Bacon Week 2: Swiss Chard with Bacon Lardons

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Sometimes you want a baguette, and sometimes you want sliced bread. But in the bread family, at least, most American supermarkets give you that choice: sliced or unsliced. Not so with bacon. “You’ll buy sliced bacon, and you’ll like it, bub. Because we know how thick you want it.”

broadbent-cutting-board

I beg to differ, and thanks to the fine folks at Broadbent Hams, you don’t have to take it anymore, either. Bacn.com offers many of their fine bacons in slab format, so you can cut it how you want it. I like my bacon sliced thick for breakfast slices, but for cooking, it’s especially nice to have bacon cut to order. The French call thick chunks of bacon for cooking “lardons” and they’re a nice addition to any cook’s cupboard. I say cupboard, because Broadbent’s bacon is shelf-stable, at least until you open the package. Sliced into 1/4″ cubes, the outside gets nice and crispy, while the interior stays somewhat soft, providing two nice textures in one morsel.

broadbent-in-pan

As a confirmed meatatarian, I’m usually not a big fan of vegetables, but with the addition of bacon, I become exponentially more interested. Wife Sarah’s perfected the art of cooking greens (swiss chard in this example). Here’s her recipe:

  1. Cook 1/4 pound of cubed bacon on medium-low heat in a dutch oven (we LOVE our Le Creuset), cooking until it’s brown on the outside. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. Pour off all but enough bacon grease to coat the bottom of the pan.
  3. Saute the greens in the bacon grease for a few minutes, until the leaves wilt, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add about 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (to taste) and stir.
  5. Add in a teaspoon or two of brown sugar (to taste) and stir to combine.
  6. Put the bacon bits back in and stir some more. If you like really crispy bacon, add it after simmering the greens on their own for awhile.
  7. Simmer, covered, until stems soften. About 20-25 minutes of simmering results in a texture we generally like, but some people prefer a softer stem still.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    1. greens-with-fried-chicken

      Greens go especially well with barbecue ribs, pulled pork or fried chicken (shown above), but they’re a nice complement to almost any southern-inspired and/or porky meal. Warm, homemade biscuits optional, but highly recommended.

Bacon Week 2: Bacon-Maple Lollipops

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Editor’s Note: There sure is a lot of bacon-related stuff out there. Every day, it seems, I find something new. And yet, there are only so many days in a Bacon Week. “Seven,” you’re thinking. Nope. Going to go with nine this year. It’s just too little time, and I have a few more things I need to share with the world (and my slow-learning co-workers). Bacon Week 2 ends Monday evening.

After the bacon-flavored sunflower seeds and last year’s bacon mint debaucle, I thought it was time to bring something tasty to work. The mad scientists over at Lollyphile began with just a couple of flavors: absinthe and … you guessed it. Bacon. Maple-bacon, to be exact. Made with real Vermont maple syrup and an un-named organic bacon. Real ingredients, assembled with care. I felt sure this would be the reputation redemption I was looking for. Unfortunately, the treats got a little too much heat after being left in my car, malforming the lollipops quite a bit. Sorry, guys.

bacon-maple-scott

Scott: First of all, it was incredibly sticky and difficult to open, and once you got it open, it wasn’t attached to the stick very well, so it came off after a few licks. Secondly, though mine had a liberal amount of bacon bits sprinkled through the maple-flavored candy, they didn’t actually add any flavor at all, unless you got one out and bit into it, and even then, it was overwhelmed by the maple. The maple candy wasn’t bad at all, but since I was expecting more bacon flavor, I was disappointed.

bacon-maple-rodrigo

Rodrigo: I think the experience would’ve probably started off better if the lollipop didn’t stick all over my hands. Nonetheless, the super sweet maple flavor is definitely prominent at first… not too much bacon at all. As the lollipop dissolves, rather sticks all over your teeth, I started to feel a subtle bacon flavor here and there. The savory-sweet balance happened maybe about at the half way point—which was still sort of pleasant. After that, bacon bits were being released in high quantity, and the whole thing just kind of got a little gross. The end point just seriously tastes like old bacon from the fridge with a dollop of maple syrup.  The overall experience: it was a rollercoaster of weirdness in my mouth!

bacon-maple-libby

Libby: My first reaction, after I managed after 5 minutes get the sucker open, was that it tasted like a sweet potato. The maple flavor was good, although mine seemed to only sport small shreds of bacon which didn’t give it much bacon flavor. That said, listening to cohorts who had larger pieces of bacon in theirs that behaved “like shards of glass”, I was thankful. Overall, it tasted like maple. And perhaps it was due to the heat treatment it received in Dave’s car, but: it behaved more like a hard caramel than a sucker, and I had to manually reattach it to the stick before I even sampled it. While innocuous, when compared to the Bacon Lip Balm, it failed to prove to me that bacon is a worthwhile sucker flavor, as it didn’t seem to have any bacon flavor.

Bacon Week 2: Bacon-Flavored Sunflower Seeds

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The guys over at Bacon Salt have a simple premise that guides their company’s product development team: “Everything Should Taste Like Bacon.” To a large extent, I agree with that statement. Most foods DO taste better with actual bacon as an ingredient. I’ve had maple-flavored ice cream sprinkled with still-warm bacon bits. Most excellent. Burgers with bacon are incredible. Duh.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I agree with the Bacon Salt guys, at least as long as we’re talking about things tasting better with bacon, as long as actual bacon is used to generate that flavor. It’s when people start trying to create that signature bacon flavor WITHOUT using bacon that problems occur. This is the case with BIGS Bacon-Salt Flavored Sunflower Seeds, as you can see from my unwitting co-workers’ reactions, below.

Bacon Week 2: The BBBBBLT

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“Because it’s there.” That’s the answer George Mallory gave when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest. That’s why I knew I had to try the BBBBLT when inspiration struck. Once it occurred to me, I knew I had to make it. And once I made it, I had to eat it. Because it was there.

Let me break it down for you.

bbblt-ingredients

Starting from top left, clockwise:

  1. Bacon Beer Bread. Based on this recipe for beer bread, but substituting Hickory Bacon Salt for the salt … salt. I used Hempler’s bacon, chopped into little bits, distributed throughout the dough, about three slices worth. This counts for two of the B’s: Bacon Bread.
  2. Bacon Skillet Jam. Sarah got me some from a famous Seattle food cart, and it’s a nice sweet tangy bacony spread. Makes all sandwiches better.
  3. Baconnaise. From the people that brought you Bacon Salt, it’s bacon-flavored (still vegetarian) mayonnaise. It’s got the tang of Miracle Whip, with the aftertaste of bacon salt.
  4. Lettuce. From the garden. That’s the “L.”
  5. Tomato. Ditto. That’s your “T.”
  6. And last but not least, actual bacon bacon. Again, went with Hempler’s bacon. They make a nice meaty bacon, uncured, and very similar to British-style bacon. It’s sweetish, subtle, and not too salty. And very easy to overcook, so keep an eye on it. And thus, for the cardiologists counting along at home, your fifth and final “B.”

I sliced myself two thick slices of bacon bread, and set phasers to “assemble.”

bbblt-bread

On the left side, I slathered the bread with Baconnaise. Cool color. On the right, Bacon Jam. Weird color. I didn’t test this theory, but I suspect if you attempted to push the pieces of bread together at this stage, it would be like trying to mate two polarly-opposed magnets together, or like mating polar bears and penguins.

bbblt-bread-spread

Almost done. My hands were shaking as I applied the lettuce to the mayo side, then topped it with tomatoes, as I’m sure Mallory’s were as he gripped that last rock on the way to the top. His were probably shaking from the cold, though. Mine were shaking from excitement. The right side got the actual bacon. Bon Appetit, if you’re reading this, I will license this photo.

bbblt-blt

Now. Time to meld these two halve together, forming something undoubtedly greater than the sum of its parts, like if South Dakota and North Dakota reunited. And booked the original Guns and Roses for the reunification celebration. Something like that.

bbblt-complete

It was like eating a bacon tornado. If you recall the scene in Twister, where some debris flies by, swept up in the tornado’s vortex? More debris, followed by a boat, followed by a cow?

That’s what this tasted like. The first hit was the sweetness of the beer bread, punctuated by odd bits of bacon. Once that had passed my palate, a brief crunch of lettuce was followed quickly by a sharp, but sweet Baconnaise tang. More bread, then WHAM! BAM! Bacon Jam! A rich, almost fruity foundation that merged slowly into acidic garden-fresh tomato, quickly followed by Actual Bacon™ texture. It was wild.

I climbed that mountain of a bacon sandwich. Because it was there.