Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bacony Goodness

There seem to be a few insurmountable obstacles to me ever becoming completely vegetarian. Some of them are simply issues of convenience (and I’m working on those, thank you very much.) One of the greatest, however, is bacon.

…And you know you love it, too. (Okay, okay, I know there’s at least one of you out there who doesn’t like bacon…thank you for reading this anyway!) If you’re anything like me in size, shape and metabolism, as well as environmental and health consciousness, bacon is more of a guilty pleasure…A delicious, smoky, salty, crunchy guilty pleasure. (Stop drooling! You’ll short out your keyboard!)

There is good news for bacon lovers, however, and I came across it recently in the June issue of Bon Appetit magazine. In an article titled “The Terrific 10” by Daniel Duane, bacon is included as a member of the healthful diet team. No, it wasn’t backwards day. It turns out that 45% of the fatty acids in bacon is oleic acid, which is the same bad-cholesterol-lowering stuff that is in olive oil. How exciting! The author of the article seemed excited, too and wrote, “Some could argue that bacon is about half as good for you as olive oil and about 100 times more delicious.” Sometimes life is just so great I can hardly stand it.

Duane also suggested seeking out artisanal varieties of bacon to avoid preservatives. Lucky me. I had just discovered an old fashioned brown sugar cured, applewood smoked, heritage breed bacon in my local supermarket. I felt so superior!

This stuff is good, too. Really good. When I took a bite of a perfectly-cooked slice, I couldn’t help think, “Now that’s how a really great fat is supposed to taste.” It was thick-cut, not too salty, meaty, subtly flavored with a little sweetness and spice…now I’m shorting out my keyboard!

There are lots of ways to cook bacon. I’ve been known to cook in the microwave, wrapped in paper towel when I just need a couple slices quickly, or in the oven on a wire rack set in a sheet pan at 400 F if I need a lot. My favorite way to make bacon, however, is to cook it over medium-low heat in a frying pan on the stove, turning it often to keep a nice, straight slice. The bacon basically gets deep fried in its own rendered fat. Mmmmmm. I can cook it super crisp the way Harry and I like it, or remove it early for those weirdos who like their bacon floppy.

Now, the best way to eat the exceptional bacon I recently enjoyed is from betwixt thumb and forefinger. (Since this was artisanal stuff, a pinky extension may be in order as well.) Along the lines of the “give a man a fish…,” adage, I would say that if you give someone a slice of bacon, he tastes bacon once and it is gone. If, however, you put bacon in a dish, the whole dish is made better by the bacon.

Here is a sort of dinner-time quiche that I like to use as a vehicle for bacon. You could probably make it in a regular pie pan if you don’t have a tart pan. I made a pie crust with butter and black pepper, but you could use whatever recipe or ready-made crust you like. You could even use pizza dough. I’ve made it with both fresh and frozen corn, and have to admit that fresh corn is much better. But it’s really about the bacon, isn’t it.

Corn and Green Onion Tart with Bacon

3 slices bacon
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (thawed if frozen)
½ cup chopped green onions (scallions)
½ cup milk
2 large eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup grated Swiss cheese
crust for a single-crust pie, rolled out

Preheat the oven to 375 F.
1. Cook the bacon in a pan over medium-low heat until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat.

2. Add the corn and green onions to the pan and sauté over medium heat for 3 minutes.

3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, salt and pepper until well-blended. Add the corn mixture. Crumble the bacon and add to the corn and egg mixture. Add the cheese and stir until well-blended.

5. Carefully place the crust in a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Gently press the crust to the sides of the pan. Avoid stretching the crust, as that will cause it to shrink when it bakes.

6. Prick the crust all over with a fork (don’t poke all the way through the crust to the pan). Cover the crust with aluminum foil. Place pie weights (or pebbles, dry beans, etc., anything that will hold the crust down) on top of the foil. Bake at 375 F for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and weights. Bake another 8 minutes.
7. Remove the crust from the oven and pour in the corn mixture. Return to the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until set. Remove the outer ring from the pan. (Use something like a bowl as a platform to hold the pan bottom while slipping off the ring as in the photo below.) Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 side dish or 4 main dish servings. Leftovers can be reheated and enjoyed (for breakfast the next morning!)


  1. Mmmm bacon. I SO shouldn't have read this while at work. Now I'm stranded in a baconless land with nothing on my mind but thick, crunchy, juicy bacon!

  2. Mmm ... nitrate-y ...