Bringing home the bacon
More than just Homer Simpson's best friend, it's also one of the breakfast ingredients of choice for flavour raiders the world over. In recent years, bacon has truly enjoyed a renaissance of sorts. Bacon-themed cookbooks-what do you mean you don't yet own Seduced by Bacon by Joanna Pruess?-vie with bacon cooking videos on YouTube for attention, and at farmer's markets and gourmet delicatessens, 'green higher welfare' bacon that's been dry-cured rather than smoked and ergo unadulterated by the heart-stopping ills of the commercial variety is veritably flying off the shelves. A tsunami of bacon-centric recipes on the Internet includes the rather unexpected bacon chocolate chip cookie and blackened sweet corn with chanterelles and bacon.
"I don't think it's strange at all. The saltiness of bacon really counteracts the richness of a lot of desserts and I think it works brilliantly." -- Chef dan hong
Restaurateurs too have fallen prey to the myriad joys of this cured meat, and the key rule appears to be that there's no such thing as excess. The single unifying factor of the recent deluge of bacon dishes appears to be the unabashed outlandishness of them all, and with bacon now penetrating the hallowed bastions of the dessert arena, all bets are, apparently, off. Chef Dan Hong from Ms G in Sydney serves a not-for-the-faint-of-heart Stoner's Delight that encompasses doughnut ice cream, peanut butter dulce de leche, potato chips, a slice of Mars bar, raspberry jam, banana fritters and candied bacon, saying "I don't think it's strange at all. The saltiness of bacon really counteracts the richness of a lot of desserts and I think it works brilliantly."
Indeed, bacon and dessert-the utterly preposterous gastronomic coupling equivalent to Shrek marrying Tinkerbell-has taken off in ways unimaginable. In Australia, where the predilection for bacon is so pronounced that there is (of course!) a national Australian Bacon Week, chefs like Adriano Zumbo showcase bacon macarons, and dishes like maple and cinnamon brulêe with crisp bacon shards are just some of the many highlights of the event. And Islamic country or not, Malaysia has also dived headlong into the ongoing mania for bacon desserts. At Brotzeit, which we reasonably assume is the restaurant that, if they dreamt at all, pigs would have nightmares about, the fervour for pork has been taken to a whole new level. Their signature bacon dessert features crispy bacon encased in dark chocolate that's then paired with orange liqueur-steeped strawberries, lemon pepper syrup, and white chocolate mousse. The flavour profile is concomitantly sweet, savoury, sour, and bitter, and it's a taste sensation that might initially appear bizarre but quickly insinuates itself upon your palate.
At La Cafe Memoire TTDI, a nutty bacon sundae with calamansi sorbet, crunchy caramelised mixed nuts, vanilla ice cream and supremely crispy bacon has been touted as the star of the show, while Brewyard in SS15 in Subang Jaya serves its homegrown version of a bacon dessert comprising warm salted caramel, beef bacon bits, and vanilla ice cream on a stack of pancakes that unhappily err on the side of being ponderous but will nevertheless be prodigiously ordered just because it, err, features bacon.
The reality is, unless you're a dyed in the wool vegan-or Food and Wine editor-in-chief Dana Cowin, who churlishly named bacon as one of her four most deplored food trends on a recent season of Top Chef-preaching about the joys of bacon is like trying to convert the already converted. It doesn't take a three Michelin-hatted chef to know that virtually anything can be improved with bacon. So go on, be adventurous. Yield to your wild side and conjure forth some unorthodox but delicious bacon dishes. No longer just the faithful partner of eggs and potatoes, bacon is ready to step into the spotlight and to be anyone's Kim Kardashian. Don't believe me? Then just ask any of the eleven million punters who 'liked' bacon's Facebook page.
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