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Monday, May 10, 2010

Chocolate-covered Bacon: A Love Story

Chocolate Covered Bacon, Glamour shot

I eat fairly healthy fare on a daily basis. I don't drink heavily. In general, I don't overindulge on food, special occasions notwithstanding[1]. Compared to many Texans, for whom barbeque is not only guilt-free but tantamount to its own food group, I am nigh-on bastion of restraint.

Once in a while, however, I need to remind myself I am not yet 35, and therefore am contractually bound to still act like my demographic. By this, I mean being intermittently, but blatantly, self-destructive under the misguided impression of immortality.

Thus begins the story of my relationship with bacon.

Bacon is a bad friend. It is not that good friend who looks out for your interests, and will totally help you move, and is totally cool if you want to date his ex, and will have your back in a bar fight, no matter how ill-conceived. No, that friend is broccoli.

Bacon is the other kind of friend. The one that owes you a lot of money and is vague about when it will pay you back. It’s the guy who’s a blast to go out with, but whose escapades will tend to leave you with a headache in a Tijuana jail, and skips out without making bail. It’s the friend who is dating your sister even though you’re really not cool with it.

Bacon is not good for you.

But the appeal exists, regardless. This is my relationship with bacon. Like a bad lifetime original movie, I know it’s no good for me, and I’m better off without it, but once in a while I take it back briefly because I can’t resist it, and then feel guilty.

We don’t eat it often, but once in a while it ends up in a dish. My wife made a casserole that had bacon in it. After I finished, I decided to have a small cup of chocolate ice cream. I had no idea at the time the shame and poor decisions that were about to follow that fateful decision.

Serendipity

As I was doling out the ice cream, I snagged another small piece of bacon from the leftovers and chewed it reflectively. The bacon taste still lingered in my mouth as I ate my first bite of ice cream. Whoa. What was that. It was like a supernova of awesomeness in my mouth. It was like someone had tossed a hand grenade of flavor into my mouth, and my tongue had thrown itself on top of it to save its buddies.

Being a scientist[2] I was duty bound to repeat the experiment. I grabbed a small piece of the leftover bacon, and ate it WITH A SPOONFULL OF CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM. I am fairly sure the heavens trembled and the earth shuddered at my inhuman daring and/or the implications of my experiments. The repeat was a success. The findings were reproduceable. I began to plot, immediately.

A terrible beauty is born[3].

While I was abashed to realize, after a quick internet search, that I was not the first to come up with this idea, I remained undaunted. You might almost say I was buoyed by the thought of a brave community of contemporary bacon-oriented flavor thrill seekers. When I finally made up my mind to proceed[4], I set forth despite the cries of the weak-willed that I was like unto playing God with my reckless abandon in the pursuit of the paradigm shattering chocolate bacon project. For the sake of posterity, I am recording my work here. Without further ado, I give you:

Chocolate Covered Bacon, a love story.

On its face, the challenge seemed easy enough: make some bacon. Melt some chocolate. Coat bacon with chocolate. Enjoy. Curse self years from now when coronary heart disease kicks in.

To demonstrate the sensory imagery that this whole experience was literally RIFE with, I have provided pictorial accompaniment. Those with weak hearts, small children, the enfeebled, and vegetarians may not wish to continue farther. You do so at your own risk, I take no responsibility for the off chance that what you see will RUIN YOU FOR ALL OTHER FOOD. EVER.

Still with me? Excellent. On we go into the fat-saturated, chocolatey heart of darkness.

Step 1: Assemble the Ingredients.

Chocolate Covered Bacon, Step 1

I would not recommend cheap bacon for these endeavors. One does not serve discount day old wedding cake at one’s nuptials, nor off-brand generic tea when the Queen pops by for a visit. There are some occasions that DEMAND, in shrill urgent voices like greedy orphans begging for more gruel, that they are special, and deserve treatment accordingly. Giving in to this, I used our Good Bacon. The chocolate was the best…..we had on hand. The beer? Well, that was not for the recipe, that was to calm my nerves in anticipation.[5] Not pictured here is about a quarter cup of milk, a shot of scotch, and a tablespoon of red wine. These are experimental variables. For this recipe 1 bag of chocolate chips and about 8-10 strips of bacon should be a good ratio to start with.

Step 2: Introduce the Primaries.

Chocolate Covered Bacon, Glamour shot

Bacon, meet chocolate. Chocolate, meet Bacon. Ok, this is not so much a step as a glamour shot to memorialize this moment.

Step 3: Prepare the Pork.

Chocolate Covered Bacon, Step 2

I cooked the bacon in the oven, on parchment paper, at 350 until it was just starting to crisp. I felt it was more respectful. Also, someone on the internet did that too. Peer pressure is a weighty mistress. This approach did allow a bit more control on the finished product.

Step 4: Prepare the Chocolate.

Chocolate Covered Bacon, Step 3

I chose to utilize a small saucepan for the melting to ensure enough depth to a) dip the finished bacon into, and b) to prevent burning of the heated surface to volume ration was too high. See? SCIENCE[6]. There’s not much else to recount about this step. But, lest I lose the attention of the foodies in residence, let’s all agree to pretend that these are not just chocolate chips…these are chips hand-pressed from sustainably grown Peruvian cacao beans that were lovingly harvested by plucky village women from disenfranchised indigenous communities and fairly traded and..umm…I think Steve Jobs blessed them or something. There now, we can all enjoy the food for its image and the warm fuzzy feelings we can generate from it rather than its actual taste or composition[7]. But I digress, in the name of SCIENCE™.

Step 5: Melt the Chocolate.

Chocolate-covered bacon, Step 4

Melting Chocolate is not the walk in the park it seems to SOME people. In fact, it has little to do with walking and/or parks. These people are just silly for even thinking so in the first place. I had some trouble getting the cholate to give in to its fate and become liquid. At first the chips melted together, but sneered in contempt at me by forming merely a larger fudge like mass. I added a tiny dash of red wine to see if liquid would help, and it did to a small degree. I did not want to contaminate my chocolate with …..gasp…milk. Unfortunately, a decided unwillingness to melt at varying temperatures called for drastic measures. A bit of milk helped reduce the chocolate to a molten lava consistency almost immediately. However, one must take pains to keep it warm and stirred, lest it solidify into on giant pan-sized chip, as much as that occurrence may seem delightful under other circumstances. We need to keep focused here, lady and gentlemen! At long last I had a Mount Doom-esque cauldron in which to cast my precious[8].

Step 6: Retrieve the Bacon.

Chocolate-covered bacon, Step 5

By this time you should have finished your beer. Advanced students and remedial Irishmen will be well into their second. I say this as a cautionary warning[9]: do not let your relaxed state and sense of victory thus far, coupled with the ethereal scent of cooked bacon tempt you to consuming some of the bacon straight away. If you think you will be tempted thusly, make extra bacon and consider self-reflection on your lack of willpower[10]. Given the intent of marrying[11] the bacon to the chocolate, I found it was necessary to drain extra grease and pat the bacon down with a paper towel.

Step 7: Convergence.

Chocolate-covered bacon, Step 6

As I reflected later, the use of tongs or similar implements might have warded off the inevitable first degree burns one may accumulate in dipping the bacon by hand[12]. In retrospect, I would blame that decision on wanting to experience this penultimate act in the most organic way possible, without interference from mechanical devices. Just a human hand, dipping pig flesh into ground up cacao beans, as nature and your given deity intended. That being said, it was mostly likely more aptly attributable to sloth[13]. That being said, that actual moment was joyous. Rapture is too small a word. I would be miss though, in failing to note that the consistency of the chocolate greatly impacts its dripping potential and subsequent ability to harden when cooled. To little liquid, and it is fudge like, and will not adhere to the bacon. Too much and it is too runny, and will not harden correctly. In my experimenting, I gradually added milk, so that my bacon ran the gamut from bacon-in-fudge to bacon with chocolate syrup on it. In the middle, though, there was genius wrapped in slightly darker genius.

Step 8: Gilding the lily.

Chocolate-covered bacon, Step 7

I laid out the finished bacon strips on another sheet of parchment paper, though I would probably recommend waxed paper for its lower stickiness threshold. As I had some chocolate left over, I made a secondary coating/dripping with the addition of a small volume of scotch. My wife had brought me scotch infused chocolates from the wilds of Seattle, and I was determined to duplicate the taste. The result was a nice addition, adding a little smokiness. (you’ll notice the lighter color dribbles in the picture)

I ate a bit immediately, but felt it better that it cool for some time to harden, and let it alone in the refrigerator for an hour. I also added a few strawberries in a flash of foresight that they might please[14] my wife on her return.

So there you have it fellow scientific adventurers. Chocolate covered bacon. I look forward to further experiments as time and arterial conditions warrant.



[1] As a legal disclaimer, I reserve the right to interpret “special occasions” as liberally as I may care to. Days that end with “y” may qualify, as needed.

[2] i.e., in the sense that I am aware of science in the way that way a puppy is aware of a ball. I don’t totally understand its nature, but that won’t stop me from abusing it.

[3] I’m fairly sure Yeats original reference via this line was in regard to similar experiment with blood pudding and soda bread, so I felt it fitting.

[4] i.e., finally got around to it, motivated mostly by fears of the leftover bacon going bad.

[5] On a side note, any of the Dogfish Head brews are equally fantastic, though the 60 and 90 minute APAs are downright outstanding.

[6] Insofar as SCIENCE = lessons learned from previous experiences/burns.

[7] Don’t get me wrong, I love food. I love exotic foods, I love cooking. What I dislike is the pretension some foodies get where the image of the thing is as important as the thing itself. They may not be able to taste a difference between table salt and Bolivian north shore sea salt, or cinnamon from different countries, but they are CERTAIN it’s totally better, and that makes them feel better about themselves because they’re so much more sensitive than the rest of us mouth-breathing, hotdog chomping cretins. If you enjoy food, enjoy food. You don’t need to make an elitist identity out of it. It’s like music lovers who won’t listen to anything mainstream because they need to feel elitist and obscure. Blah. Life’s too short to be so pretentious. Ok, rant over.

[8] Bacon. Precious bacon. Though I have not ruled out chocolate-covered hobbit.

[9] Most warnings are, by their very nature, cautionary. Rarely does one warn someone, “Hey…that thing you are doing, I’m worried you’re not doing it RECKLESSLY enough.

[10] That being said, it is my assertion that bacon aids self-reflection. Also, self-denial, self-amusement, and water polo.

[11] I’m using that term in the general sense of joining one surface to another. The last thing I want is bigots to cry foul that I’m supporting the legal union of pig and cacao. We all know the slippery slope that leads to. That’s right. It can only encourage the downfall of capitalism and human society. I guess. That seems to be their usual argument.

[12] This is not the first time I’ve had this general reflection after the fact.

[13] By this I mean laziness, not an actual sloth. What, do you think I have a sloth in my head telling me how to handle hot objects? Do you think me mad?

[14] A lesser man might have used the word “placate”, as her departure and my experiment were less happy accident, and more deliberate planning on my part. It is far better to ask forgiveness than permission.

4 comments:

Joel said...

I may have to try this. This weekend, in fact. Possibly sooner.

stanford said...

Outstanding.

Loved the foodie rant.

Also "And by that i mean laziness not an actual sloth."

Have you seen this: http://xkcd.com/418/

JMBower said...

heh there is nothing that xkcd is not a source of wisdom on.

Joel said...

You inspired me:

http://arethereanymorecookies.blogspot.com/2010/05/bacon-as-candy.html