Monday, April 13, 2009

Bringing home the bacon (cheeseburger)

I'm not really a big bacon person, but I found a way to make it that I just love. Brown sugar bacon. I'll get into that in a minute. First, I have to say, I have historically been intimidated by bacon. It's mostly fat and often either chewy or crunchy. I'm just never sure how to approach it. I remember my mom making BLT sandwiches for lunch sometimes, and I'd have toast, tomatoes, and a little lettuce salad all separate, but not the bacon. The smokiness is just a bit much for me, so it's not even just the texture and the look. If something tastes like bacon, I'm usually not all that enthused.

(Apparently you can blanch bacon in boiling water for a few minutes and that will mellow out the flavor. But then you have boiled bacon, and come on, that's pretty darned unappealing.)

I'm coming around to bacon, although I tend to like it by itself, not lurking in dishes. Similarly to the way I feel about raisins, actually. I don't like to be surprised by them. I want to see them coming. I'm therefore okay with my bacon sitting next to my french toast, for example, but not buried in a salad, lurking behind the tomato.

The best bacon-by-itself I can think of we had at Darling Husband's Aunt Carol's house. They live in the fingerlakes and we spent a lovely weekend at their house this winter. For brunch on Sunday, they made wonderful bacon, thick cut and baked, which tasted phenomenal. They got it from a local man who makes it himself. I believe they actually bought a whole pig from him, and bacon is part of the package. It made me truly believe what those farm-raised people have always said, that meat from the grocery store doesn't have any real taste. It was enough to make me consider finding someone to go in with me on a pig. And then I forgot about it until just now, but still the point remains. It was some pretty rockin' bacon.

The key to bacon prep, in my opinion, is baking it. I saw this on the Food Network and it made so much sense to me. Everyone on Food Network seems to be doing it now, from Alton Brown to Paula Dean (and that's saying something). Frying bacon is time consuming and I always feel like I'm playing chicken with it, trying to figure out when to get it out of the pan. Too soon and it's laughing at me, all limp like a protester in the 60's being dragged off campus by the cops. Too late and it's brittle and dry, shattering under the fork like glass. Plus it seems to change after you take it from the pan, the tricky little buggers, so of course I can't judge it right. Besides that, the bacon releases so much fat! It spatters and generally freaks me out. I prefer to bake it.

You can bake flat on a cookie type sheet, but I like to drape it over a rack set on a rimmed cookie sheet which has been lined in foil, for easier clean-up. That way the rendered fat just drips down and away from the meat. I just pop the whole contraption into the oven until ruffly and right-looking, and amazingly those silly little strips turn out just right. Ha. Then I let the pan sit and cool down, so all I have to do is fold the foil in on itself to corral the congealed bacon grease. Some people probably save this. I'm sure my grandmother would. But I am not she and I haven't the foggiest what I would do with it, nor the fortitude to do it if I did, so I throw it away.

Still not a huge fan of the bacon flavor, though, although it has its uses. But for my money, you can't go wrong with Brown Sugar Bacon. I start with thick cut bacon, and put as many slices as I'm going to use into a large zip top bag, one by one so they don't stick to each other. Then I shake in some A-1 steak sauce, and mush the bag around a bit until each strip is coated. Next, I add brown sugar to the bag and really mush it around. The brown sugar melts a bit and clings to the strips of bacon. Lay each strip on the rack and bake until dark brown and yummy looking.

When I was pregnant, I thought we should make this every day and that it was a perfectly acceptable meal. Or side dish. Or desert. Or snack. Whatever. Fortunately for my heart, Darling husband didn't agree, and it had to actually fit into the meal. This greatly reduced its uses.

Now, I really only make it when we're making bacon cheese burgers. A strip or two of brown sugar bacon sitting on top of monterey jack, itself lovingly melted over avocado to hold it onto the burger... mmmmh. Heaven. And for the record, this is the only bacon cheeseburger that even remotely appeals to me. It's brown sugar or nothing, baby.

Burgers themselves could be an entirely separate post, and they will be someday, as I'll be submitting recipes to Sutter Home's Build A Better Burger competition. More to come. In the meantime, keep thinking springtime thoughts and eating springtime food and we might just get there one of these days.


  1. I think you can mix pork grease with lye to make soap. But, I don't know if it works with bacon grease. Or, if it did, that you'd want to smell that way.
    Oh, and how about bacon and onions with liver? Surely you must like that.

  2. Ah, yes. I certainly do. I forgot that was bacon, actually. Which is weird, is it not? It's an integral part of the liver experience. Maybe because it's mixed with the onions? Hmmmm...

    And I find the whole soap making thing pretty gross. I understand how soap works now, but I don't get how you put dirty things on you and become clean. And isn't lye some sort of really harsh poison? Don't they burn flesh off bones with it or something? Or am I thinking of something else?

    Strange to start with bacon and get to melting flesh...