Nights of White Bacon, Never Reaching an End

Bacon.  The final frontier.  And running the risk of becoming a cliche’.  But not if I can help it.

Let’s be honest shall we?  I love bacon and so do you.  Yes, my kosher friends are excused.  They just don’t know they love it.  Well, some do.  Those are the keepers of kashrut at home.  Bacon is allowed when you are on the road, right?  When I rewrite history, I plan on making several minor changes.  World War 1 had nothing to do with some minor Archduke; Germany was hording bacon.  Watergate was about the break in at the local bacon smokehouse.   I don’t know why Thomas Jefferson rewrote the phrase, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of bacon.”

Most importantly, it won’t be the snake giving Eve an apple; the snake will tempt her with a bacon explosion.   That’s right, I said it, and you were thinking it.   Let’s just get this on the table, shall we?

Growing up,  my mother made bacon for us “on occasion.”  More than once a year;  less than once a month.  (If I am remembering it incorrectly, let’s recall my mother had the audacity to point out the gray in my sideburns, daring me to call her on her weekly trip to the colorist.  Funny, she never mentions that my goatee has substantial gray.)  In those dark days, the late 60s to mid 70s, bacon came home from the grocery store, packed by that Oscar M guy.  It went into a pan over medium high heat, gave up its grease to create a kiddie pool to swim in, and burned to a crisp in that over-exaggerated deep fry of a baste.  As a kid, bacon was nothing special.  I always ate it  when served, but I would have much rather have had another spare rib, slice of ham or piece of flank steak.

When did it change?  I know that about 6 or 7 years ago  I started buying apple wood smoked bacon from the butcher counter at grocery store I frequent.  Lambchop likes bacon, potatoes and biscuits (which she makes) for brunch, leading me to buy it more often than I might have.  I generally had used bacon as an ingredient, a highlight in a dish not as the main attraction.  Rice pilaf loves a kiss of bacon.  So does Macaroni and Cheese (ok, I don’t use macaroni, its generally penne and its far more than a kiss), filet mignon and several different chicken sautés.  Now I buy thick, luscious, apple wood smoked bacon regularly.

A few years ago,  a good friend introduced me to Sriracha bacon.  It is very difficult to make. Not. You lather good bacon with Sriracha and then grill it over coals.  Easy and exceedingly delicious.  Why didn’t I think of this?  Earlier we saw the rise of candied bacon, bacon chocolate and bacon flavored dishes.  Perhaps McDonald’s was on the forefront when they brought the bacon and egg biscuit to the market.  Sadly, however, they didn’t go far enough.

In 2008, the bacon world exploded like Teresa Guidice in her full rainbow of lunacy.  A competitive BBQ team in Kansas City invented the Bacon Explosion.  It might be the most decadent dish ever foisted on the world.  But damn, it is good.  It is elegant in its simplicity, devilish in its construction and deceptive in its preparation.  It rewards creativity and patience.  It helps if you know someone that makes it.  At its core, a bacon explosion is bacon, wrapped in sausage wrapped in bacon and smoked.  No, it is not greasy.  The traditional recipe calls for lots of bbq sauce.  I have reduced the bbq sauce and replaced it with Sriracha.  I also try to add different components to tweak the recipe.  I have included a layer chopped jalapenos – which is not as hot as you might think – and a whole andouille sausage in the middle to mixed results.  The first several times I made a batch of Bacon Explosions everyone got a slice and one nameless friend ate all the rest.  I got the scraps from the cutting board. I think I didn’t get any until the 4th time I made them.

I believe my latest batch was my best ever.  It was also my biggest batch. I usually make 1 or 2, this time I made 4.  I mean, there were going to be 14 of us for dinner and, clearly, 2 would not be enough.  I cut the sausage from 2 lbs to 1.5 lbs.  I made my mats of bacon in 6×6 squares (7×7 is floppy on the edges).  As flavor highlight, I made a puree of jalapenos, garlic, parsley and oregano; a touch of pineapple juice was to accent the fruitiness within the heat.  The key to a successful Bacon Explosion is the 2-4 hour smoke.  I use hickory and rotate them for even cooking.  A thermometer in one making sure it gets to 180+ is also important.

When I volunteered to make these bacon explosions for 14, a few people were skeptical.  The amount of work and the ability to produce them for a dinner 40 miles from home was questioned.  The occasion was Le Dîner à San Francisco.  Le Dîner is akin to a picnic flashmob.  A few thousand people show up at a secret location in San Francisco, dressed in white for a dinner party.  The party starts at 5 and the location is announced at 3.  Living in the burbs, I take the day off to cook and prep.   Parking is limited and taking BART/Muni is not an option for me with as much stuff as I need to bring.  This year I brought the main course, wine, wine glasses and a few other things.  Last year my mango chicken served on a bed of cannellini beans did not arrive much hotter than tepid.  I made my plans knowing that I needed to deliver fantastic food that was warmer than warm.  I’m not much for cold food.  Last year it was at the bandstand area between the Academy of Sciences and the De Young Museum.  The tables were in the trees, it was great and reasonably warm.  Would it be as warm or as scenic?

I spent the morning and afternoon making my bacon explosions.  When they finished around 3, I wrapped them tightly in foil, put each in a large Ziploc to manage leakage and put them all in a thermal bag. Yes I also made some brined, grilled chicken – I am the king of overkill. Because they were still whole, I needed to bring a cutting board and slicing knife.  As I have about 25 knives, this was a non-issue.  I also made a garlicky spicy chimichurri sauce for the chicken, but most of us used it on the bacon, to our mutual delight.  We left at 4 to get to the location by 5.  We actually arrived and parked by 5:10.

There we were, well at least most of us, dressed in white, setting up a table for 14.  LEDs, lanterns, fancy white napkins, practical plates and metal utensils.  Platters of food.  Lots of wine poured into mismatched wine glasses (I have tons, but bought over the years, so different sets.)  Oh yes, I neglected to mention where we wound up.  It was the Marina Green, 100 yards from the bay. At 5pm when we got there, the fog was rolling in and it was damp and cold.  The bay is lovely by daylight, but the sun set at about 6pm.  One victory was achieved; the bacon was served hot!  Well, at least pretty warm.

I wouldn’t want you to think we didn’t have a great time, we did.  I’m glad I brought my fancy black leather “shirt,” that was in the spirit of the evening, but far from the white that was de rigueur.  I needed it by 5:45.  By 7pm I was slicing bacon explosions and had traded the leather for an apron.  Even the skeptical took the bacon and sausage like ducks to water.  By 9:15 we were packing up to go home. Unlike last year, there was no entertainment and the cold broke our spirits degree by degree.  As members of our party gave up the ghost, it was clear that it was time to go.  As we packed up, we realized we didn’t need to keep things refrigerated, everything as nearly the perfect temp.  Getting back to the car was a tad easier than getting in.

We had a ton of leftovers.  For dinner I had rolls and cheese and bottled sauce on the table, on the off chance anyone wanted a bacon explosion sandwich.  At home, I slice off  .75 inch rounds and fry them gently, with a bit of the jalapeno sauce on them.  When they are lightly caramelized on both sides,  I top them with a bit of the chimichurri sauce and serve them on rolls, like a burger.  With 1.5 of these decadent treats left, we’ll be eating like kings for a while.

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