Sunday, December 22, 2013

December 22, 2013 Drone Wars in the News and Review of #1 and #2 in CR

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues this week just a few days before Christmas.

My older son Sam is thankfully home. What do you think he wanted to eat after nearly six months (college semester abroad) in India?  Steak and brussels sprouts with BACON!  I was happy to oblige.  Very Christmas-y, Holiday-ish dish.

I used the Consumer Reports #1 rated bacon in making this dish (review below): Kirkland smoked bacon.  Great stuff at a terrific price.

The recipe for this is simple.  Steam the sprouts until bright green (~5 minutes).  Crumble cooked bacon. Drain the sprouts and cut them in half.  Heat some bacon fat in a pan, then throw in the sprouts and bacon.  Add minced garlic during the last minute or two (stronger garlic flavor happens with the shortest cooking time, so make sure to add the minced garlic late in the cooking cycle), then salt and pepper to taste.   A key to this is to heat the pan and keep it hot, so the sprouts get crispy.  Easy, delicious.

BACON IN THE NEWS this week contains a few interesting stories.

Drone Wars:  A fellow in San Francisco has taken the idea of a drone to new heights.  He's developed a drone that contains mistletoe.  Obviously, this is only useful if one knows what it is carrying - if I saw 'twigs' carried by a helicopter drone, the first thing I'd think is that it brushed against a tree and was flying around randomly.  I wouldn't be compelled to grab the nearest female and plant a wet one on her.  But that's just me.  I do like a major competitor of this silly aircraft: THE  BACON DRONE.

A gentleman in the United States has created, and test flown, this breakfast delivery mechanism.  He claims that it will kick the mistletoe's butt and dominate the skies.  Check out the story.  At the end of the 'news story' on the NBC Technology News page (link above), they ask the reader to take a poll. I concur with its results.

Another couple has decided to get married at a Bacon Fest.  This is becoming boring. Brought to you by Huff Po, always good for some bacon news.

Another recipe worth trying: Broccoli with bacon and chestnuts.  A great addition to your Christmas/holiday feast, if you're cooking.  Seattle Times article.

ON TO THE BACON.  Today, I'm doing a cook-off "bacon-off" between the #1 and #2 bacons, as rated by Consumer Reports: 
Kirkland vs. Oscar Mayer Thick Cut

Here's the Kirkland Pork Smoked Bacon I used in the brussels sprouts recipe.  Nice smokey aroma upon opening the package.  Looks good cold in the pan, and you can see the progression from cold, to cooking, to completed, in the photo below.  Due to my haste, I didn't measure the bacon fat, nor weigh the bacon pre- or post-cooking. Outstanding classic flavor, strong crispness, and some good succulent spots.  The bacon cooked up flat, which is somewhat unusual; most of the time it's wavy - the prototypical slice of cooked bacon.  The flatness seems kind of odd, and it finished this way before.  I wonder what they do to their pigs to avoid the famous "bacon neck" syndrome?  Some shrinkage during and after cooking, but not at all excessive, and it did seem to produce less bacon grease.  No complaints on this one and highly recommended!  Certainly the price is right.  You can buy it in bulk and freeze it.

Next, I prepared the #1 most highly rated bacon in Consumer Reports:  Oscar Mayer Thick Cut Smoked. It weighed in at 15.9 ounces; I was gypped 0.1 ounces of bacon.  The aroma of the cool bacon was a faint, pleasant scent of applewood.  This bacon cooked up very, very quickly - so quickly, in fact, that some of the pieces burned.  This obviously will affect the crispness.  It also had high splatter, which is mitigated by wearing The Pit Mitt - a great investment for any cook. 

This bacon had a strong tendency to stick to the pan and it was difficult to scrape up and flip properly.  But it looked and smelled terrific as it sizzled away.  Look at the bacon waves in this shot:

I give it high ratings: a 4 in flavor, 4 in crispness and a 3.5 in succulence.  Overall, it's a great bacon and a great buy.  I rate it in ease of cooking as a 2 out of 5, however - check out how it crumbled.  Highly Recommended!

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it.  Next week:  A recap of the bacon I reviewed in 2013!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

December 15, 2013: At the Army/Navy game, and a taste of Jones Dairy Farm bacon

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues with an abbreviated version this week.

BREAKFAST on Friday at Walker Brothers restaurant in Highland Park, IL was a treat.  Their omelettes are excellent - I had the "meat lovers" and a side of bacon.  The bacon they serve is from Jones Dairy Farm in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin .

The bacon was outstanding, and I'll be ordering some up for home cooking.  Great texture, some succulence, but excellent flavor.

Didn't have much opportunity for bacon cooking here in Philadelphia for the Army/Navy football rivalry.  Navy cooked Army's bacon again - very disappointing.

See you next week!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

December 8, 2013: More Expensive isn't Necessarily Better but Bacon Can Extend Your Life

MY LIFE WITH BACON CONTINUES with a short post this week.  New news that bacon actually has live extension qualities (for those of you who are concerned for my health).  And I review a highly recommended web purveyor of bacon from New Hampshire and a pedestrian bacon from Jewel supermarkets.

BACON IN THE NEWS.  The only note worthy of mention this week is a news article that bacon is healthy and can extend your life.  I can't find the link right now, but trust me on this.

AUTHENTICO in Lake Forest is a relatively new Mexican restaurant here in Lake Forest.  A cool place that makes excellent Margaritas. They have a bacon wrapped shrimp dish that is awesome.  The guacamole sauce is a little bit sweet, but the smokiness of the bacon combined with perfectly cooked shrimp is always an excellent combination.  From their menu:

Camarones Envueltos en Tocino: 

Four grilled shrimp wrapped in jalapeƱo bacon, avocado salsa, roasted poblano white wine sauce

(gluten free)

On to the BACON BACON-OFF this week.


North Country Smokehouse is Claremont, New Hampshire.  It was suggested to me by some of my New England friends that I order some bacon from them.  The website talks about three generations of smoked meat purveyors and their great heritage.  It sounds great, so I ordered some bacon of the month from them.  I got a nicely packaged box with still-cold bacon, so I tested it today.  Obviously it was more expensive than store-bought.

The package label said 12 ounces, and that's what the gross weight was.  After cooking, it weighed in at 4.6 ounces and produced a scant 25 ml of rendered fat.

The bacon had an incredible smokey aroma out of the package, and as you can see, the color palette of dark reddish-browns was beautiful. The bacon clearly had more protein than most, and cooked very quietly as a result.  Not sure I like quiet cooking bacon.  The taste test results were a little disappointing. It was neither crispy nor chewy (2 out of 5) and not very succulent (average: 2.5)  The bacon did have a nice taste, complex yet without aftertaste or greasiness.  I'd rate the flavor 3 out of 5.  It was good, but not great, and I have three other packages to test in the coming weeks.  You can see the uncooked-cooking-cooked picture below.

Next, I tried a value line from Jewel Osco, called the "Market Pantry Naturally Hardwood Smoked".  Sixteen ounces on the label, and 16 oz is what I got.  Post cooking it weighed in at 5.0 ounces and produced a large 130 ml of rendered fat.  Obviously a much fatter choice than the North Country Smokehouse.

There was no pre-cooking odor AT ALL.  The bacon was very pink - just like a little piggy, as you can see from the picture.  LOTS of snap-crackle-pop and I thought someone poured some loud Rice Krispies next to me.  It did crisp up nicely; 3 out of 5.  Had nicely popping fat areas; succulence 3/5.  And the flavor, while different than the North Country, was also an equivalent 3.

The Jewel bacon is everyday fare.  The North Country Smokehouse could be for special occasions.  But I'm not seeing the value.  We'll see with the next batch!

Until next weekend, when I'm in Philadelphia to see Army beat the Hell out of Navy.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

December 1, 2013: Thanksgiving Bacon Extravaganza and Rick's smoked bacon from The Daily Grind

MY LIFE WITH BACON continues with a Thanksgiving smorgasbord of bacon, including some Turkey silliness, and a great Bacon Drink at the Signature Room.

 BACON IN THE NEWS for Thanksgiving was rather quiet.  There were plenty of stories about bacon and turkey; the silliest was this: Bacon-wrapped Turkey.  Now, I'm certainly a lover of bacon, but it's just plain silly.  Watch the video and decide for yourself.  While I wouldn't make it for the family, I might just try it with a turkey breast...

APPLES ON HORSEBACK from Food & Wine magazine was a highlight of our Thanksgiving.  The recipe is pretty straightforward: Pink Lady apples, thin slices of pancetta ('Italian bacon' from Mariano's Supermarket), Manchego cheese, and rosemary sprigs.   See the recipe here.  GREAT tasting and an absolute re-do.  Picture above.

ON SATURDAY, Debbie's family tradition of a family reunion / Thanksgiving redux had us hosting a full day including an architectural tour in Chicago, a lot of walking, and a stupendous dinner.  I won't recap the personal details, except to mention that we stopped at Burke's Bacon Bar on Rush street.  I've been meaning to make this trip for a long time.  The bacon bar is a small, nondescript take-out joint with phenomenal bacon.  We grabbed several bacon flights, which included some Tennessee bacon, Nueske's bacon, as well as a Ghost Pepper Infused bacon, which sent everyone into orbit.  Here are three good looking kids about to partake.

OUR NEXT STOP WAS A TREAT.  We headed up to the 96th floor of The Hancock building; our elevator friend Darleen was kind enough to give our group of 16 priority treatment.  We grabbed a great seating area and ordered cocktails.  Among them was the below Bacon Manhattan, which consisted of Jim Beam Maple bourbon, bacon infused Buttershots liquer and crispy bacon.  Scrumptious.  Unfortunately our waitress Nina couldn't find out where the bacon came from, but it was spectacular, along with the views!

ON TO THE BACON OF THE WEEK!  This week, I grabbed a pound-and-a-half of butcher-smoked bacon from Rick at The Daily Grind in Highwood, IL.  His website appears to be down (and it might come back up shortly), but the Yelp site is helpful, with good reviews.

Rick sliced the bacon thickly; this obviously reduces the crispness; next time we'll get it a lot thinner.  It smelled and looked fantastic.  Here are some shots of pre-cooking, cooking, and post cooking.

Wow, this bacon was great!  The crisp rating is only 1, due to the thickness.  Succulence rating of 2, due again to the cut; however, flavor was a solid 4 out of 5.  Fantastic.  Enjoy, and we'll see you next week!