Dear reader, control yourself. The topic of this article is pork, lanky slices of the stuff, marbled with fat. On any morning, it pops and sizzles in a million frying pans.
Oh bacon! How do we love thee?
Marie Rama has the answer: 125 ways.
Rama is co-author of “Bacon Nation (Workman Publishing Co. Inc., 310 pages, $14.95),” a recently published compendium of 125 bacon recipes. To promote her book, she’ll be whomping up a few bacon dishes Saturday at a Publix in Alpharetta.
That begs a few questions. Did you know that bacon can turn a s’more into a s’most? That you haven’t really enjoyed shrimp until you’ve added bacon? That bacon can make even Brussels sprouts taste good?
And this: What bacon dish would your dog most likely steal?
We went to the source, Rama, and grilled her.
Why do you love bacon so much?
I was probably a typical bacon consumer. I went for the easy and the obvious. I’d have bacon with pancakes or a BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich). Who can avoid the beauty of a BLT? Bacon has smokiness, it has saltiness, it has taste.
People would have laughed this book off the shelves a decade ago. Why the surge in bacon’s popularity?
What (co-author) Peter Kaminsky and I found out is that bacon is not a fad ingredient. I think younger Americans have embraced it. …Having worked with bacon, I know that it has all these incredible ingredients, all those taste elements that people just love. It also has this smell: It’s like all those childhood memories of waking up in your bedroom, and this smell wafting up the stairs. I think, too, the Internet has played a role in this. …There are web sites with bacon T-shirts.
Did you come up with all these recipes?
What is your favorite?
I have several. One is a poached fish … with bacon broth. I wouldn’t cook it now, because it’s kind of on the hot side. Another favorite is a candy, a toffee: I took bacon, peanuts and dark chocolate, those three elements, and bound them together. It’s fantastic. And I did an edible swizzle stick, too.
That would be so great for bars to do, wouldn’t it? Stack some bacon swizzle sticks on the bar instead of peanuts. I think they would go great with a Bloody Mary.
It has to be asked: With such an emphasis these days on eating healthy, how do you defend consuming a food that has a high fat content?
Here’s the thing about bacon: We use it judiciously. We do not overdo it. What bacon does, even for vegetables, is that it elevates that dish’s flavor. You can get a lot of flavor from bacon without getting a lot of calories.
Would turkey bacon be a worthwhile substitute?
Yeah. With turkey bacon, you won’t get the degree of fat that you get (with pork), so you may want to use some extra olive oil.
We know a dog named Scrapper. He’s a mooch, a thieving pooch with a bacon fixation. What dish would he most likely steal?
Ha! Here’s a story for Scrapper: My son had a puppy when I was making this book. The smell of bacon cooking drove him mad. I made a pork roast stuffed with bacon … and had half the thing left. I put it on the counter and the dog ate it. It must have been three or four pounds! The dog didn’t do a thing for the next day or so.
Is there anything that doesn’t go with bacon?
Yes. I tried making a pecan pie with bacon. It was so sweet, so overwhelmingly flavorful, that the bacon just got lost. It was just too much.
Marie Rama will showcase some of her bacon recipes at a cooking demonstration Saturday, 7 p.m.-9:30 p.m., at Publix Super Market, 4305 State Bridge Road, Alpharetta.
Chocolate-peanut butter-bacon toffee
5 slices applewood- or hickory-smoked bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups lightly salted cocktail peanuts, plus 2 tablespoons chopped lightly salted cocktail peanuts
15 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks, plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch-thick pieces, plus butter for greasing the baking pan
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces 70 percent cacao dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 Butter a 15- by 10- by 1-inch nonstick baking pan and place it on a heat-proof surface.
2 Cook the bacon in a medium-size skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and crisp and most of the fat is rendered, 5 to 8 minutes, stirring often and adjusting the heat as necessary. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, reserving the bacon fat in the skillet.
3 Blot the drained pieces of bacon with paper towels to remove any excess grease. Set aside 3 tablespoons of the bacon pieces. Combine the remaining bacon pieces with the 1 1/2 cups of peanuts in a medium-size bowl.
4 Pour the bacon fat from the skillet through a wire-mesh strainer set over a small bowl and then place 1 tablespoon of the strained bacon fat in a heavy deep 3- or 4-quart saucepan.
5 Add the butter and sugar to the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the butter is almost melted, less than 1 minute. Then whisk constantly until the sugar is incorporated into the butter and the mixture is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vanilla. Attach a candy thermometer securely to the side of the saucepan and let the butter and sugar mixture boil, whisking occasionally, until it is a deep golden and registers 300˚F on the thermometer.
6 Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately stir in the bacon and peanut mixture. Pour the hot toffee mixture carefully into the center of the prepared baking pan. Using a butter knife or metal spatula, spread the toffee mixture so that it covers about two thirds of the surface of the pan and is slightly less than 1/2 inch thick. Let the toffee set for about 30 seconds, then sprinkle the chocolate on top, spreading it out with the butter knife or spatula. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped peanuts and the reserved bacon evenly over the top of the toffee and then freeze it until firm, about 30 minutes.
7 Slip the spatula under the toffee to loosen it from the pan and then break the toffee into pieces. The toffee can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
Bacon swizzle sticks
Arrange a slice of bacon diagonally on top of a piece of paper towel. Holding the slice of bacon at each end, twist the slice in opposite directions into a tight spiral. Fold the paper towel in half over the twisted bacon slice so that the towel’s opposite corners meet. Then, starting at the fold, roll the paper towel under the palms of your hands around the bacon into a tube. Microwave the bacon in its rolled paper towel on high power until it is firm and shaped like a swizzle stick, about 1 minute and 15 seconds. Because microwave ovens vary in power, check for doneness after about 1 minute. Unroll the paper towel and let the swizzle stick cool before using it as a garnish for your favorite bloody or Virgin Mary.