Bacon adds sizzling flavor

By Chef Dez | May 08, 2013

For those of you who have not yet heard, bacon is not just a breakfast side dish.

Although greatly feared by vegetarians and dieters alike, bacon is a wonderfully versatile addition to numerous recipes for increased flavor complexity.

The versatility I’m referring to extends further than the use of the rendered fat to fry your eggs in. The inclusion of bacon in recipes has matured greatly from those archaic past uses.

Salads are a great example of this. Heaven forbid that the first thing entering your mind is “simulated bacon flavored bits” reminiscent of antiquated salad bars. True flavor comes from real genuine bacon strips fried until crispy and crumbled.

Many salads today that are garnished with bacon are often complimented with other contrasting flavors such as fresh fruit and berries, for example.

Even warm dressings can be made with the leftover bacon fat in place of the oil. Just add an acidic ingredient such as wine vinegar, and other supporting flavors, to capture the essence of a classic dressing.

Many soups are also improved with the inclusion of bacon. The depth of flavor gained by this simple addition is incredible, as long as moderation is practiced. A complimenting flavor should always be in the background, and never the main attraction, of a dish.

The rendered fat can also be utilized in the making of a thickening roux if suitable. A roux (pronounced “roo”) is a mixture of equal parts of fat and flour by weight used to thicken soups or sauces.

However, the incorporation of bacon is definitely not limited to just salads and soups, as it can be included in almost any savory recipe.

Most of the bacon that we purchase from our butcher, or pre-sliced in 500g packages, is obtained from the belly of the pig. This can be identified by the considerable amount of fat content. Back bacon however is fairly lean and meaty, and is aptly named from its origin.

All bacon is quite salty as it is always salt cured or brined and usually smoked. Thus the practice of seasoning a dish that incorporates bacon should be mostly reserved until the end of the cooking process.

For years, bacon has also been used in protecting other meats from drying out during the cooking process.

Lean meats and sometimes seafood are wrapped in a bacon barrier prior to cooking. The fatty consistency is perfect for supplying enough juices to keep these main entrées moist and flavorful.

There are obvious health concerns to an over abundant consumption of bacon in our daily diets, and controlled temperance should be practiced.

This being said, Elvis Presley’s favorite accompanying sauce with his biscuits was “red-eye gravy.” This is made by adding a cup of black coffee to the rendered fat from a pound of bacon.

Dear Chef Dez,

I have come across a chicken recipe that lists “lardons” as one of the ingredients, can you tell me what this is?

-Craig C.

Abbotsford, BC

Dear Craig,

Lardons is a French culinary term for bacon that has been diced, blanched and fried. The blanching process is performed to partially precook the bacon and to eliminate some of the fat content before adding it to a recipe.

Send your food/cooking questions to dez@chefdez.com or P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, BC V2T 6R4. Chef Dez is a food columnist, culinary instructor and cookbook author. Visit him at www.chefdez.com.

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