BACON: THE LOVE AFFAIR CONTINUES

By Marialisa Calta Modified: July 25, 2013 at 2:26 pm •  Published: July 25, 2013
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It was not so many years ago when the idea of putting bacon in, say, a chocolate cupcake would have seemed a tad weird. Nowadays, bacon in desserts is old hat, and a brief online search reveals that it has even made its way into beverages: At baconfreak.com, you'll find recipes for the "Bacon Chocolate Martini" and the "Maple Bacon Donut Shooter" ("the liquid version of the popular maple bacon donut").

The website allrecipes.com boasts "more than 450 trusted bacon recipes." Hostesses pass platters of unadorned strips of cooked bacon along with canapes of caviar and foie gras. Sophisticated urbanites are making like Ma Kettle and saving bacon drippings for everything from frying eggs to roasting potatoes.

Sometimes, however, you just want to eat bacon the old-fashioned way: crisp, with eggs and toast. That's the way Alex Guarnaschelli serves it up in "Old-School Comfort Food." But in the manner of new-school chefs everywhere, she gussies up the bacon a bit, rubbing it with spices first.

The most controversial thing about bacon these days is how to cook it. Some cooks tout the old-fashioned cast-iron skillet, some the grill, some the broiler, some the microwave. But the prevailing wind seems to be shifting toward the oven method.

Baking your bacon has several advantages: It frees the stovetop for cooking other dishes (like eggs over-easy and home fries); it allows you to cook a large quantity at one time; it requires less vigilance; and, most important, it generally results in perfectly cooked bacon.

The usual method of baking bacon is to preheat the oven to 350 degrees, line a jelly-roll pan (or other rimmed baking sheet) with foil, and either place the bacon in a single, non-overlapping layer directly on the foil or on a rack (such as a broiler pan). The bacon is baked for 15 to 25 minutes or until crisp.

Guarnaschelli -- the daughter of legendary cookbook editor Maria Guarnaschelli, a TV personality and the executive chef of two New York City restaurants -- adds another step to the oven method. She tops the bacon with a second piece of foil and plops a baking sheet on it to flatten it and ensure that it cooks up "super crisp."

While you're playing with bacon, consider other spice combinations as well. Try brushing it with maple syrup and dusting with ground cardamom, or sprinkling lightly with cayenne pepper. Brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg make a delicious coating. Try your favorite barbecue rub or Cajun spice mix, or coat in bottled teriyaki sauce and brown sugar. But remember, the more sugar you put on the bacon, the quicker it will burn.

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