Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sweet on Bacon

Every year, as a birthday present for my husband Dicky, I sign up for the Bacon-of-the-Month Club, which provides us with a pound of bacon from a different producer each month. Since I'm in charge of cooking that bacon, and there are only so many bacon and egg breakfasts a person can fry up without starting to think this whole gift idea may not be such a healthy one, I'm always on the lookout for new recipe ideas. This month's bacon selection is a Hickory Smoked Country Bacon from Newsom's Old Mill Store, a third generation family-owned business in Princeton, Kentucky. The package insert's over-the-top description reads, "Sweet, salty, lovely, delicately powerful like an iron fist in a velvet glove, the kind of bacon to write odes and sonnets about. Silk, silk, silk. Like a virgin bacon eater, touched for the very first time. Life begins with Newsom's bacon." Ok, perhaps Dan Philips, aka Capt. Bacon, got a little carried away with hyperbolic sentiment (I mean, really, "touched for the very first time..."?), but I must admit that it really made me want to try this stuff and see if I could at the very least tell it apart from, say, Oscar Meyer's best.

So I fried up a batch, and here's my critique: Salty, smokey and, yes, even silky--meat and fat become one, and it melts in your mouth with no danger of cutting any soft tissue. Not sure I'm ready to break into song or write a poem, but, hey, this stuff definitely beats out the kind they serve at Denny's with the breakfast special. Since pecans are frequently smoked, I thought they'd make a nice pairing with this smokey bacon in a sweet, yet complex, brittle. Warning: you probably shouldn't make a steady diet of this confection.

Bacon Pecan Brittle
Makes about 1 pound

1/2 pound uncooked bacon
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1. Butter a rimmed baking sheet or line it with a silicone baking mat. Cook the bacon in a large skillet until brown and crisp. Place it on a paper-towel-lined plate and blot off the excess grease. Cut into small bits.
2. In a 3- or 4-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup and cook over medium-high heat, without stirring, until it registers 300 degrees F on a candy thermometer. (You may have to brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush a few times to wash away any sugar crystals).
3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter, baking soda, vanilla, pecans and bacon bits. Immediately pour onto the prepared baking sheet, letting it spread out as thinly as possible. Let cool completely, then break into pieces. (The brittle will keep for about a week, stored in an airtight container.)