Wednesday, August 7, 2002

Lifestyle

Let bacon add a little sizzle to your meal
Cookbook review

Laura Crooks
Food editor

photo
At a glance
Cookbook review
"Everything Tastes Better with Bacon,"

By Sara Perry.

Chronicle Books, 132 pages, $18.95.

Mmmm. Bacon. Sizzling, steaming bacon. For many, it's a taboo food. After all, doesn't it have like a gazillion grams of fat in every slice?

Not necessarily. One thick slice of bacon that's been cooked and drained has about 36 calories and 3 grams of fat. Of course, uncooked bacon (often used in soups and stews) contains far more fat, up to 30 grams per slice.

Such numbers scared many people away from bacon years ago. But consumers are once again bringing home the bacon. According to the National Pork Board, bacon sales increased 45 percent between 1999 and 2000.

And with this upswing in sales comes the new cookbook, "Everything Tastes Better with Bacon."

"In the morning, the sound and smell of bacon cooking in the skillet give me the feeling that I have time. I can relax and savor the day," the book's introduction states.

Author Sara Perry, a Portland writer, offers readers a crash course in the different types of bacon and how to store and cook the
m. Then she dives right into 70 recipes for every meal of the day -- including dessert.

Don't worry; these are not dishes loaded with dripping, saturated fat-filled bacon. Instead, many of the recipes take advantage of the powerful sweet-salty punch that even a little bit of bacon can give a dish.

Perry sprinkles bacon atop a pear salad and tosses it with risotto. She incorporates it into morning biscuits and eggs, and serves up gourmet versions of the classic bacon cheeseburger and BLT. She also tempts us with Try-It-You'll-Like-It Bacon Brittle.

With so many interesting choices, it was tough to figure out which recipes to try first. But when I came across the Sweet Onions Roasted with Bacon, Balsamic Vinegar and Herbes de Provence, my decision was made.

With two Walla Walla onions on hand, I couldn't resist trying this recipe. I just had to wait for the weather to cool down a bit to brave turning on the oven for 45 minutes.

When I finally dove into the recipe, I had to stifle my urge to reduce the amount of olive oil called for. Two tablespoons of olive oil on top of the partially cooked bacon, which certainly would release additional grease during roasting, seemed like too much. But for review purposes, I stuck with the recipe.

I wish I had gone with my gut.

While boasting a wonderful sweet-sour flavor, the tender roasted onions with a burst of bacon in each bite were definitely good. But they were greasy. Next time (and there will be a next time) I'll cut the olive oil in half or perhaps even to just 2 teaspoons.

The next recipe I tried was what looked like a quick and light Bacon Quiche. It was light. It wasn't quick, mostly because I followed the recipe and made the crust from scratch. A store-bought prebaked crust would have cut preparation time in half.

The results, however, were delicious. I especially liked the thin layer of sauteed shallots at the bottom of the quiche.

I'll keep this cookbook around for inspiration when I want to make something a bit different. Next I'll probably try the Bacon-Ricotta Gratin with Tomatoes and Zucchini. The Sweetie-Pie Pancake with Brown Sugar Apples and Bacon sounds like a great Sunday morning breakfast. And, who knows, I might just try the bacon brittle.

Sweet Onions Roasted with Bacon, Balsamic Vinegar and Herbes de Provence
From "Everything Tastes Better with Bacon"

6 to 8 thick smoked bacon slices, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
2 large sweet onions, peeled and cut into 6 or 8 wedges each with root end intact
2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons water, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence (see note)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium heavy skillet, cook the bacon pieces over low to medium-low heat, turning as needed until they just begin to brown.

Meanwhile, put the onion wedges in a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon pieces to the pan, tucking them between the onion wedges.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, 2 1/2 tablespoons water, maple syrup, olive oil and herbes de Provence. Pour the mixture over the onions and bacon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Roast the onions, basting frequently and adding 1 tablespoon water at a time if the marinade begins to evaporate. Cook until tender and covered with a syrupy glaze, about 45 minutes. Serve the onion wedges hot or at room temperature, making sure to include bacon pieces and pan drippings with each serving.

Note: Herbes de Provence can be found in the spice aisle of most supermarkets. You can substitute a pinch of dried basil, marjoram, rosemary, sage and/or lavender.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition per serving: 195 calories, 14 grams fat (5 grams saturated, 64 percent fat calories), 5 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrate, 20 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram dietary fiber, 577 milligrams sodium.

Bacon Quiche
From "Everything Tastes Better with Bacon"

Crust (see note):
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons cold shortening, cut into pieces
4 to 6 tablespoons ice water
Filling:
6 thick unsmoked bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
Large pinch of nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Swiss Gruyere cheese
To make the crust, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the butter and shortening. Using a pastry blender, two knives or your fingertips, work the mixture together until it is crumbly and resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle in the ice water, beginning with 4 tablespoons, and mix until the dough holds together when pressed. Shape into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Set aside a baking sheet. If desired, line with parchment paper for easy cleanup in case any filling overflows.

Let the dough soften slightly at room temperature. Place the dough on a lightly-floured surface and roll it into a 10-inch circle. Ease the pastry into a 9-by-1-inch quiche pan with removable bottom, fitting it against the bottom and sides. Chill 30 minutes to 1 hour. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, line with aluminum foil, and fill to the top with pie weights or dried beans. Bake in the center of the oven until the edges begin to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Remove the weights and foil and bake until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

To make the filling, in a medium heavy skillet, cook the bacon pieces over low- to medium-low heat, turning as needed to brown but not crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel to drain. Pour off the bacon drippings, reserving 1 tablespoon in the skillet. Add the shallots and saute over medium heat for 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the sugar and cook until the shallots are golden, about 1 minute. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and half-and-half until blended. Stir in the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

Place the tart pan on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with the shallots, then with the bacon and cheese. Pour the egg mixture into the crust (it will reach the brim). Carefully place it in the oven and bake until the top is puffed and golden and the eggs are set, about 35 minutes. Cool slightly before removing the quiche from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition per serving: 438 calories, 27 grams fat (14 grams saturated, 55 percent fat calories), 13 grams protein, 30 grams carbohydrate, 174 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram dietary fiber, 479 milligrams sodium.


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