Food

Bacon Pies

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If you didn”t get your first Internet connection until October of last year, you might have missed the bacon supply scare that had foodies and normal people alike freaking out about an “unavoidable”# shortage of bacon in 2013.

It turned out to be nonsense, but the whole fiasco got me to thinking about what I would do in a bacon shortage. How would I choose to use the few pounds of bacon I could fit into my Excess and Indulgence budget? And so I remembered these three pies, conceived over the past few years for holiday pie parties, for which I was determined to win the Best Use of Bacon prize. (I did finish first with the ganache tart, probably because it”s so rich even the smallest sample – all you can expect to get when 45 people are eating the same pie – conveyed all its charms.)

If you”re going to borrow, steal, or riot for bacon, you wouldn”t want to waste it alongside Waffle House eggs or on a sandwich with mealy tomatoes and iceberg lettuce. No, you”d want it incorporated into something decadent, just like this.

Slightly Spicy Bacon and Chocolate Ganache Tart

This pie is simple and decadent. It is extremely rich, being made essentially of frosting and bacon. I adapted this from a raspberry ganache tart recipe, which was also very good, and just as over-the-top. Note that this is a bit sweeter than a classic ganache.

My experiments showed that a darker chocolate ganache overpowered the bacon too much.

Drink Pairing:
Try this with a ruby port. Port and chocolate is a classic combination, and it”s deepened a few degrees by the introduction of the smoky bacon and the light spiciness of the chipotle and cinnamon. I had it with a delicious 2006 Quinta do Crasto from Portugal, which has some complementary notes.

Biscotti Crust
10 oz biscotti
6-8 tblsp butter, melted

Bacon/Ganache Filling
7 oz milk chocolate, chopped
7 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
14 oz whipping cream
1 lb good, lean bacon
1/4 tsp good quality cinnamon
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp chipotle powder (or substitute 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper), or to taste

1. Blend or food-process biscotti until finely ground. I put them in a ziploc bag and worked on them with a rolling pin. Add melted butter and press the mixture into tart pan. Bake in 350-degree oven until gold/brown, then cool on a wire rack.

2. Cook bacon on rack or cookie sheet in a 400-degree oven for 15-18 minutes, or until crisping around the edges. Allow to cool and chop coarsely.

chocolate peppers3. Heat cream just to a boil, then pour over chopped chocolate in a glass or stainless bowl. Mix until chocolate is melted and fully combined. Stir in bacon and spices, cover, and refrigerate. TIP: For a slower-melting, less greasy ganache, let it cool at room temperature overnight if you have time. Don”t worry; ganache will keep for days at room temperature.

4. After ganache is chilled, whip it in a mixer until it fluffs up a bit, maybe 20 percent. Note that unchilled ganache will not fluff.

5. Pour bacon/ganache mixture into crust and smooth with spatula.

NOTES:

1. I made a version of this pie with a lattice topping made of bacon. This was more of a visual joke than anything, and it”s both overwhelming to taste and unwieldy to cut, so I”d advise skipping it. But, for the record, here”s how to do it: Weave strips of lean bacon like a pie crust, and bake in 400-degree oven for 14-16 minutes. You”ll want this to be pretty crisp so the tart can be cut. Note that you”re unlikely to find bacon long enough (anticipating shrinkage with cooking) to cover the whole pie, so be prepared to cover gaps with something. I used large dried chilis.

2. The first time I made this, I topped the tart with red chilis dipped partially in chocolate. This was meant to be decorative, so I used unsweetened chocolate. Avoid this mistake by using semi-sweet, at least, because someone might very well have three glasses of port and decide it would be fun to eat them.
Pear, Gruyere and Bacon Pie

Pear, Gruyere, and Applewood-Smoked Bacon Pie Recipe

This is comfort food, though if you eat as much of it as I did you”ll be convinced it”s discomfort food. I would personally eat applewood-smoked bacon in very nearly anything, but it”s especially good with pears. This could be because apples and pears or closely related, but common sense tells us it”s because, well, yum!

Drink Pairing:
This paired well with a Elvio Tintero Moscato d”Asti. The sweet, effervescent dessert wine finished like it was made for pears, and I think it would probably go well with any of these pies.

3 pounds Bartlett pears
3/4 pound applewood-smoked bacon
6 ounces Gruyere cheese (5 oz shredded, 1 oz shaved)
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
3/4 cup ruby port
1 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon clove
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons cornstarch

TIP: Buy your pears a few days in advance. Properly ripened Bartletts are yellow, but you will almost always find hard, unripe Bartletts at the market because they ripen best after being picked. Pear Spices

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Lay out bacon in a cookie sheet. Stacking or overlapping strips is okay, and necessary unless you choose to use much less bacon. Keep an eye on the oven, and as it approaches 350 stick the bacon in and enjoy the smell.

3. In a stock pot, combine water, wine, sugar, vanilla, ginger, nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon, and bring to a boil.

4. Peel, seed, and section the pears into eighths. Wedges are best.

5. Add pears to pot, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until tender.

6.Remove pears. Remove and discard cinnamon stick. Reduce liquid to around 3/4 to 1 cup. Whisk in cornstarch to thicken. Don”t worry if the cornstarch is a little clumpy. Pour this syrup into a measuring cup and chill.

7. When the bacon is just beginning to crisp at the edges of the top layer, remove it, drain thoroughly, and coarsely chop.

8. In your crust, alternate layers of bacon, pears and shredded Gruyere. In a deep dish, you should get two layers of pear, so plan the distribution of other ingredients accordingly. Top with syrup.

9. Put a layer of crust on top of the pie, slit to vent, and bake 35 minutes. Crust should be beginning to turn a nice golden brown. Remove and top with shaved Gruyere, then return to oven for five minutes. Finally, turn on broiler and finish for about two minutes, until cheese starts to brown. Enjoy. This pie refrigerates and reheats well.

NOTES:
1. A note on pears: Use very ripe Bartletts to avoid simmering forever. I tried both. Unripe Bartletts have to simmer about 45 minutes, versus 20 for the ripe pears, with no appreciable difference in liquid absorption or tenderness at the end.

2. A note on crust. Make your own if you”d like. If you do, you might add a few ounces of Gruyere to the crust recipe and skip the top-and-broil step at the end. I made the pie with both a standard off-the-shelf roll-your-own crust and a pre-formed organic crust. Both were good. 3. A note on size: This works best as a deep-dish pie. I did it both ways, but the ingredients listed are for a 9 1/2″ X 1 3/4″ glass pie plate. 4. A note on bacon: You can certainly make this recipe without bacon if you”re philosophically so inclined. I”ll shed a tear for you. Also, feel free to use a full pound of bacon. 5. One final note: I thought about topping this pie with a bacon caramel sauce, and probably will try that. It”s not a terrifically sweet pie, so if that”s what you”re going for you might consider trying this, maybe on the side.
Peach, Creme Fraiche & Bacon Pie

Peach, Creme Fraiche, and Maple Sugar-Candied Bacon Pie

The Smitten Kitchen recipe I based this pie on called for creme fraiche. I tested with a few cultured creams, and actually settled on crema Mexicana as my personal preference. Its acidity tasted right to me, and it didn”t seem to separate much during cooking. (It can, however, be tricky to buy, as there are many varieties with wildly different characteristics.) Feel free to use either… or sour cream, if you”re feeling plucky. The recipe as presented here uses creme fraiche.

Drink Pairing:
Enjoy this with a Founders Porter. Don”t let the rich, near-black beer fool you. It”s only moderately bitter (which is just right for the pie), and it has chocolate and smoky notes that accompany the components of this pie nicely. There”s even a little hint of grapefruit, which seems to go nicely with the peaches.

Streusel
1/4 cup confectioners” sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Filling
1 1/2 pounds ripe yellow peaches, each pitted and cut into eighths
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
7 tablespoons creme fraiche
2 oz maple sugar
1/2 pound bacon of your choice

Peach BaconCooking time varies wildly with the thickness of the bacon.

1.  Arrange your bacon on an oven-safe cooling rack set in a half sheet pan and sprinkle liberally with maple sugar. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 10-15 minutes, until the sugar is mostly dissolved and the bacon shows the first signs of crispness around the edges. Flip the bacon and coat the other side with sugar, then return to the oven and cook until crisp… about another 10 minutes. When preparing the streusel, keep the everything as cold as possible. I used a pastry blender to keep the heat from my fingers from melting the butter. You could probably do this in a food processor, though the crumb might be a bit too regular if you process for long.

2. Toss all the streusel ingredients into a cold bowl and cut the butter in with a pastry blender or your fingers until it has the consistency of a coarse crumb or cheap kitty litter. Return to the fridge until you”re ready to use it. Okay, now for the peaches. I did a few tests with various cooking methods, sugars, and even playing around with grilling the peaches after coating in balsamic vinegar. I settled on simply broiling the peaches to dry them out a bit for structure, and also to make their flavor a little more jammy. You should feel free to just slice the peaches into the pie, in which case you”ll be 99% there.

3. Broil (or don”t… see the note above) eighthed peaches for about 15 minutes, until surface is dry and the edges just show signs of blackening.

4. Dice the bacon and combine with creme fraiche. Spoon 2 tbsp into the bottom of the pie crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle on about 1/3 of the streusel mixture. Add a single layer of peaches. You might spiral, fan, swirl, or hokey-pokey them, depending on the size of the peaches and your level of anal retentiveness. Spoon over remaining creme fraiche mixture and top with remaining streusel mixture.

TIP: For these, I used 9-inch frozen crusts off the shelf. I par baked them to prevent the filled crust from getting soggy. The source recipe called this step optional, but given my adaptations I don”t think it is.

5. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes, until topping browns appetizingly. Rotate the pie for even heating, as dictated by the peculiarities of your oven.

6. If you decided to reserve some of your candied bacon for a topping, add it now, not during baking.

NOTES:

1. Preparing your candied bacon. You can absolutely do this with regular table sugar, and save quite a bit of money in the process. I used maple sugar because the flavor goes so well with bacon, but in retrospect I”m not sure the flavor is strong enough to compete with the rest of the pie. If you decide to use some of the bacon as a topping, by all means consider maple sugar, as the bacon is more likely to be tasted distinctly from the rest of the pie. Otherwise, you might get by with the table sugar of your choosing.

2. About the balsamic vinegar-coated peaches: I haven”t given up on this idea, but it”s not quite right for this pie. The peaches were simply too tart, and negated the subtleties of the creme fraiche. But feel free to try it. I made test batches, as I do for pies, in little ramekins, and it”s worth saying that I ate the whole balsamic test batch.