In the 12th Century, a small church in England promised a side of bacon to any married man who could swear he had not argued with his wife for a year and a day. A husband who could "bring home the bacon" was highly prized! My husband Ted (also highly prized) loves bacon, and -- true confession -- occasionally I eat bacon, too. Not ham, not proscuitto, not pork chops or any other part of the pig, but I do eat real bacon, the stuff Europeans call streaky bacon, the most ubiquitous bacon sold in the United States. Like many foods, bacon was created as a way to preserve meat in the days before refrigeration. Bacon is cured, brined meat prepared from the belly, back or sides of pork (and from other animals, too, such as duck and wild boar). It's often smoked in large slabs, sometimes with a dry rub. Bacon (especially the fat) lends a smoky, salty flavor to soups and stews. These days, low-sodium and extra-lean versions are easy to find in most supermarkets, and artisanal bacon often shows up at farmers markets.
Is this Pantry Special new to you?
How to cure your own bacon:
Basic unsmoked bacon, from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
How to make, cure and smoke homemade bacon, from imafoodblog
Curing and smoking bacon at home with mesquite or alder wood, from PlanterTomato
Where to buy artisanal bacon:
Bacon of the Month Club
Asparagus, cheese and bacon pizza on a pita
Salty, smoky and gooey, this pita pizza makes a beautiful presentation for Sunday breakfast or brunch. Use whole wheat or oat bran pitas for the base. If you don't have asparagus, use zucchini rounds or mushroom slices. If you have a container of leftover bits of cheese in your freezer (doesn't everyone?), this is a great way to use it. Don't omit the egg; it brings everything together. Serves 2.
6 slices of bacon, any type
6 asparagus spears, trimmed
2 8-inch whole wheat pita breads
6-8 large, thin slices Cheddar, Swiss or other flavorful cheese (I like Dutch gouda)
2 large sprigs of thyme (optional)
2 Tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or shredded Gruyere or other cheese
2 eggs, at room temperature
Fresh black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 425°F.
On the stove top, place bacon in a nonstick frying pan over low heat. Cook until bacon is browned but not crisp on both sides. Remove from the pan onto a plate covered with a paper towel, and dry the bacon.
In a small sauce pan, bring a couple of inches of water to the boil. Drop in the asparagus spears, and cook for 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking action. Dry the asparagus on a towel, and set aside.
Set the pita bread on a rimmed baking sheet. On each pita, layer the sliced cheese, then the bacon, then the asparagus. Scatter thyme leaves here and there. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, then a bit of black pepper.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 5 minutes, until the cheese starts to melt. Remove from the oven (do not turn the oven off).
Without breaking the yolk, carefully crack one egg into a small bowl. Then slide the egg onto the center of one pizza. Repeat with the second egg. Return the pizza to the oven and cook for 10 minutes, or until the egg white is just set and the yolk is still runny. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with more pepper, and serve hot.
Other recipes that use bacon:
PB, chocolate chunk and bacon cookies, from Vanilla Sugar
Candied bacon ice cream, from David Lebovitz
Kimchi bacon deviled eggs, from The Bacon Show
Kale and bacon Caribbean style, from Steamy Kitchen
Bacon cups, from Not Martha
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