It's bacon! At least it started out that way...
I picked up some thick cut applewood smoked bacon at the market the other day with the intention of testing Alton Brown's praline bacon recipe featured in the Ballad of Salty and Sweet episode of Good Eats. I usually pour maple syrup on my breakfast sausage, so this didn't seem like too much of a jump for me, though I was curious to find out how sweet it would be in the end. The recipe is simple enough and preparation is straightforward, but I had three things working against me: Amish bread, Heineken, and Anthony Bourdain.
Let me explain...
Amish bread is akin to a chain letter in the form of a bread starter. You are given a plastic bag of the starter and have to care for it for 10 days, then you get two loaves of sweet bread and get to pass on three portions of start to friends. How does this relate to praline bacon you ask? Well, we used all of the chopped pecans for the numerous loaves of that darn bread!
I cranked up the oven to 400 and laid out the bacon on a cooling rack topped baking sheet. Alton said 30-35 minutes, so I set the timer to 30. This is where things started to go downhill. Oven came to temp, bacon rack went in, I poured myself a Heineken and sat down to watch a Bourdain episode I had on the DVR. Fifteen minutes later the smell of bacon was wafting into the living room; adding to the atmosphere of Chinese dumplings on TV. 15 more minutes flew by and the timer went off. Uh oh! The bacon was a bit overdone with more oven time to go!
I added the brown sugar and substituted the missing pecans with chopped hazelnuts and tossed the lot back into the oven for a few minutes. It was not enough to fully melt the sugar, but the ends of the bacon were already getting burnt. Took the rack out and let the strips cool for 10 minutes.
Not quite ready for Hollywood
So, how did it taste? Awesome! Even with the bacon being overdone and chunks of brown sugar falling off, the flavors still melded together. It reminded me of the nice outer crust on a Honeybaked ham, but with a more intense molasses flavor. The hazelnuts sufficed, but I believe pecans would add even more to the complex flavor. I didn't get too much of the salty-sweet essence, though cutting back on the amount of sugar mixture would allow the bacon to play a more prominent role in the flavor. As Alton suggested, I crumbled some up on a bowl of ice cream and finished watching No Reservations.
Lessons learned for next time:
1: Hide your ingredients, but always be ready to find a quick substitute.
2: Watch your bacon in the oven as you would in a pan, check after 20 minutes and keep an eye on it.
3: Get your bacon sliced very thick if you can.
4: Bacon makes everything better, but you can even make bacon better.