A study conducted by some group of scientists somewhere in the last few months reached the conclusion that eating a whole lot of bacon could be detrimental to your health. Really? How is that news? Eating too much of pretty much anything could be detrimental to your health, and the smoked and salt-cured pork product that invokes passionate devotion in millions certainly falls into the category of “anything.”
Remember when coffee was considered a vice by some “health experts?” Now it’s been proven to stave off Alzheimer’s and help battle depression. The same can be said for plenty of other formerly “bad-for-you” foods. The research is constantly evolving.
So, with this in mind, will this most recent report stop me from eating bacon? No. And it’s doubtful it will stop many other bacon lovers either. I might eat a little less of it. The key with bacon, as with most things in life, is moderation. Don’t be like my young nephew. He’s five and a notoriously picky eater; he basically lives off Peppermint Patties and bacon with a little mac-n-cheese on the side sometimes. Eat bacon. Just don’t eat all the bacon, all the time.
But seriously, do eat bacon. Why? Ounce for ounce, there are very few other foods that provide as potent a punch of salivary-gland-overdrive-activating fatty, rich, meaty flavor.
While it’s often billed as an accompaniment, an extra, it’s really the only thing that matters on a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit. The biscuit is important, since it is the vehicle that holds the bacon, but really if you had to leave one item off this breakfast sandwich, it wouldn’t be the bacon. Same for a bacon cheeseburger—I’d rather the actual beef be missing before the bacon.
It goes with everything: it’s great on pizza, in pasta sauces, crumbled on top of a salad and as a go-to enhancer for Southern-style veggies. And when enrobed in dark chocolate, it hits new heights in the realm of satisfaction.
Bacon knows no season. In summer, it plays perfect foil to summer’s finest tomatoes and is arguably behind the most important letter in BLT. In winter, it’s almost any soup’s best friend, either as a base or a last-minute add-in.
So despite the advice from some to avoid it, I give you my favorite way to cook it and two great ways to enjoy it.
I used to cook bacon in a microwave. Then I switched to cooking it in a skillet, which I sometimes still do. But baking bacon is far less messy than both and produces consistently good results. Here’s what you do:
Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place a cooling rack on top of the paper. Lay strips of bacon across the rack and place in the oven. Cook for 25 minutes or until the bacon is crisped and done.
The parchment paper ensures easy clean up, and, if you want to save the bacon grease for future cooking projects, carefully fold and roll the paper to form a funnel-like shape and drain the grease into a glass jar. Seal and store in the fridge.
Bacon Grilled Cheese with Blackberry Sauce
Cook your bacon however you like and use whatever bread and cheese you like (I love smoked gouda for this) and assemble your sandwich. Butter both sides and grill in a cast iron skillet or place in a panini press. While the bread is browning and the cheese melting, whisk together the following for a sweet-tangy dipping sauce that’ll kick your sandwich up several notches.
¼ cup seedless blackberry jelly or jam
1.5 teaspoons whole grain mustard
2 dashes hot sauce
Molasses-Glazed Ham with Bacon Gravy
(courtesy of the National Pork Board)
• 6 to 8 pound fully cooked bone-in ham
• 1/3 cup molasses (unsulfered NOT blackstrap)
For Bacon Gravy
• 1/2 half pound bacon, sliced into 1-inch pieces
• 1/4 cup bacon fat (from cooking the bacon)
• 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped shallot
• 3 cloves of garlic, minced
• 1/4 cup of flour
• 1 1/2 cups brewed coffee (not dark roast) at room temperature
• 1 1/2 cups chicken broth (reduced-sodium)
• 3 tablespoons molasses (unsulfured, NOT blackstrap)
• 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
• salt and fresh-ground pepper
• pinch of cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Position the rack in the lower third of the oven.
Line the bottom of a shallow roasting pan with aluminum foil.
Score a diamond pattern into the ham, about 1/3-inch deep. Place the ham, flat side down, in the pan. Bake until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees F. On a meat thermometer, 15 to 18 minutes per pound. During the last 30 minutes of baking time, brush the ham with 1/3 cup of the molasses. Remove ham from the oven, transfer to a cutting board, and let rest 10 minutes.
For Bacon Red-Eye Gravy
In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp and brown, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain and cool. Measure and reserve 1/4 cup bacon fat, and discard remaining fat. Coarsely chop bacon and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat bacon fat over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring often, until they begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in flour and let bubble without browning for 1 minute. Gradually stir in coffee and broth, followed by remaining 3 tablespoons molasses and thyme. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, until the sauce has reduced slightly to the consistency of heavy cream, 10 to 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and cayenne. (The sauce can be made up to 1 day ahead. Reheat in a saucepan or microwave oven before serving.) Just before serving, stir in bacon. Makes about 3 cups sauce.
Carve ham and serve with sauce.
Makes 15–20 4-ounce servings.