Bacon, the Gateway Meat… The Glorious Pig… My favorite meat!!!
I confess it, it’s true. I love bacon. I love it such that I follow all kinds of bacony themed people on Twitter, including the bacon Jesus! A sample tweet, “Seven days from now it will rain bacon for forty days and forty nights, and I will feed every living creature I have made with bacon”, so hilarious.
However it happened, and I am by no means unique, I am a baconista. I truly believe that any dish can be enhanced with the addition of bacon. Some people say that this is a trend but I don’t believe it. I have always felt this way, just ask my mom! Bacon has a tendency to disappear around me, so much so that during my littlehood mom used to ration the bacon. If I was able to be served 2 pieces of bacon at a meal I counted myself lucky. Now that I am an adult I am able to serve myself as much bacon as I want. And I want! I take great pleasure in using bacon in unlikely places, like my BLT pizza. But that’s a story for another day.
Today, I was introduced to my newest favorite snack, bacon popcorn from the Chop Bar. I can’t begin to tell you how amazingly bacony it is, with a dash of Parmesan.
A few years ago dear A___ read to me a passage from the Sweet Potato Queen’s book about pig candy, how a fan handed the SPQ a slightly greasy bag after a speech and whispered, “Don’t open this until you are alone in your room.” She did and found a dozen or so strips of sticky, dark, luscious porkiness enrobed in candied caramel, and crunched it down, furtively, propped up in bed.
Sitting there in A__’s car in the pool of light from a streetlamp, traffic signal forgotten, we were entranced and knew we had to try pig candy. And soon.
Later, giggling in the kitchen, we created a pound of heaven: thickly sliced bacon, heavily coated in brown sugar, baked until candied and crisp. And then the giggling stopped and so did all discernible sound other than crunching and soft moans. The pound of pig candy was consumed in short order, like ravenous hyenas over a Springbok. We were hooked. The next time we made it, we cooked up three pounds of bacon. Dare I say between us and several starving teenage girls the pig candy was all gone in minutes. And we ate it with mashed potatoes too. What is that, a triple sin?? It was at this point that we looked at each other and said, “We can never do this again”, pinky-sweared and immediately purchased massive piles of celery as our sole sustenance for the next week or two. Okay, there was a little wine in there too, shush now.
A year later, we made it again, and consumed the pig candy with such joy and abandon that we decided to lift the outright (and ineffective) ban and to instead limit ourselves to making the ritual of pig candy an annual event. We pretty well have stuck to it, until I started researching bacon recipes and discovered David Lebovitz’s maple ice cream with candied bacon, Seattle Tall Poppy’s toffee with candied bacon (one of the funniest posts ever written!) and bacon donuts at my own local Dynamo donuts. Somewhere down the line I read of bacon infused booze and, with the sage advice of Music City Missy and Seattle Tall Poppy, infused Black Forest bacon with Sky Vodka and with Maker’s Mark.
Somehow, and I really don’t know why (smirk), I developed a bacon reputation! Was it the bacon Manhattans? The Bloody Bacon Mary’s? The mounds of lacquered pig candy that I brought to parties? My constant quest for great bacon recipes?
Given all if this, I am so fortunate to have friends that recognize my bacon obsession and gift me accordingly. For a few years my dear pal S___ has gifted me with bacon for my birthday, and happyhappyjoyjoy this year was no exception. This year’s amazing batch of artisanal bacon is from Father’s in Kentucky, did I say amazing already?
She also suggested some amazing bacony ideas, one of which I just had to instantly start playing with:
Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies.
Yes, you read that right. And they are amazing. The gooey melted chocolate chunks, the chewy sweet savory bacon pieces, the nutty whole wheat buttery dough, they are heaven on a plate. And completely dangerous. I happily corrupted quite a few of my friends with these bad boys, including one friend who made me promise to freeze some for her until we got together next.
These cookies are so good I completely forgot to photograph them when they got out of the oven. I just pried off a few from the parchment paper, and with chocolate chunks dripping down my chin and forearms, slowly and placidly I crunched them into oblivion.
Of course some people out there think the concept of bacon with desserty things or booze, is unappetizing. These cookies just might change their minds. I highly recommend you give this recipe a whirl and help enlighten the rest of the world to the joys of bacon.
REC: Chocolate Chip Candied Bacon Cookies
(This recipe also gives you my exquisite procedure for pig candy! Don’t go crazy!)
1 # thick-cut bacon, preferably black forest cured bacon
2 c dark brown sugar, divided
1 1/2 c white whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur)
1/2 c AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick or 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened (best to leave out overnight)
1/2 c shortening (try to use trans-fat shortening, it lessens the guilt)
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 T vinegar (I like unfiltered organic apple cider vinegar that I get in bulk at Rainbow)
2 pkgs Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate chunks (2 cups total)
In a large deep skillet arrange the bacon in a single layer if possible, but technically if they overlap or do not all fit don’t worry. Add 1 c dark brown sugar and turn pan to medium heat. Fry bacon until cooked and thickly coated with caramelized sugar. Using a long handled fork, frequently turn over bacon strips and move them about the pan with care. The skillet will soon be filled with a seething mass of sugar and fat, and will slowly become quite dark brown and caramelized. By the time the fat in the bacon has been rendered out adequately and nears the chewy/crisp stage, the sugar will achieve that perfect lacquered mahogany brown hue indicating caramelization. Near the end of the pig candy’s cooking time it is important to turn the strips frequently.
Remove the pig candy from skillet onto a piece of foil or parchment paper and allow to cool. It will harden and crisp as it cools. Immediately pour off the boiling bacon fat and sugar from the cooking pan into a compost friendly container (an old milk cardboard carton is perfect) then fill pan with hot water and return to the stove to melt any remaining sugar for ease of cleaning. I use a Pyrex cup and sometimes nibble on the cooled bacon candy after the fat has cooled.
(you can put this hot sugary fatty mass into a cup like this and pour off the fat, keeping the blob of sugar in the cup with a fork or spatula. Then, spread the sugar out on a piece of parchment paper thinly, stretching with your fingers when it is cool enough, for delicious bacon sugar candy. Just saying…)
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
For the dough, mix together the flours, baking soda and salt, mix well.
In the mixer, cream butter and shortening until light, then slowly add 1 cup of brown sugar and the white sugar and beat well. With mixer on low, add the egg, vanilla and vinegar. Add the flour mixture slowly and mix just until combined. Remove the mixing bowl and, by hand with a silicon spatula, fold in the pig candy and the chocolate chunks. It is best to chill the dough a bit at this point but generally I don’t usually bother.
Drop dough using a tablespoon cookie scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Place into the oven and bake until the cookies are golden, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove and cool cookies on the pan for 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
That’s it, aren’t they gorgeous?
I really need to make another batch soon. I hope you try them sometime too.
Now, a note about hot melted sugar. Melted sugar can cause severe burns,which mean common sense and basic precautions must be taken when cooking. Wear shoes that cover your entire foot, long pants and an apron. If you are concerned or a complete klutz, please fill a medium bowl with cold water and a tray of ice cubes. If you get any sugar on you, immediately dip the body part in the ice water and keep it there for at least 10 minutes. I am just careful and, knock on wood, haven’t burned myself on sugar. If you are really worried about it, you can bake the bacon slices in a tray in the oven with brown sugar mounded on top of each slice, which is how every other recipe I have ever seen for sugared bacon recommends. I really prefer my method, obviously, and think that it makes the best Pig Candy. So you have options!