Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Week 9: Candied Bacon Lollipops

Recently, my brother shared with me this recipe for candied bacon lollipops, a gem he found in a recent issue of Wine Spectator, of all places. It was probably his passive-aggressive way of telling me that next time I visit, I need to bring a slab of our homemade bacon so that we can test this recipe. But I am not planning a visit any time soon, and I just cannot wait. I mean, really, who can resist a recipe like this? It cannot languish in my recipe pile, hidden away and forgotten. No, it must be tried….now.

Admittedly, I am making this in the morning, when in fact it is designed as a cocktail bite. But bacon of any kind is good in the morning, and I can tell you that not one person in my house is complaining about the hour these are being served. If I am lucky, we might have a few left to have tonight with a cold beer or maybe a glass of wine. (Given that this appeared in a wine magazine, I wonder what I should pair with these lollipops. Any suggestions?)

I was hesitant to use 2 1/2 pounds of bacon for only 20-25 lollipops. Not only did that seem like a lot of bacon, I thought that a 1” x 1” square might be on the large side. So I chose to make the pieces a bit smaller, which yielded a larger quantity. Some shrinkage does occur, so use your judgment on the size. (You can also halve this recipe if you are not serving a crowd – rule of thumb is half as much sugar as bacon. So if you are using 1 pound bacon, use 1/2 cup sugar.)

In addition to adjusting the size, I made a few other small adjustments to the recipe: (1) When tossing bacon pieces with the sugar, you will notice that not a lot sticks. I found that by putting a bit of the excess sugar in my palm and squeezing it around the bacon piece a few times, I could get more to adhere, meaning less was scattered willy nilly around the pan. (2) Placing bacon pieces closer together and toward center of pan helps reduce the amount of burning sugar, some of which is inevitable around the edge of the pan.  (3) After the pan has been out of the oven for one minute, remove bacon pieces from silicone mat with tongs and turn bottom side up on wax paper. If you leave the bacon pieces on the mat for the full 5 minutes to cool, the sugar starts to set up and adhere to the bacon in strange shapes, making for an unpleasant-looking appetizer.  

Note: I think you could cut the bacon pieces, coat it and stick the pan in the fridge until you are ready to cook them, making it a very easy party food.

Now to the taste test. As expected, these were a big hit with everyone who tried them. I also found them extremely addictive. I literally had to box up half the pieces and put them in the refrigerator for fear I might eat them all. The lollipops are sweet and salty, soft and crunchy all at the same time. Using a good quality, smoky bacon will yield the best result. You want some good fat in there so the softness contrasts with the chewy bacon and crispy sugar coat.

Considering how little time these took, the ease of cooking, and the resulting taste, this recipe is a winner. (Thank you Michael. I promise to make some for you next time we are together.) 

UPDATE 2/27/14: Said brother has recommended a "crisp Sauvignon Blanc" to pair with this awesome appetizer.

Candied Bacon Lollipops
2 1/2 pounds good quality slab bacon, skin off
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
wooden skewers (4-5 inches long)

Preheat oven to 400° F. Place a silicone baking mat on a rimmed baking sheet.

Cut the bacon into 1-inch (or smaller) cubes, bearing in mind that pieces should be large enough to skewer, but small enough to be consumed in a single bite. Some shrinkage will occur.

Combine the bacon and sugar in a large bowl and toss to coat the surface of the bacon with the sugar (there will be excess sugar). Remove one piece at a time, bringing with it a bit of excess sugar and squeeze your hand open and closed a few times to help the sugar adhere to the cube. Place on silicone baking mat. Repeat until all bacon cubes are coated. Pat any leftover sugar on cubes. Note: I recommend starting in the center, placing them 1” apart. By keeping them away from the edges of the pan and closer together, there is less likely to be burning sugar.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and check after 10 minutes. The bacon should be cooking, and the sugar melted and caramelizing with the bacon fat. If it looks too spread out, or like it is burning at the edges, use a spatula to move the bacon pieces and excess sugar to the middle of the pan. Cook until done, about 3 to 6 minutes more.

Remove from the oven and let cool one minute before removing with tongs to a piece of wax paper. Cool for another 3-4 minutes before skewering and serving.

Serves: 10-15 people

No comments: