Photo courtesy of Chris Andre
Mmm… bacon! Sizzling and crispy, savory and delicious, bacon’s really become the hot thing. It adds flavor to all kinds of foods. Did you know you can find bacon vodka, bacon brittle, bacon ice cream, bacon-flavored jellybeans and gumballs?
There are all kinds of bacon products on the market… bacon candy, bacon cake, and even bacon soap!
While it’s not so hot for our health (it’s high in fat and loaded with nitrates), certain diet trends such as the Atkins diet brought it back over the years. If you have health concerns, you could substitute turkey bacon.
Or, a healthier alternative is to add something like capers, olives or anchovies to a dish. They all have the meatiness and a depth of flavor that can hold a candle to bacon. And in general, they’re all healthier choices than meat.
But health permitting, use a little bacon fat for things like bacon mayonnaise, or to add flavor to a sauce, salad dressing or casserole. After cooking, you can freeze the bacon drippings for future use.
If you have a large quantity, freeze it in very small Tupperware containers, because chances are you will only need a small amount at a time. You can also just store it in the fridge.
Pancetta and prosciutto also make wonderful substitutes; prosciutto has less fat than bacon. The bacon should smell smoky. If it smells “off,” don’t use it. Nowadays, we can easily find uncured bacon at specialty stores like Trader Joe’s.
Instead of using sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite for curing, uncured bacon uses salt and lactic acid. So we can feel a little better about indulging!
Nowadays, butcher shops and charcuterie are more and more popular among restaurateurs and diners alike. The concept of charcuterie is to use all the parts of the animal – think sausage, where every scrap of meat is used, and liver pâtés made from, of course, animal liver.
A charcuterie platter typically presents an assortment of smoked, cured and roasted meats and sausages, along with terrines, pâtés and garnishes like cornichons (gherkin pickles), olives or mustard.
An efficient way to make bacon is to bake it. Place slices on a wire cooling rack placed over a sheet pan; bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes (turning once at 7 minutes). The air circulates around the bacon and cooks it evenly, allowing fat to drip into the pan.
And here’s a flavor idea
Brush bacon with maple syrup and a sprinkle of cayenne or cinnamon before cooking; the bacon caramelizes slightly and comes out absolutely delicious. It’s perfect on a salad or even as a topping on pancakes or ice cream!
Other options for cooking are to sauté it over medium-high heat, pouring off the fat as you go. Or you can microwave it; put bacon slices on paper towels on a plate; halfway through the cooking, just turn slices over onto fresh paper towels. The length of time to microwave it depends on your microwave power – in general, it’s about 3-5 minutes. Just keep a close eye on it.
If you’re searching for ways to enjoy bacon beyond a BLT, try it wrapped around fruit. Or stuff dried prunes or persimmons with cheese and wrap in bacon. Try this recipe for sweet-and-savory Bacon-Wrapped Peaches with Balsamic-Honey Glaze. Be sure the peaches are ripe. The best way to pick a good peach is to smell it (it should be fragrant) and feel it – it should have a little “give.” If it’s too firm, look for fruit with a little give, unless you plan to use it a few days later. Also, check for bruising and pick another one.
Best yet, many farmer’s markets and groceries let you sample the fruit. That way you can make sure it’s sweet and ripe!
Bacon-Wrapped Peaches with Balsamic-Honey Glaze
- 12 slices thin-sliced bacon
- 4 ounces firm blue cheese
- 2 teaspoons thyme leaves
- 4 medium peaches, cut in half, then cut into 6 or 8 1/2-inch wedges
- Toothpicks (soaked in water to prevent burning in the oven)
Bacon: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lay the cut bacon on a cooling rack over a sheet pan. Transfer to the oven and partially cook the bacon (only 6-8 minutes). Cool and cut bacon into 2-1/2 inch pieces to wrap around fruit. (Or cook bacon on an outdoor grill).
Blue Cheese: Cut the cheese into 24 small wedges. Put a piece of bacon on work surface and place a peach on top. Then put a wedge of blue cheese and a few thyme leaves on the peach wedge. Wrap the partially cooked bacon around the peach and fasten with a toothpick.
Broil: Place on a baking pan and broil on one side until bacon starts to brown (about 2-3 minutes). Turn and finish cooking until bacon is crisp (another 2-3 minutes). If left too long under the broiler, the cheese will melt and ooze out. (Or cook on an outdoor grill on low heat.) Transfer to a platter.
- 1/3 cup aged balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
Balsamic Glaze: Combine vinegar and honey in a sauté pan and simmer/reduce for 2 minutes. Drizzle or brush over plattered peaches.
Makes 24 to serve 12.
Ease of preparation: Easy
Prep time vs. make time: Prep time is 15 minutes. Cook time is 15 minutes.
Estimated cost/serving: $15 total/$1.25
Using a convection oven for making bacon, prosciutto or pancetta. Convection cooking gives you fast, even cooking results, making the meat very crisp for crumbling on salads.
Love bacon, but not the smell while it cooks? Kenmore ranges with exclusive Air Guard™ trap odors in the oven and virtually eliminate them. Or, you can turn off the feature and let yummy scents fill the room.