Food, Lifestyle

Bringing home the bacon

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is bacon and cheese quiche. Find the recipe below.

By ROSALIE HARRINGTON

On a recent edition of “Good Morning America,” the host received a bouquet of skewers wrapped with “flowers” of bacon, rolled to look like roses for Valentine’s Day.

Personally, I would prefer a bouquet of fresh flowers, but bacon has been taking center stage the past few years. Before the health aficionados and maybe the government decided that animal fat was out, bacon was always part of the morning routine. Breakfast sandwiches with bacon, eggs, cheese and arugula is a Sunday morning favorite at our house. When daughter Kathy left to go back to Florida, her dad made her a BLT to eat on the plane and she was happy.

And when you go to a breakfast place, it’s still expected that you want bacon with your eggs and home fries. For years, my kids started their day with a breakfast of bacon and eggs and toast. Once in a while it was fried baloney, but mostly bacon.

In recent years, the fascination with bacon has gotten silly, with chefs experimenting with bacon-flavored ice cream and blending that divine sweet, smoky flavor with chocolate and other delectable desserts. It was an experiment — a momentary buzz creator — but I think it has run its course.

Now that my husband is mostly vegetarian, I don’t buy bacon as often as I used to, but I love its versatility, even in dishes built around vegetables. I find it helpful to divide the bacon into small packets with several rashes of bacon in each one.  They freeze nicely.

Earlier in the week, I made quiche for breakfast, lined with a few rashes of cooked bacon along with chunks of mozzarella. I brushed a little Dijon mustard on my pastry (which I keep rolled out in pie tins in the freezer as well) before filling it with beaten eggs, cheese and milk and a small grating of nutmeg. As it was baking, it was the aroma from that small amount of bacon that filled the kitchen. I made a nice pot of minestrone on one of our recent snowy days, starting the soup with several rashes of cut-up bacon. Again, the bacon’s smokiness makes for a very appealing aroma.  

I like to start my minestrone with a few rashes of chopped bacon to give the broth a smoky flavor. If your vegetarian is as flexible as mine is (Todd says it’s a guide to healthy eating he wanted, not a new religion), it also works well to incorporate small amounts of leftovers that have accumulated in the fridge like meatloaf or marinara sauce and add those after your veggies are tender in the minestrone. Certain items like string beans and cabbage take little time, so they are the last to hit the pot after the carrot and any root veggies have become slightly tender.  

Another dish that depends on small amounts of bacon to make it sparkle is the quick and delicious Pasta Amatriciana, easy to whip up for a tasty lunch. The sauce is made with a half cup each of chopped bacon and red onion sauteed for a few minutes and four or five chopped fresh tomatoes (or canned) simmered in the pan for 15 minutes. Spoon the sauce over a hearty pasta like ziti, with chopped fresh basil sprinkled on top.   

Another delicious pasta dish in which bacon stars is Pasta Carbonara. Chopped bacon is sauteed with a little chopped garlic or onion and a handful of flat leaf parsley. Place a platter that can take the heat over the pasta pot as you cook it and then beat five egg yolks with a half cup of grated Parmesan and a quarter cup of heated cream and immediately toss with drained pasta and some more grated cheese like Parmesan or Pecorino Romano. The rich, sticky experience is wonderful when you get it right.

My Mississippi grandmommy raised her own pigs and one, “Salami,” became a favorite — when he was still alive. As much as I like to use bacon in my cooking, when it came time to slaughter my pet pig I was happy to not be around. I felt the same way about the rabbits that my Nono raised in a hutch in the back of the house in Beachmont. Nono was proud of his rabbit stew with polenta and grandmommy’s grits, buttermilk biscuits and sausages and bacon were some of the most delicious memories of my childhood. I would have been quite happy had my favorite animals not be part of the family production line, however.

Here’s a recipe that uses bacon to great effect.


Bacon and Cheese Quiche (Quiche Lorraine)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  

Line a pie tin with pastry and bake for 5 minutes, piercing the pastry all over with a fork.

Cook 5 strips of bacon until nice and crisp. Drain on paper towel to remove excess fat.

Brush pastry with 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard.

Crumble the bacon and 1 cup of grated Swiss or cheddar cheese over the inside of the pastry.  

In a bowl, combine 4 eggs and 1 cup each of cream and milk, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Whisk to combine ingredients.  

Pour this mixture slowly into the pie tin. Place on a cookie sheet to collect any overflow.

Bake for 15 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 10 minutes more or until the pastry is a nice golden color.

I make a 9-inch quiche, which serves us nicely at breakfast or brunch and later in the week for breakfast with a salad or soup.

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