Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer Dinner Parties & Candied Bacon Goodness

In honor of Erich's birthday, a few of us got together some amazing and eclectic eats for a bacon, sausage, and mushroom dinner party! What a theme, right? Not an easy task though, considering Erich's familiarity with wursts (and our lack of such familiarity).

Thankfully, Maki did her research! And we found our way to Rieker's Prime Meats, a German delicatessen out in northeast Philly. In addition to bockwursts, bratwursts, and knackwursts (Who knew there were so many wursts?! Well, Erich probably did.), she picked up several pork sticks (pork medallions wrapped in bacon), a black forest pork roast (a pork filet stuffed with sausage and wrapped in bacon), and several hot and sweet mustards. (Talk about a friend you should never let go of!)

Considering that every part of every course of the entire meal was amazing and delectable (including a fancy pomegranate citrus salad from John, and a flourless dark chocolate cake from Le Petit Mitron), I was particularly happy with my contributions to the evening's festivities -- sausage-stuffed mushroom caps, bacon chocolate chip cookies, and candied bacon. Mmm....
Even though my apartment smelled of bacon for at least three days after (and YES, believe me, you CAN get tired of smelling bacon), it was well worth it to have everyone enjoy my wares. Out of all three contributions, my absolute favorite was the candied bacon. Not only was it the perfect flavor combination of sweet and salty, but also the perfect textural combination of crispy and chewy.

To make my version, I combined several online recipes (Thanks to the Hungry Mouse for the most help!) and came up with the following -- easy, breezy, and addictive....

- Thick-cut bacon (though thin-cut bacon could work if you shortened the cook time!)
- Maple syrup
- Brown sugar

- Cookie sheet or sheet pan
- Aluminum foil
- Metal rack

While I loved the notion of using maple sugar (c/o the Hungry Mouse), that stuff isn't always easy to find, especially in smaller supermarkets. Instead, I decided to go with the next best thing -- a quick soak in maple syrup and a double-sided dusting of brown sugar.

To prep, line your cookie sheet or sheet pan with aluminum foil, and then set your metal rack on top of it. There will be quite a bit of fat and syrup dripping down, so cover the surface well in order to avoid a messy clean-up. At the same time, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Next, soak your thick-cut bacon in maple syrup. You don't necessarily want the bacon to be sitting in the syrup forever. There's no need for it to be sopping wet -- you simply want it to be infused with maple flavor. Making sure to leave some space in between the slices, place the bacon on the rack, and sprinkle the slices with brown sugar.

Place your sheet in the middle rack of your oven, and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the bacon gets crispy (from the fat dripping off) and shiny (from the sugar glaze). Pull the sheet out of the oven, and flip the bacon over. Sprinkle the slices with more brown sugar, and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the other side gets crispy and shiny.

When it's done, let the bacon cool on the rack, and then on a plate. You can even place the bacon in the fridge to cool and harden quicker, but you should only do this if you're comfortable seeing a bit of bacon grease in solid form. (I, personally, of course, have no problem with this!)

At the end of the day, this was my final product. Gorgeous, no? And, might I add, absolutely PHENOMENAL-tasting....

Erich was utterly surprised and uberly pleased with the party. And everyone was certainly patting and rubbing their stomachs upon departure. Thanks to Maki for great planning, to Peter for great hosting, and to Jesse for great grilling! Till we dine again! :)

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