I am aware that what I am showing you today looks a lot like the dog’s breakfast. However, I can assure you with reasonable (if untested) certainty that caramelized bacon tastes absolutely nothing like the dog’s breakfast. Although, if you gave this to your dog for breakfast, I imagine you would be slathered in adoring kisses.
This is straight-up bacon candy. And bacon candy, my friends, tastes really good.
“Thank you, Captain Obvious.”
This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s beautiful book, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust. All of her books are gorgeous, but I bookmarked so many pages in this one I may not be able to take it back to the library. As I was writing out a couple of my favourites, I made the (happy) mistake of leaving the book open on Carl’s desk to this recipe. He salivated while he worked, not wanting to close the book and risk the wrath synonymous with losing my place. When he found out friends were coming over that evening, he eagerly volunteered to make a trip to the store for all the ingredients needed to make this. Fourteen phone calls with questions later (yes, you definitely want to use thick-cut bacon here), he returned with all the necessary groceries :)
Perfect party food, this caramelized bacon is best served room temperature, so you can make it earlier in the day (it only takes about 5 minutes of prep, plus 30 minutes cooking time) and you’ll have no evidence of effort when your guests arrive. I am all about a relaxed party atmosphere that doesn’t require me to be in the kitchen missing out on the fun, so appies and snacks that can be made ahead are really the only kind I do. I’ll heat something up at party time, but I won’t be doing any prep or standing by the stove. This also tastes juuust as good cold from the fridge, so you could even make it a couple days ahead…just hide it from yourself if you want it to last!
No matter the occasion, you seriously need to caramelize yourself some bacon. Don’t worry about it when the topping starts to get dark – you want it to get quite crispy as it cools. I didn’t cook it long enough the first time and, while it tasted as ridiculous as bacon candy should, it didn’t have quite the crispiness I was hoping for, and crunchier is definitely better here. The recipe recommended cutting the bacon in half, which I did the first time, but I found quarters are much better since the rich salty sweetness needs to be alternated with various other party snacks (like homemade sausage rolls, hot pizza dip, soft pretzels, or cookie dough truffles, for example!) In quarters, you can definitely snack on this all day long.
I can’t wait to try it chopped up as an addition to chocolate chip cookies, I think that would be an amazing pair! I might not have to tell Carl I made it though, because I don’t know if I’d ever have leftovers to experiment with…
- ½ cup lightly packed brown sugar
- ½ cup pecans
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ⅛ tsp ground cayenne pepper
- 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
- ½ lb thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon (I found a good packaged one at Wal-Mart, but any deli should have it)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line large sheet pan with aluminum foil and put a wire baking rack (or wire cooling rack) on top of the foil. Set aside.
- Combine brown sugar and pecans in small food processor and process until pecans are finely ground. Add salt and peppers and pulse a couple times to mix. Add the maple syrup and pulse again until mixture is evenly moist.
- Cut each bacon slice crosswise into halves or quarters, depending how long your bacon is. Line up the pieces on the wire baking rack, making sure the pieces aren't touching. With a small spoon (or your fingers), evenly spread the brown sugar mixture on all the pieces of bacon.
- Bake for 30-33 minutes, until the topping is VERY browned, but not burnt (if you underbake it, the bacon will stay soft as it cools).
- While it's hot, use tongs or a fork to transfer caramelized bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain grease. Set aside to cool. Serve at room temperature.
- Store any leftovers (haha :)) in the fridge.
*Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes you can trust by Ina Garten c) 2012 Clarkson Potter Publishers.