Alright, alright, I'll admit it, bacon is pretty much the most popular food in the world, at least it is definitely so online - it's all-frakking-pervasive. It's been written about ad nauseum and used in crazy, over the top food creations featured on Web sites like Epic Meal Time and the former This Is Why You're Fat, it's been the bane of vegetarians everywhere (seriously, it's the only meat product I know that hardcore vegetarians and vegans ever express missing), and it's probably making an entire generation of girlfriends a little crazy hearing odes to cured pork from their significant others...
Now, that being said, it's one thing to spout on and on about the stuff you buy at the store, it's quite another to talk about bacon made in your smoker and all its neat applications! As I've demonstrated before, I can make my own bacon from scratch *puffs out chest* and I like to do it once or twice a month. What can I say? Almost everything you make yourself tastes better!
An intrinsic quality of bacon (and really, any similarly cured/smoked/dried pork product like pancetta, prosciutto, speck and many others) is its versatility. Bacon is used in any the day's meals, at any time of the day and can be included in all courses, even dessert. Ever have Candied Bacon on a scoop of really good vanilla ice cream? Neither have I, but I betcha THAT is a dessert worthy of remembrance. (Note to self, make Candied Bacon. SOON!)
So, in order to celebrate the versatile goodness of our favourite pork product, I present to you three different applications that I put together using a slab of home-smoked bacon.
Application 1 - Spinach Salad w. Bacon, Strawberries and Maitake Mushrooms
One way to eat bacon that's a little more healthy than a plate full of strips is to add it to a salad. And a "traditional" application is in a Spinach Salad. Now, back in my salad days (i.e. when I was a salad cook), Spinach Salad was a mix of spinach, walnuts, sliced white mushrooms, strawberries, bacon bits and a raspberry vinaigrette. My version is similar, using Maitake mushrooms, pecans instead of walnuts and adding Parmesan cheese over top.
My dressing was a combination of blueberries (1/2 cup), balsamic vinegar (3 tbsp), olive oil (3 tbsp), salt and pepper (to taste), smoked paprika (pinch), lime juice (2 tsp) and lime zest (1 tsp). I just tossed it all in a food processor and that was that!
Application 2 - Bacon-Poblano Butter
Compound butters are a really neat way to express your culinary creativity and they're quite easy to make. Normally, a compound butter is a mix of butter and other ingredients, such as herbs and wine, that is then refrigerated, cut into rounds and goes on top of a steak. In this case, I broke from tradition and kept the butter soft so we could spread on some delicious Bread and Sons Sourdough Baguette. So here's how it was made:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tbsp cooked bacon, minced
- 2 tbsp smoked or roasted poblano pepper, minced (to smoke poblano, coat in oil and smoke at 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit for 2-3 hours, until flesh has softened and skin can be peeled with ease. You can roast the poblano in the oven at the same heat for the same time or increase to shorten cooking time, but you'll have to watch to ensure there are no flare-ups from the oil)
- 2 tbsp white wine
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- salt and pepper to taste (you shouldn't need salt, enough comes from the bacon)
- 2 tsp cilantro, minced (optional)
- Mix all ingredients together with a fork or in a food processor until well-blended.
- Spread on warmed bread
|Bread and Bacon-Poblano Butter|
Application 3 - Bacon Nachos
Now, one final awesome aspect of bacon is its ability to, if you're brave enough, be used substitute for ground meat. At least one restaurant chain has used ground bacon to make a hamburger. Ow, my arteries. But I do think a smattering of uncooked bacon mixed into the ground beef used in a burger would be an excellent touch. I'll have to put that on the to-do list...
In the meanwhile, I was somewhat obsessed with the next item in our bacon-o-rama: Bacon Nachos. It's no secret that I'm a HUGE pro wrestling fan and there's really no better way to enjoy freakishly large people pretending to beat each other up than with nachos and beer. So, it was Monday night, time for WWE Raw, and I wanted me some Bacon Nachos, goddammit!
Only problem was that there was no salsa in the house. Not to worry though! I made my own! Now, the following is a quick, in-a-pinch recipe for what I call "Pan Salsa" and it really only makes enough to one decent baking sheet full of nachos (a little over a cup). If you're looking for a more prolific salsa recipe, move along...
This is a fairly mild salsa suitable for just about all but the wimpiest of palettes for spice.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2-3 ripe tomatoes, diced
- 1 small bell pepper, diced (I prefer red)
- 1 tsp chili powder (I used a home made mix of powdered arbol and guajillo chilis, cumin, coriander and smoked paprika)
- pinch salt
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1 tsp tomato paste (optional - if you like a thicker salsa)
- 2 tsp fresh cilantro (optional)
- Heat oil in a small saucepan on medium-high heat and sauté onions and garlic.
- Add tomatoes, pepper, seasoning and vinegar (and paste if using). Stir together and let come to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in cilantro, if using.
OK, moving on, it's time for the moment you've all been waiting for, BACON NACHOS!!!!!!
- 4-5 strips of cooked bacon, minced into "bits" size (add more if you like, be my guest!)
- 1 300g bag of tortilla chips (I like to use Neal Brothers Organic Blue Corn)
- 1 batch Pan Salsa (see above)
- 1 cup each grated Monterey Jack and Extra Old Cheddar cheeses
- 1 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
- hot sauce to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
- Set out a layer of tortilla chips (don't feel compelled to use the whole bag, I never do).
- Spoon salsa over chips, then spread bacon out evenly across chips.
- Top with cheese and bake for about 15 minutes, until top of cheese starts to turn golden brown.
- Serve how you like (on plates, on the baking sheet, whatever) and top with as much hot sauce and cilantro as you like.
|Bacon Nachos. 'nuff said|