Mmm…bacon, the crispy, salty, flavorful pork product that accompanies your scrambled eggs and pancakes and occasionally tops your cheeseburger. It’s something of a culinary trend in restaurants right now—with good reason. Bacon gives dishes a smoky depth of flavor that makes them memorable. While it’s true that bacon is high in saturated fat and sodium, you only need a little bit to enhance your food. Bacon is finding its way into savory dishes, baked goods and even cocktails—and it’s easier to work with than you might think.
Choosing Your Bacon
I like to buy thick-cut bacon from the butcher’s counter at the grocery store, as opposed to the shrink-wrapped prepackaged kind, since you only have to buy as much as you need and it tends to be fresher. Depending on what you are making, pepper-crusted bacon is nice, and maple-cured is also tasty if you’re making candied bacon (recipe follows). When in doubt, pick up plain cured thick-cut bacon from your butcher’s counter. It will keep, tightly wrapped in your refrigerator for up to a week. If you’re going to be keeping it on hand for longer than that, freeze it.
Basic Bacon Preparation
Though bacon is generally thought of as a fried food, I find it easiest to cook in the oven. It’s cleaner and you can cook several slices at once without having to deal with hot grease popping at you, as it might on a cook-top. To oven-cook bacon, line a baking sheet with foil (to ease clean-up) and arrange bacon on the foil (making sure the pieces are not touching one another). Turn your oven to 400 degrees F and place your baking sheet on the center rack of the oven (it’s important that the oven only be turned on when you put the bacon in—don’t preheat the oven). Cook for 15-20 minutes (check at 15—it might need the full 20 minutes). The bacon should be brown but not overly crisp. Drain the bacon pieces on paper towels and allow to cool slightly (this part encourages crispness). If you’re simply serving the bacon as a side dish or on a burger or sandwich, it’s ready to go at this point.
The Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburger
To my mind, this recipe is the very best of bacon-cheeseburgers.
- 1 lb lean ground beef, preferably grass-fed
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, half chopped finely, half sliced
- 1 green jalapeno, seeded and chopped
- 4 hamburger buns, preferably whole-grain
- 4 slices pepper jack cheese
- 1 avocado, sliced
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 4 pieces cooked bacon, halved crosswise
Prepare grill or grill pan, over medium-high heat. If using grill pan, drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Start by caramelizing the onions: heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Add onion slices and cook for 10-12 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally.
Combine beef, garlic, diced onion, jalapeno and liberal amounts of salt and pepper. Form into 4 patties. Cook to desired done-ness (I like medium-rare).
Top each burger with a slice of pepper jack and, if cooking inside, place under a broiler or even in a toaster oven until just melted. If you’re grilling outside, just cover the burger and cheese with the grill cover for a minute or two until the cheese melts.
Toast or grill the buns and top each bun bottom with a cheeseburger, some caramelized onions, a few avocado slices and 2 half-pieces of bacon. Serve hot.
Makes 4 burgers.
Easy Pasta with Bacon, Peas and Parmesan
This dish takes only a few minutes to pull together but it looks impressive and is very satisfying. Kept in the fridge in an airtight container its leftovers make a delicious cold lunch. I like to make it with whole wheat linguine, but regular linguine (or spaghetti) works also.
Don’t worry about thawing the green peas—the hot pasta will take care of that.
- 1 lb whole wheat linguine
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 strips cooked bacon, crumbled
- 3/4 cup frozen green peas
- 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan plus more for garnish
- salt and pepper
Cook pasta according to directions in salted water. Drain, reserving ½ cup of the water you cooked it in. Return pasta to the pot along with the ½ cup water.
Gently stir in the butter and half-and half until a light cream sauce forms. Stir in bacon, green peas, parsley, Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot, garnished with additional Parmesan and parsley.
Candied Bacon Martinis
These adventurous martinis are perfect for cocktail hour before a dinner party. If you’re serving them at a party, I suggest making the candied bacon a day ahead so all you have to do at the party is mix the martinis and garnish them with your prepared bacon. Note: the candied bacon also makes a great salad garnish.
- 6 oz. vodka
- 4 ounces Applejack brandy or apple-flavored liqueur
- 2 ounces amaretto liqueur
- 2 ounces good-quality maple syrup
- 2 slices bacon, halved crosswise
First, candy the bacon. Prepare a baking sheet with foil as in the first recipe. Coat each bacon slice in brown sugar. Arrange on foil-covered baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, as before. Use tongs to transfer to a cooling rack or clean plate and allow to cool.
Chill 4 martini glasses. In a large cocktail shaker or pint glass, combine the vodka, brandy/apple liqueur, amaretto and maple syrup with ice. Shake until mixed and chilled. Strain the cocktail into the 4 chilled glasses and garnish each with half a slice of candied bacon. Serve immediately.