We have a fondness for bacon in our house. Okay. We have moved beyond "fondness" and into "passion." For Christmas, I bought my son, Bacon Boy--excuse me! Bacon Man, a new cookbook, Bacon 27/Seven: Recipes for Curing, Smoking, and Eating, by Theresa Gilliam.
Recently, with the explosion of Paleo and other diets trends, bacon has come back into favor with a number of new bacon cookbooks. I was drawn to Bacon 24/Seven because a) the cover looks good enough to eat (You judge books by their covers--admit it!), and, b) the books is laid out with recipes covering the entire day, from Dawn through Dark, covering breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and sweet treats. Bacon Man has recently graduated from college and moved into his own place. He is learning to cook, and so this was the perfect present--a book using his favorite ingredient. He has been coming over one night a week for cooking lessons.
Now when my son and daughter were very young, I imagined rosy scenes from a distant future. My son calling home to say his wife had made Chicken Marsala, but that it wasn't as good as mine. My daughter planning her first Thanksgiving, calling home to get her grandmother's cornbread stuffing recipe.
Instead, twenty years later, my daughter prefers to cook mac and cheese out of a box, and says that she won't ever make Thanksgiving dinner because she's not sticking her hand inside a turkey. And a couple of months ago, I came home from work to discover that my son was waiting to serve me Chicken Marsala he had made all by himself! So I am teaching him how to improve his cooking skills.
"I bet you never thought that I would be the one who wanted to learn to cook," he said to me recently, as we worked our way through Nigella Lawson's Chicken, Mushroom, and Bacon Pies: http://alltheingredients.typepad.com/weblog/2008/02/express-food.html.
When he came over this week, I had chosen to make the Alstation Tart from Bacon 24/Seven. I had a sheet of puff pastry left from the Chicken, Mushroom, and Bacon Pies, and throught it would be an easy next recipe to try. We used:
- 8 slices bacon, thick-cut bulk bacon from the meat counter
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh mozarella pearls, diced
- 1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup diced mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 frozen sheet puff pastry, thawed
- an egg wash made with 1 egg yolk blended with 1 teaspoon of water
I keep bulk bacon in my freezer wrapped in single pieces for flavoring recipes, and clumps of 8 slices togehter for when I dont need to thaw a whole pound. We took one of the clumps of 8 slices and sliced it into 1/2 inch pieces. Bacon Man started cooking those in a skillet, while I took the thawed sheet of puff pastry and rolled it out on a floured surface to a rectangle roughly 10 by 12 inches. Then I put the pastry onto a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet.
After the bacon was almost completely browned, my son sliced the onion and we sauteed the slices in a little of the bacon fat. (The original recipe calls for olive oil, but why waste all that good bacon fat?) When the onions were transluscent, we added the balsamic vinegar (the original recipe called for white wine which I didn't have), stirred them around a bit, and then started to assemple the tart.
First we sprinkled the bits of mozarella pearls over the crust, leaving a one inch border. The original recipe called for creme fraiche which was a) not avalable in my small-town grocery store, and b) not something my son is likely to ever have in his refrigerator. I had the mozarella pearls leftover from something else--he can substitute grsated mozarealla cheese when he makes this again.
Next, we even distributed the bacon and the onions over the pearls, and sprinkled on the grated white cheddar. I cracked black pepper over the top, and we stood admiring our tart. "You know what this tart needs?" my son asked.
"Mushrooms!" I answered. We still had some left from the week before, I quickly diced them. Bacon Man gave them a quick sautee in the pan with a little bit more of the bacon fat, and then we topped off the tart. I painted the one-inch edge of the pastry with the egg wash, and folded it over to make a border. I paited that edge with the egg wash, and slid the baking hseet into the oven, preheated to 400 degrees. 18 minutes later, the edges of the tart were puffed and golden, and the kitchen smelled of bacony-onion goodness. We used a pizza wheel to cut the tart into eight slices, and served it with a crisp green salad with apples and baslsamic vingarette. It was fabulous.
We decided that maybe the recipe every week needs to include bacon!