I bring candied bacon to dinner parties.
On Friday Reuben was in town & invited me & Scott to dinner at RoyAndDanielle’s house. He asked me no fewer than 3 times to bring candied bacon, so I obligingly made up a batch.
Scott and I arrived to discover a formally set table with a blue Star-of-David tablecloth and Danielle’s distinguished-looking parents milling about. Oh yeah, Friday night. Shabbat dinner, the weekly ritual of the Jewish people, who, as you may know, traditionally shun the flesh of the swine. So not only did the black chick and her giant goyfriend crash the party, but we brought an entire pig. I sank into the couch, dying a thousand deaths, and our friend Danny whispered “You brought bacon to Shabbat dinner?” I gripped his arm in agony and hissed “Reuben set me up!”
Reuben, at this point, was off in the kitchen with no fewer than four strips of candied bacon sticking out of his mouth, like Judas, or a star-nosed mole.
Danielle pulled out a Ziploc bag of yarmulkes and all the men put them on, except Gentile Scott, who, they decided, already had his own tenuous covenent with G-d on his head in the form of an army cap.
Danielle’s elegant mother draped a pretty cloth with Hebrew embroidery over the bread, then she and Danielle covered their eyes and sang the song to bless the Shabbat candles, Roy blessed the challah, and I slunk away, totally mortified, to hide from the grownups by skrunching up behind Danny, where I moaned softly in remorseful torment. In a strange way, I felt like I finally understood Jewish guilt. (amirite?)
As everyone served themselves Danielle’s father slowly approached me, his silver hair glinting around a regal satin yarmulke. I ducked my head in shame as he ominously intoned, “Are you the one who brought that bacon?” I cringed and nodded, sheepishly raising my eyes to meet his. He popped the last bite of something into his mouth, licked his fingers with a loud smack, and chirped, “It’s delightful, may we have the recipe?”
Cooking an entire package of bacon in home-made brown sugar caramel is the perfect way to make your apartment smell like a heart attack and make all your friends like you. And it’s surprisingly easy! It’s good as a treat, or you could chop it and throw it on a salad or something, which might mitigate, you know, the fact that you’re eating 80% pork fat and you also coated it in sugar.
I adapted the following recipe from David Lebovitz’ recipe for Candied Bacon Ice Cream, which sounds like the best idea I’ve ever heard and I thank gord I don’t have an ice cream maker, or I would probably make it hourly. (waddle waddle)
(optional: Maple Syrup)
Cookie sheets or glass lasagna pans
Cookie cooling racks
Kitchen timer is useful, too.
1. Preheat oven to 400″ (use bottom element). Turn on the exhaust fan and close the door to your closet, or you’ll smell like a pioneer for days.
2. Loosely tinfoil the cookie sheets. Make sure the tinfoil is a bit too big for the pans and let it fold upwards at the edges like a bowl. This is to catch the grease. Because there will be grease.
3. Open the bacon. Usually there’s one end of each strip that’s just a chunk of fat. You can cut that end off & toss it
out back for the raccoons.
4. Lay the bacon out, arranging the strips so they’re not overlapping (they can be touching & cramped, though). You can put it on the wire racks, as pictured. Or, if you’re short on wire racks, just lay all the bacon directly on the tinfoil sheets- it makes them shrink better so a whole package of half-cooked strips will fit on a single large wire rack in the next step.
5. Stick ‘em in the oven & bake for 10 minutes. They will brown on the bottom, & shrink.
6. Flip the bacon so the browned side faces up. Reposition it so it all fits on the wire rack/tinfoil trays. At this point you may be able to fit the whole pack of bacon on one cookie sheet/rack.
7. Dump about a cupful of brown sugar into a bowl. Use your fingers to liberally sprinkle a line of sugar down the centre of each strip. Don’t worry if some falls off, but also don’t make too much mess on the cookie tray, because wayward piles of sugar will burn.
If you’re using maple syrup, mix 1 cup of sugar + 1/2 cup of syrup into a thick paste (aim for the consistency of toothpaste). Use a teaspoon (or pipe it out of a little bag with a snipped corner) to drizzle it down the centre of each slice.
8. Bake for another 10 minutes or so. This isn’t an exact science so trust your nose. You don’t want burning.
9. Flip the strips and sugar the other side. If the caramel in the bottom of the pans is burning, swap out that tinfoil & replace it with a fresh sheet. Burnt sugar smells like the apocalypse, and will fill your apartment with creepy bluish smoke.
10. Bake more. Keep an eye on it. One more flip, perhaps, and maybe a little more sugar (hint: yes). You can switch elements to the broiler if you think it needs it. If you do, put it on the lowest rack, set a timer for 1-2 minutes at a time and keep peeking- sugar burns very fast.
11. When the bacon is the consistency of fruit leather- flexible but not droopy- and the top is kind of sugary & bubbly looking, take it out. Note that it will harden up somewhat as the sugar cools, so it tastes better if the bacon itself is not too hard to begin with. You can sprinkle a little more dry sugar on the top at this point- it’ll soak in.
12. Let it cool, cut the strips into pieces with scissors, and impress the crap out of your friends with this porcine delight.
13 (disgusting/delicious). The tinfoil under the bacon will be covered in hot caramel. Leave it to cool on your counter- don’t throw it out. Otherwise, in a few hours you’re gonna wander home from that dinner party, tipsy and peckish, and you’ll find yourself digging through the kitchen trash to exhume that tinfoil and pick tasty little shards of porky-rendered caramel off it like Sally Struthers. I’m not kidding, those little crackles taste NICE.
NOT THAT I DID THAT.