Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bacon, Paired

Bacon’s smoky, salty kiss has long been liberated from the confines of the breakfast table and has made its way into everything from hearty stews to gooey chocolate chip cookies. Like salt, bacon is also a flavor enhancer that lends a unique earthiness to everything it touches. Okay, let’s be honest – everything it touches. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, everything tastes better with bacon, especially when it come in pairs!

I’m happy to report that Mr. Mixologist shares my fondness for the porky stuff, and he actually suggested we combine forces to create a bacon-infused cocktail to pair with my bacon-studded chocolate chip cookies. On an autumn Sunday destined for a Fort Greene football gathering of Mr. M’s friends, our endeavor began with a trip to Chelsea Markets, where we loaded up on my very favorite bacon from Dickson’s Farmstand Meats. I’ve sung the praises of this butcher before, but trust me, their bacon really is superior to any other I’ve tried. I claim converts. To be honest, and this totally grosses Mr. M out, I actually eat the stuff raw. I just cannot resist! Whenever I’m dicing it up for a canapé, omelet, or even a cookie, I find myself popping little bacon bits like pills. That Sunday, Mr. Mixologist caught me in action and claimed he wouldn’t kiss me till I brushed my teeth. Truth be told, I found a rather persuasive way to convince him otherwise.

With but one pound of bacon in our possession, Mr. M and I found ourselves in his Billyburg pad frying and rendering fat. We used this recipe invented by Don Lee from PDT, to create out-of-this-world bacon-infused bourbon that he later mixed into the best Old Fashioned these lips have ever tasted (see note above: everything really does taste better with bacon!). The infusion process is foolproof, but you need a few hours before serving to let the fat marinate and separate from your bourbon. I suggest doing it overnight and waking up to bacon bourbon for breakfast!

Our bacon bonanza is so easy to prepare it almost feels like cheating. Back in Brooklyn, I fried up bacon strips, then crumbled them into bits for my cookies. I portioned off one ounce of the rendered fat to Mr. Mixologist, and he set to work infusing his hooch in a mason jar. The base of my cookies is actually made from Jacque Torres French Kiss Cookie Mix (which can also be found rather conveniently in Chelsea Markets). I usually don’t endorse boxed foods, but these cookies are simply that good. After all, they come from Mr. Chocolate himself! But of course, I’ve added my own FOOD Maven twist, by substituting three-quarters of the butter called for in his recipe, with room-temperature rendered bacon fat and adding a pound of bacon bits to the batter. Once in the oven, these suckers take less than 20 minutes to puff up, but you can tell when they’re done as soon as the smell coming out of your kitchen starts to make you swoon. But before you actually do faint from chocolate-bacon bliss, make sure you salt your cookies with a dash of fleur de sel while they’re still hot. The salt will stick to the melted chocolate and add just an extra itty bitty flash of briny flavor.

We transported our bacony baked goods and booze over to Mr. M’s best buddy’s house. I’ve cooked for my date’s friends before with less than successful results, but these bacon-studded cookies were a real hit – with Mr. M and his friends. As my man got to stirring, adding rich Grade B maple syrup, Angostura bitters and a naval orange twist to his homemade bacon-infused Maker’s Mark, we swapped each other a cookie for a cocktail and shared a smile at our combined bacon brilliance. Together they (and we) make quite the pair.

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