Bacon Brittle: An homage to Michael Ruhlman
No, I can’t believe I’m writing this post either. I’m the half of the FFF team that has spent a huge chunk of her life as a vegetarian, for crying out loud. Even though I do have (well-sourced) poultry and fish more often these days, I only eat red meat once every other blue moon. Well, one such blue moon occurred at the grand finale of the BlogHer Food conference, where I got to overdose on more bacon than I have probably eaten in the entirety of my life, thanks to Michael Ruhlman and The Bacon Experience (sounds like a prog-rock band, does it not?).Â At the same unforgettable soiree, those of you who attended may also remember the incredible pistachio-cherry brittle among the desserts. Heavenly! Right there and then, I decided a merger of the two had to happen. Bacon-tinged sweets have become more common these days, even trendy in some locales, like the ice cream served up by Michael Symon himself, and like the maple bacon doughnuts Jenny wrote about at Picky Palate. I thought a bacon brittle had serious potential.
And, turns out – I was right. I pondered on Twitter earlier today whether it was a good idea to promote a recipe by stating how one ate so much of it one literally made oneself sick. Well, wise or not, it is the truth. I could NOT stop eating this! So, a word of warning: if you make this, make sure you have plenty of people around to help you eat it. Otherwise, you’re liable to follow suit and eat it all yourself, and later that night – well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.
One other word: This is definitely a slick and slippery item. I decided, rather frugally if I dare say so myself, that rather than tossing the bacon grease and then using another fat (butter) in the brittle, it only made sense to re-cycle the grease and incorporate it, reducing the amount of butter by half. Flavor + frugality. If I were to do a third draft, I might cut the butter back even more, but it would likely still be quite glossy – but then, people who love bacon enough to try this are probably the least likely to worry about a little bit of grease, right? Right?
BACON BRITTLE WITH MAPLE, BROWN SUGAR AND CRANBERRY
1 pound bacon
1/2 cup of the rendered bacon fat, reserved
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dried craisins
In a large skillet, fry the bacon in batches over medium heat, until browned and very crispy.Â Place slices on paper towels and let cool. Blot up a bit of the excess grease from the slices a bit as well, and strain the residual bacon fat through cheesecloth, reserving 1/2 cup total. When the slices have cooled, crumble/chop into fine little bits, about the size of, well, bacon bits! Set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, attach a candy thermometer and melt the butter, syrup, sugars, and bacon grease together. Bring to a gentle boil, and let the temperature rise to 300 degrees, a.k.a. the “hard crack” stage. Remove from heat the second this happens and stir in the bacon bits and the cranberries. Pour the whole mixture onto a cookie sheet (I lined it with parchment, but you probably don’t even need it). Let cool, then break into chunks and serve to your adoring masses.
A final note: I actually ended up using about 2/3 of the bacon bits – I was worried about going too overboard. You can certainly use it all, OR follow my lead and save the excess for a spinach salad or a future batch of brittle! Please, if you make this, write in and tell me what you think!
– posted by Anne