Bacon

Josh Keown>

If we extend the logic that sausage is one of the most popular pizza toppings and that bacon is a pork product, then there’s no good reason why bacon shouldn’t be pursued with more vigor when an array of pizza toppings are menu listed. However, bacon can also play an important flavor role in pasta dishes, sprinkled on salads, and used effectively in sandwiches, so if you are don’t have bacon in your restaurant, it’s time you started bringing home the bacon.

Bacon, as we know it, the sliced strips that we love with eggs, has some very close relatives that need to be recognized. For example, Canadian bacon (it’s closer to ham than bacon –– lean and slightly sweet –– but it is a pork product) and pancetta. Pancetta (pahn CHEH-tah) is Italian bacon that is cured (but not smoked the way American bacon is) with salt, pepper and spices.

So when we consider the range of possibilities above, the options for expanding the flavor profile of pizza, pasta, salads and sandwiches are virtually endless.

Here are a couple of tasty tidbits relative to pancetta. If you have a BLT on your menu, why not try a PLT (pancetta, lettuce, tomato)? Simple sauté thin slices of pancetta (cut off the roll, since pancetta usually comes rolled), until just heated through and beginning to crisp up. And I will always use pancetta when making spaghetti carbonara because of its deeper flavor and it is less fatty than regular bacon.

While I am high on pancetta, there are tons of ways that regular bacon can be used and here are a few tips on how to get it right. Generally, the only time I sauté bacon is when I want some fat that I need to incorporate into a particular dish. Most other times, I use a microwave oven to prep bacon. To microwave, use a microwave safe plate and sandwich strips of bacon between layers of paper toweling. I can prep a whole lot of bacon in a very short time using a microwave oven, aAnd I can control the crispiness a lot easier using the microwave.

Of course, you can lay strips of bacon on a sheet pan and cook it in the oven (conveyor or deck, it doesn’t matter). Watch it, though, because the fat it throws off can be quite a lot. I know some restaurants that deep-dry strips of bacon. This causes the bacon to curl and get very crispy, but this method works great for crumbles to use on a salad or even as a pizza topping.

I know this may sound elementary, but you simply cannot use raw bacon as a pizza topping (it won’t cook right, and it throws off too much fat). Can you use Canadian bacon as a topping without first cooking it? Yes, but I like to dice it or cut it into chips (more coverage, less curling) and broadcast it over the pizza.

Also on the subject of Canadian bacon, there is still a great market for a Hawaiian pizza, which uses chunks of pineapple and ham, but I like to replace the ham with Canadian bacon as a topping. Here’s are a couple of recipes that are as simple as it gets.
The beauty of this pizza is the sweet and sour flavor profile. Also, this pizza works with any number of cheeses. I use provolone to enhance the smokiness. However, a blend of mozzarella works just fine. As does Asiago or fontina cheeses.

Hawaiian Pizza
Yield: One 14-inch pizza

One 14-inch pizza shell
8 ounces ground tomatoes or pizza sauce
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 ounces shredded provolone
½ cup diced Canadian bacon
6 ounces pineapple tidbits or chunks

Spread the sauce over the pizza shell. Sprinkle on the red pepper flakes. Add the provolone, then the bacon, followed by the pineapple. Bake and serve.

Potato, Bacon & Provolone Pizza

One 14-inch pizza shell
Yield: One 14-inch pizza
3/4 pound red skin potatoes sliced almost paper thin (about 35 slices)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Rosemary
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
6 strips bacon, cooked crisp and coarsely chopped
5 ounces shredded provolone

In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the olive oil, garlic and rosemary
Arrange the slices of potatoes on the pizza crust in a circle, working toward the center, overlapping the slices.

Sprinkle the parmesan over the potatoes. Sprinkle on the bacon. Add the grated provolone evenly over the crust. Bake.

Spaghetti Carbonara
Yield: 4 servings (scale up in direct proportion)

1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente, drained, kept warm
½ pound bacon, sauteed crisp, remove the bacon from the pan, drain off half the fat from the pan, coarsely chop the bacon. Reserve
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
8 ounces grated Parmesan
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Over medium-high heat, add the cooked spaghetti to the saute pan that the bacon was cooked in. Toss the pasta to coat with the bacon fat. Add the crushed garlic and pepper. Stir well. Turn the heat to medium.

In a bowl, fold the Parmesan into the beaten eggs and stir just to combine. Fold the egg and cheese mixture into the pasta, stirring quickly, until the eggs just coat the pasta, but do not scramble. Serve at once in heated pasta bowls.
Note: pancetta can be substituted for the bacon.

Spinach Salad with Bacon Dressing
Yield: About 4 servings (scale up in direct proportion)

12 ounces fresh spinach, stems removed, washed, patted dry, torn
2 hard boiled eggs, each sliced into 6 pieces and set aside
8 slices bacon
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dijon-style mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
5 large white mushrooms, scrubbed, sliced

Put the spinach into a large bowl. Sauté the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and transfer to paper towels to drain.

Transfer about 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat to a small saucepan. Add the vinegar, sugar and mustard to the bacon fat. Over low heat, whisk to combine. Add salt and Add the mushrooms to the spinach. Crumble the bacon over the spinach Add the bacon dressing and toss to coat the spinach leaves. Add the slices of hard-boiled eggs.

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