While watching television the other evening, I began to think about all of the advertisements for different foods and food shows. For me, some of the most interesting shows are the “travel shows” where a host travels across the United States or to different countries focusing on a single type of food. I am completely fascinated by the presentation of regional dishes and often interesting combinations that I may never have thought of or read about previously. There seems to be a new cult following of an old friend to the home cook, bacon. Yes, bacon! That delectable cured meat that many relegate to their breakfast and brunch menus.
I begin by asking myself the question, why the love for bacon? There isn’t a slogan from the pork industry telling us to add bacon to our lunch and dinner menus. But, there are television shows such as “The United States of Bacon” where a professional chef tours the United States and highlights restaurants, chefs, and even food trucks who take the love of bacon to a new level. Even before watching the bacon shows, I knew from my history background that bacon has been a dietary staple dating back to the Middle Ages. It was one of the few meats that were brought by families traveling by wagon trains during the westward settlement of the United States because of its nonperishable qualities and portability. The term “bringing home the bacon” has nothing to do with bringing home a paycheck. It literally means bringing home bacon as the regular consumption of bacon by the average citizen was originally an activity practiced by those who had the economic standing that could afford meat with the daily meals. I think that it is time that I show bacon a little more admiration and share recipes that expand beyond breakfast. Bacon is a delicious way to season other meats or fish, add additional flavor to our side dishes and, believe it or not, it can add a divine signature to dessert.
For the love of bacon, I have created a simple 3 course menu that incorporates bacon that will allow the age of exploration with bacon recipes to take off in your kitchen. We will start with a simple frisee salad with warm bacon dressing. The second course will be a delicious and lightly spicy bacon wrapped chicken with collard greens. Then, we will round out our meal with chocolate frosted brownie squares drizzled with caramel sauce and chopped bacon sprinkles. Happy bacon eating ya’ll!
FIRST COURSE: FRISEE SALAD WITH WARM BACON DRESSING
One head fresh frisee lettuce
4 slices center cut bacon (reserve 2 cooked slices for the dessert)
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. honey
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. spicy brown mustard
In a sauté pan, cook your bacon slices until crispy. Remove from the pan, set on paper towels to drain. Add the shallots to your bacon drippings. Cook until they become translucent (about 4 minutes). Add your mustard, honey, salt and pepper to the shallot mixture and whisk until combined. Remove from heat. Crumble bacon into the sauté pan over the warm dressing. Divide dressing over the frisee (makes enough dressing for 4 servings).
SECOND COURSE: SPICY BACON WRAPPED BONELESS CHICKEN WITH COLLARD GREENS
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in half lengthwise
7 slices of bacon, divided
8 oz. fresh collard greens, chopped and hard stems removed
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 Tbsp. Franks Red Hot sauce
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together the hot sauce and maple syrup, set aside. Use a basting brush or a small spoon, lightly coat the chicken in the sauce. Take 1 piece of bacon for each chicken breast, and wrap the bacon around the seasoned chicken. Place onto a lined baking sheet and place into a 375* oven for 25 minutes turning once half way through the cooking time. (If your bacon is not as crispy as you would like after baking, place the chicken under the broiler for 2 minutes for extra crispy bacon prior to serving). Serves 4.
In a sauté pan, place your remaining three slices of bacon, cook until lightly crisp, remove from the pan and place on paper towels to drain. Add the sweet onion to the bacon drippings, allow the onion to cook until it begins to become translucent (3-5 minutes). Add the greens, salt and pepper. Toss to coat completely. Cover the pan and remove from heat allowing the greens to wilt. Crumble the cooked slices of bacon and evenly distribute over plated greens. Serves 4.
THIRD COURSE: CHOCOLATE FROSTED BROWNIES WITH CARAMEL DRIZZLE AND CHOPPED BACON BITS
Super simple addition to brownies, you can use a store bought frosted brownie or use a box mix with a pre-made frosting. If you are feeling adventurous, you can use the recipe I follow for homemade brownies which is the Hershey’s recipe found at www.hersheys.com. Prepare brownies according to directions. Cut into individual serving squares. Finely chop bacon, sprinkle over the top of the frosted brownie square. Garnish with caramel sundae sauce. Add a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped heavy cream for a touch of added decadence.
About Valerie McGann
Valerie is a contributing writer for The Mill Magazine and our foodie reviewer. When she's not cooking for her family, she's blogging about cooking, or you'll find her on local TV as a guest chef.