Saturday, April 14, 2012

Taken with Bakin' Bacon

It's written that the gods of Olympus dined upon Ambrosia.  Poppycock, I say.  I am thoroughly convinced that the food of the gods was really bacon.  After all, the Romans were eating a bacon-like porcine product way back when, though it was called "petaso". 

The actual word "Bacon" is Teutonic in origin, being "Bakke", that literally means "Back" for that is where Bacon has been sourced, historically.  As the Teutonics became a little more germanized the word changed to "Bacho" in Old High German.  Then the Franks found out about it and started calling it "Bako".  Eventually the French, seeing it's popularity, decided to get in on the bacon action as well.  Thus, Bako became Bacon.  Even though we have the modern word at this point, Bacon is not in it's final form, for through all this, Bacon still referred to any back or side of the porcine persuasion that had been cured. 

The idea traveled across the channel to England where it was loved SO much that they started selectively breeding pigs, being the Yorkshire and the Tamsworth, to produce higher quality bacon.  Oddly enough, the English added a "u" to the word, making it "Bacoun" which looks more French than the actual French word. 

Speaking of the Brits...  They are responsible, specifically John Harris, for the "Streaky" bacon that we are so familiar with here in America.  This Bacon comes from the belly, instead of the back, just as Pancetta does.  Unlike Pancetta though, streaky bacon tends to be smoked after the brine.  Canadian and Irish bacon are made from the loin, which is significantly less fatty than the belly.  Guanciale is a form of bacon made from the jowl.  Bacon can also be made from the Shoulder or the Hocks.

So many forms of bacon, and yet so little time to enjoy them all.

This particular post is really about preparing streaky bacon rashers (a rasher is a slice of bacon).  You see, I have always been a great proponent for the Farberware Open hearth Grill.

How can you go wrong grilling bacon?  The fat drips off into a tray below, so you can filter it and save it for other preparations.  (Like frying an egg)  The bacon itself is healthier (OK, as healthy as any slice of fatty cured meat can possibly be) for not having been partially deep fried in it's own rendered fat (such as pan frying).  I love my Grill,  but it only holds 6 pieces of Bacon (about 5 oz). That is plenty of Bacon for breakfast or a sandwich, but every once in a while, I need to cook a little more than that.  So when I have to do large amounts (like 8-12 oz) I opt for my second favorite way to cook bacon.


Have you ever done it?  Is everyone out there baking their bacon while I am busy grilling mine on the Open Hearth Grill?  It's super simple, totally hands off, and leaves your stove top clear for other food prep. (Which is definitely a blessing around breakfast time)  For me, the best part is that I don't have to bother turning the bacon half way through cooking.

So, here's all ya gotta do.

Preheat your oven to 400 F (205 C) degrees
Place a cooling rack in a jelly roll pan (you need a lip on the pan to catch the dripping fat) then place the Bacon rashers on the cooling rack.
Cover with a piece of Parchment paper (cause I don't want to have to clean the spattered fat out of the oven this afternoon)

Place in the oven for approximately 17-20 minutes (this will really depend on your oven)
Now remove the parchment paper and bake an additional 5 minutes (depending on how crispy you like your bacon- I hate limp bacon)

You can leave it on the rack to cool, or you can more the pieces to a paper towel to blot off some of the oil.
But your not done, for there is a present for you in the bottom of the pan.

The unctuous, golden nectar of deliciousness that is rendered bacon fat.

Oh Yeah baby! And do I have a plan for this...

Post Scriptum - As most of you are aware, Sodium Nitrite has been shown to cause cancer.  Most cured meats use Sodium Nitrate whether it comes from the actual chemical or, as in the case of "Nitrate Free" products, they use celery juice.  Which, incidentally, is positively dripping with with Sodium Nitrate.  (but it's a natural juice, not a chemical, so they can lie and say "no added nitrates")  The problem is not in the sodium nitrate itself, but rather in what your digestive system does to it.  Your own body converts Nitrate into Nitrite... which is a carcinogen.  This actually happens all the time with many foods that you consume, celery being on of them.  There are also MANY fruits that contain high amounts of Nitrates as well. Strawberries are one of the highest, but raspberries and apples contain them as well.  These tend to be Potassium Nitrate instead of Sodium Nitrate, but either way, your body converts them into a Nitrite. 

The point is, that Bacon has gotten a bad rap.  Not that I am condoning eating Bacon for Breakfast, Lunch AND Dinner, any more than I would suggest consuming strawberries 3 times a day every day for a month.  Everything in moderation.



Tatoosh said...

I do oven bacon often. I do not bother to cover the bacon with parchment, I don't seem to have much splatter.

I do sometimes jaccard (repeatedly poke with a fork) both sides of the bacon which takes all the tendency to curl out of it, though cooking in the oven has much less of the tendency than in a skillet. Still, if I'm after super flat bacon for presentation or to sit well as part of a sandwich, it's a useful trick.

The other thing I do is fresh cracked pepper over both sides of the bacon before baking. While the result isn't quite the same the pretty commercial pepper bacon in the store, it still gets a wonderful "peppery" flavor and for a lot less money.

Lastly, I do tend toward thick cut bacon more than thin. I usually use thin cut when I need it to wrap around something, such as a shrimp or tatter tots.

Patti T. said...

Oh Shane, I am so proud of you, I too save my bacon grease. I learned it from my mother, who learned it from her mother. It is a secret ingredient in the pancakes that I make that everyone raves over. My husband loves his eggs cooked in it. I almost always have a container of bacon grease in my freezer. I love baking my bacon. I used to make it in the microwave but it seems to go from not done to totally burned way too easily.