Is it just me, or is it that across the country over the past few years the new rave is bacon? Bacon, bacon, bacon is being cooked up and served in ways that a few years ago we would have never encountered. If it’s chocolate-covered bacon, candied bacon, bacon donuts or as desserts garnished with bacon, we have now come to a new light in the use of this pork belly. So sit back, and let’s talk bacon!
For many of us, bacon has been a part of our daily life in the kitchen. If it’s waking up in the morning to the sizzling sound and lovely smell of bacon cooking in the cast iron skillet or grill to enjoying a scallop wrapped in bacon served as an appetizer before a wedding, bacon has long been a key ingredient used in the kitchen. But where does bacon come from? Bacon is the belly of a pig cured in salt, brine or dried pack to preserve it. From there, the true flavor in quality bacon is in the smoking. There is nothing better than a slab of bacon smoked to perfection with hickory or applewood. After being smoked, it is the preference of the consumer on a thick slice or thin and then cooked to perfection.
So why has bacon taken a turn from the morning breakfast table and a BLT, to be placed on every menu? Marketing! In short, the pork industry in the late ’80s was up against the chicken industry for a bite of the sales. So, the pork industry placed its focus on the lean cuts of meat and came up with the slogan “The Other White Meat.” The industry then took a positive move in higher sales. The downfall was the pork belly sales dropped to a low of 19 cents per pound. It was in the 1990s that the industry focused on the pork belly sales. Now, for sales to move, the push was focused on the restaurant industry and not on the home skillet. So, marketing pushed bacon into the restaurants. Hardee’s Frisco Burger, in 1992, was the start to everything you see today. It was a decision to go from healthy and lean to flavorful. From this point, everyone from Burger King to Wendy’s jumped on the bacon burger bandwagon that pushed the sales in the market to $5.20 a pound.
Yield: 4 servings
6 slices bacon
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 cups fresh spinach leaves, stems removed
8 ounces white mushrooms (about 2 1/2 cups), thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 hard boiled eggs, cut in wedges
1. Add the bacon in a saute pan and cook over medium heat until crisp. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Chop bacon.
2. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the saute pan. Heat the remaining fat over medium-high heat, add the shallots and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whisk in the vinegar, sugar, mustard and salt and pepper, to taste. Scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet, bring to a simmer, then remove the skillet from the heat.
3. For the salad, in a large salad bowl, toss together the spinach, mushrooms, bacon and onion. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine dressing. Place three egg wedges on salad and serve warm.
Recipe courtesy David Burke
Yield: 16 portions
3 cups 100 percent maple syrup
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Bacon, thick sliced
1. Combine all ingredients except the bacon in a pot. Cook over low heat until reduced by 20 percent. Preheat the oven to 300° and set up a sheet pan with a wire drain rack on top.
2. Slice bacon by hand into approximately 5/8-inch-thick pieces.
3. Lay bacon in a single layer on wire racks, with ½-inch space in between each slice. Cook bacon for 8 minutes.
4. Remove from oven and pour off all rendered fat. Brush bacon with glaze in an even layer. Return to oven for 10 minutes.
5. Pull out of oven, flip over each slice and glaze again. Return to oven for 10 minutes. Repeat this process 4 times, every 10 minutes.
6. Reduce heat to 250 degrees and repeat glazing process two more times. Bacon should be just cooked. Not dark in color or crispy, but nicely glazed. Cool at room temperature.
Note: If you want to serve as lollipops, thread bacon onto a skewer after step 2.
When it comes to cooking and baking, the use for bacon is never-ending. When preparing a basic meatloaf, adding a slice or two of bacon on top will assist in adding moisture and flavor to your meat. When creating a healthy spinach salad, add some flavor to it with bacon. To cook, just start off on a cold cast-iron skillet and bring up the heat and drain grease as cooking or place in a cool oven and set for 400 degrees. Give it a good eight minutes and your bacon will be perfect.
So now it’s time to go out and enjoy some bacon. Whether it’s pulling up to your favorite fast-food restaurant or sitting at a five-star hotel enjoying candied bacon, bacon is here to stay.
And one last thing for all those new bacon perfumes, vodkas and parents who name your child bacon – well, it’s all about bringing home the bacon!