I’m not all bacon-freaky; in fact, I almost never eat it. I almost never even eat meat, even. But this is what happens when I’m thumbing through my favorite food magazines (December issues, of course) to find that perfect add-on appetizer for a party I had been invited to.
That’s right; I said add-on. Here’s why: I’m a food blogger. If you ask me to come to your party, I will come, but first I will ask you if there’s anything you would like me to bring. If you answer yes, followed by the genre of food I should bring, it’s game on.
I don’t know what comes over me. It’s like I’m competing with myself to bring the best appetizer. I get pretty dumb about it, and it’s a little embarrassing.
And I won’t ever just make one thing like you asked me to make, oh, no no; I will make you taste and quite possibly color-coordinating, complementary appetizers that sing with each other and solo. I will dig out archived issues of ever single food magazine ever written in or around december searching for that perfect combination of things i can bring to your party. By the way, I will act like it’s just something I threw together without thinking about it. You will know I’m lying, but I’ll do it anyway.
This year, someone made the grave mistake of saying i could bring an appetizer to a party. I made them three appetizers; a symphony of flavor, if you will. I whipped up an old favorite baked crab dip recipe – very retro, very delicious, oddly perfect for winter and summer get-togethers – and served it alongside fresh-toasted crostini slices. Should the crostini slices become bored with just the crab dip, I also made a tomato-basil bruschetta topping to serve up on them. So hot and cold appetizers, one theme; bread.
But i wasn’t done, because I brought with me the hit of the party; bacon candy. Evidently all you really need to do to make a splash is throw some thick-cut bacon on a baking sheet, slather it with brown sugar and a little chile powder, and pop it in the oven for a few minutes, and voila; you’re a party hero. And, oddly enough, it goes really well with both the tomato-basil thing and the crab dip thing. Imagine the possibilities.
I know that’s what you’re doing.
Bacon fans, you’re welcome. Bacon naysayers, I’d try this before I dismissed it; like I said, I’m not big into bacon, and even I loved it. The bacon gets a hard, glaze-y shell on it that makes it hard to resist. Are bacon things a total food fad? Kind of. But ’tis the season for kitsch, so…here you go.
PS: It was dark when I made the crab dip and the tomato basil bruschetta toppings, so between that and not really paying attention to measurements, I can’t post them yet. When I remake them, I’ll share the recipes with you; they’re two of my favorites.
Adapted, but barely, from a recipe found in one of my favorite and most relied-upon food magazines, Food & Wine, December 2012 issue. You can find the recipe here. I plan to mess with it further in terms of flavor, but this is not to say that it’s not perfection as it stands.
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark, use what you like best)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chile powder
- 20 ounces of thick-cut bacon (but honestly, this is approximate: i just used as much bacon as my brown sugar mixture covered)
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line two lipped baking sheets with foil. Take that instruction very, very seriously, unless you’d rather spend your time cleaning bacon remnants from your baking sheets for the next 3 1/2 years. If you can, use heavy-duty foil, and make sure it goes up and over the sides. This is messy, so do your best to prepare.
In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and chile powder with a fork until evenly distributed and all brown sugar lumps are out. Arrange your bacon strips on pans, somewhat close together (maybe about 1/4 inch apart); their closeness will give you less burnt sugar runoff.
Spoon your brown sugar mixture onto the bacon using a regular spoon, staying towards the center. I found the best way to do this is to spoon little mounds on to the bacon and then flatten it down onto the strips using the back of the spoon, spreading it along the bacon as you go, until each piece is evenly coated.
While your bacon is baking (and yes, i’m telling you this ahead of time), get out two metal cooling racks and place them on your counter, overtop some paper towels.
Bake in the oven for 18-22 minutes, checking at the 15-minute mark and watching like a hawk from that point on. Why? Because you’re basically making caramel in the oven, and it can and will get darker and burn. What I saw on mine is the edges go first; the bacon fat pools and stays where the bacon is highly concentrated, but the empty edges, where the fat has nothing to run up against, will darken. This, amazingly, tastes fine, and not burnt. Every pan is different, though, and so is every oven, so watch for your bacon to stay this gorgeous deep red color towards the centers and darker at the edges. Take it out when it is almost crisp and the sugar is caramelized.
Remove the bacon from the oven and transfer the pieces to the wire racks using a pair of good, sturdy tongs and a fork (to hold the other end of the bacon so it’s easy to lay down flat). Some will try and stick together, but you’ll have less of this if you work quickly and do it right away. Be careful, as you’re dealing with flaming-hot caramel bacon. The bacon will crisp up more and get caramel-firm as it cools. You don’t have to serve these immediately, which is great, because it gives you a little time to clean up. I made these several hours ahead of time and they were incredible.