen stuff. Note to self: put a nice big frying pan on my wedding registry.
It should look like this when all is said and done.
Now here is the secret to keeping the chocolate-covered goodness from melting at room temperature:
You get it in the baking aisle (or where they have canning stuff). We use this in buckeye-making to help keep the chocolate from seizing up and so that the candies can be set out at room temperature. Otherwise you need to store them in the fridge. The same applies to chocolate-covered bacon. I cut off a few little chunks of wax and throw them in a double boiler along with the chips.
I start out by pouring in half a bag of semi-sweet chocolate along with a handful of peanut butter chips... and keep adding as needed. I do it this way because I don't want to melt a crap load of chocolate, use up all the bacon, and then have a half-full bowl of melted chocolate left over to clean up. It can be a mess. Believe me.
And also? The addition of the peanut butter chips is like... amazing. Have I mentioned how much I love chocolate and peanut butter together?
After they're nice and coated, let these guys chill on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. I chose to sprinkle chopped peanuts over half of them, because... why the hell not. Let them chill in the fridge for awhile to set.
Oh man, those suckers were good.
Now if you'll excuse me... I have about 20 miles to run.
Read more from Annie at anniedeladolce.com.