Using Bacon in Cooking for Flavour
By Sam Wass, Medium Well
Bacon. A wondrous thing. So wondrous in fact that vegetarians eat it with their beer goggles on in the dead of night when they think nobody is watching. We can see you. Luckily, we are not the bacon police. Quite the opposite. Because bacon is magic. Actually blessed with magical powers kind of magic. Just ask any Paleo convert...or vegetarian for that matter.
When it comes to cooking, bacon has far more to offer than a soft pillow of bread with a splash of red or brown sauce. Possibly the most revered animal of the traditional farmhouse or smallholding, the pig’s popularity was largely down to the fact that it preserves so well. One of the major products of the yearly pigfest would be bacon; a serious amount of the animal can be preserved to make bacon and it would keep a family in food when the rest of the produce was long gone. Most of us may not rear our own pigs, but bacon still reigns supreme.
Nothing on earth sets off the flavour of bacon like a lightly fried egg; the interplay of the creamy yolk against the force of the bacon stands testament to the glory of simplicity in flavour. If only we could harness that magic and use it to season the world. Oh wait. We can. Think of bacon as seasoning, with lots of flavour and a bit of texture too. Use it throughout your cooking in a variety of ways.
Bacon starts with a great pig and ends with a decent butcher, who knows how to cure it with a variety of secret traditional recipes. Streaky bacon is your friend and while back bacon is a glorious thing and most definitely has its place in a world of bacon, streaky will crisp up to a crumble and will also provide you with a near constant supply of bacon fat. Make sure to keep that fat, by pouring what renders down in the pan into a little dish and put it in the fridge to use later.
A top bacon crisping tip (especially for thin streaky bacon) is to cook it well done and then place it on a cold metal tray and it will crisp up nicely.
A little bacon can go a long way, especially crisped up streaky bacon crumbled. You can use a tiny little bit and reap the benefits of subtle seasoning. You will not need salt as well. Crumble it over your cauliflower cheese, use as croutons, or toss it in a salad.
Bacon can be used as a great addition to a recipe base. Lots of recipes for soups and stews involve frying off an onion with chopped celery and perhaps a bit of carrot and usually a bay leaf. Adding a few rashers of finely chopped raw streaky bacon brings the dish alive, with a host of flavour.
Frying bacon, or anything meaty, in bacon fat is just overkill. Unless you have loads of the stuff then keep the magical ointment for the right moment. Like frying leftover potatoes, or cabbage. Or smearing on the last piece of bread in the house. It works a treat with vegetables. And mashed potato.
Bacon, if recent trends are anything to go by, goes with pretty much anything. But there are some partnerships made in heaven. Such as bacon and… Eggs...Maple syrup...Figs...Cod...Potatoes...Cheese...Avocado...Tomato...Parsnips...Popcorn...Mushrooms...Scallops...
Our bacon top ten
- Cauliflower cheese with bacon
- Fried potatoes, onions, bacon and cheese
- Boston baked beans (baked beans with sweet bacon)
- Bacon wrapped figs
- Popcorn with bacon fat, bacon bits and cheese
- Bacon and egg mayonnaise
- Bacon wrapped cod
- Scallops with bacon and black pudding
- Bacon guacamole
- Bacon, pear and frisee salad with mustard dressing
That should keep you going for a little while; we hope you are inspired to spread a little extra bacon joy and bring some easy magic to your cooking. Don’t forget; keep it simple, keep it sparse, and be bold.
Do you have a secret bacon recipe, if you'd like to share it, we’d love you to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org