Guest blog courtesy of Joel Danto and Bacon.
December 4th was a very momentous day. You may be wondering, just as my people do during Passover, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Well, friendos, prepare to be shocked and possibly appalled, as I have done something completely reprehensible. I…ate…bacon. And I didn’t just eat bacon, I threw a BACON BASH — complete with a six course menu. Yes, if it existed, I would probably be going to Jewish Hell, which likely consists of strapping me to a chair and making me watch Joan Rivers television shows on repeat with a bagel, cream cheese and lox slightly out of reach. Hopefully this is a Hell that few will ever have to experience.
So how did this bacon bash nonsense come to be? Unvegan.com’s expert food blogger, Zacku, decided to buy me The Guide to Better Bacon from Zingerman Deli’s Ari Weinzweig (who will also probably be going to my special Jewish Hell). This was a difficult gift to accept for a few reasons. Growing up in a Jewish household and going to a Jewish day school for 8-years, it was a bit inappropriate to ever eat the sinful swine. As such, I was baconless as a child and continued avoiding the meat only because it was something I never did and felt no need to explore. However, after reading a bit of the book, realizing I don’t keep kosher and often break the Kosher rules of Kashrut (eating shellfish, eating milk and meat together, etc.), and talking about the forbidden meat with several Jews who enjoy it thoroughly, I decided to throw myself in…full force.
I’ll admit it, my roommate Danny and I are Food Network junkies. After watching countless hours of Iron Chef America and Top Chef, we like to fancy ourselves expert amateur chefs. Using our self-proclaimed expertise we decided the only proper way to explore bacon was to go crazy and try cooking dishes that were interesting and different. The results were the six following dishes:
1. Bacon Hash on Crostini
2. Bacon Wrapped Dates
3. Bacon Wrapped Plantains w/ Mustard Sauce
4. Bacon Wrapped Scallops w/ Brie Sauce and Fried Sage
5. Bacon Candy
6. Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies
Planning this bash was no easy feat and required several days of preparation and an entire cooking schedule for party day. After reading the book I decided on three different bacons to import from around the country. These were Benton’s smoked country bacon, Nueske’s smoked bacon, and Broadbent’s hickory smoked bacon. They all had a certain flavor and history that made them most appealing for my initial foray into bacon. Mind you these aren’t your normal types of bacon, they are the elite bacons, procurable only through online retailers and select gourmet shops. With the menu set, the guest list confirmed at about 35 people (oy!), the cooking supplies bought, I set out to order 12.5 pounds of bacon.
Thursday was by far the most intensive cooking day as two sous chefs (Danny and Gaby) and I spent dedicated the hours of 7 PM to 2:30 AM to prepping the dates, plantains, hash, candy, and cookies. Friday was still intense, but much more focused (thanks to my nerdy schedule). Since everything had to be out at a certain time and different dishes had different cook times and preparations, it was a bit of a madhouse in the kitchen. Thankfully several people helped out, even sous chef Zacku helped when he wasn’t busy snapping photos or shmoozing the guests.
1. Bacon Hash – The hash turned out like nothing we had expected, it being a bit mushy/creamy and all. I initially intended it to be finely chopped and more bacon laden but alas, the recipe I had didn’t provide much in that area. Being the only dish with a vegetable in it also scared us. Despite our wariness toward the dish (I thought we might crash and burn before the party barely got started) it was definitely a favorite and several people told me they enjoyed it the best…phew!
2. Bacon Wrapped Dates – Gaby spent the entire evening removing pits from the dates, stuffing them with almond ricotta and wrapping them with bacon. The recipe called for 50 dates, by night’s end, there were at least 100. And readers, it was well needed, those dates got eaten so quickly you wouldn’t even know I took them out of the oven. People raved! In fact, one raver came up to me and told me if I wasn’t so busy at the moment they’d ravage me on the spot. Good thing that didn’t happen. First off, this was a dude, but more importantly it would have thrown my entire schedule off.
3. Bacon Wrapped Plantains – These guys were tricky to plate but they looked beautiful (pre-cooking). In the future I’d prefer the plantains to be a bit more ripe and the mustard to be a bit less intense, but they were fun to prepare. I’d recommend putting toothpicks through the wrapped plantains because the bacon will naturally curl off the plantain if not properly attached.
4. Bacon Wrapped Scallops – The scallops were by far the hardest thing to cook but it’s a dish that after you’ve done it once you’re a pro. I got 5 pounds of scallops from the Costco Seafood Road Show (which is a great place to get fresh seafood, trust me, I did lots of research). After pre-cooking the bacon, Danny wrapped the scallops and then I sauteed them to a golden brown sear. Danny made the brie sauce as I sauteed the sage for garnish. It was labor intensive but I think it was the best dish of the evening and the one which broke the most laws of kashrut — bacon (pig), scallops (shellfish), brie sauce (milk and meat), eating with your hands (just a general no-no) – all in one delicious hell-bent bite!
5. Bacon Candy – I kid you not, as soon as I put the bacon candy on the table it was gone. Good thing I didn’t serve everyone the first batch I made, which when Danny taste tested he immediately spit out. My only regrets are that I didn’t get a chance to try it and didn’t make enough. Note to all, do not burn the sugar! [As a side note, The Unvegan himself tried the bacon candy and loved it.]
6. Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies – I’d say the bacon chocolate chip cookies was the most successful dish across the board. They were soft, chewy, and had a hint of salt from the bacon to make them extra tasty. Oddly enough, people started to dip the cookies in the brie sauce (yuck?), yet it became an unlikely fad. I even tried it and I have to say, it was tasty. Like a bizarro-world version of dipping cookies in milk.
Without a doubt, this was the most successful party I have ever thrown. People were so excited to come, sheerly on concept alone. So many compliments on the cooking and such a good group of people to share my bacon virginity with. I guess it’s true, people LOVE bacon and you know what, I agree, bacon is damn good. Be it crispy or chewy, I will forever be a fan. It’s even good in a martini! My friend Dave, a fellow bacon fanatic, had brought his own version of a Bacon Manhattan for everyone to try and it was