March 08, 2008

bacon club

We have some friends who came over for Chow & Chow, and we got to talking about other forms of gastronomic excess... which led us to discuss their ongoing potluck series, Bacon Club. You see where this is going, don't you? Heh.

Bacon Club involves a number of pork-fat-loving folk gathering together, each with their own bacon dish, and consuming all those bacony treats and compatible alcohols in one evening of porcine delight. Obviously we were not going to miss this.

It's tonight, and we are making bacon cups filled with macaroni and cheese. We'd recently seen the bacon cups on Not Martha and been exceedingly impressed, so of course they sprang immediately to mind. Those had been filled with lettuce and tomato, for a breadless BLT, but tomatoes are appallingly out of season at the moment, so we cast about for a more suitable filling. Mac & cheese seemed suitably excessive and decadent.

I never like most homemade mac & cheese, because it's insufficiently cheesy. So i surfed around, and my conclusion is that the inadequate cheese flavor is due to two things: use of mild rather than strong cheeses, and use of bechamel. The flour dulls the taste of cheese. Interestingly, a 19th century recipe involved only laying slices of cheese in layers with macaroni and baking till melted.

stove-top mac & cheese, smooth and cheesy like it should be

I found a few recipes without any flour, and it's easy enough to swap in whatever cheeses you like... so i settled on Alton Brown's stovetop recipe, with a bit heavier hand with the hot sauce and mustard powder and cheese (12oz instead of 10), and a bit of sauteed onion just for grins. This came out rather good, though tallasiandude thought it too sharply cheesy (sigh). Anyway, i think that i will stick with this as a basic template, and perhaps next time i will add a bit of prepared mustard to give it a little acid zing to balance the cheesy richness. Or swap in a little chevre for some of the cheddar, mmmm. Or perhaps even a little Velveeta, for that low-rent orange meltiness -- i used to make my grilled cheese sandwiches with one Kraft single and one slice of sharp cheddar, to get the best of both worlds. Those were frickin' awesome.

But back to bacon... the first few woven bacon cups came out perfect, though they took about 40 minutes to fully cook, but the last few batches have shrunk too much too fast and been done in about 20 mins. Part of it is that the different packs of bacon have slices of different widths, and it's harder to get it right with thinner slices, but the other part must be that the oven is now too hot. So we have a number of raggedy-ass bacon cup-slash-scraps, and a few that are tiny little thimbles, but perhaps once they are topped with creamy mac-and-cheese, no one will notice.

first cups

tiny cups, falling off the forms

ragged cups

Hmm, I've just now done another batch and they seem fine, and i think i've figured out the problem: one of my muffin tins is modern and flimsy, and another is vintage and heavy... and the problem was with the heavy old tin. As I was pouring off the fat from a pan that's been sitting out of the oven for 15 minutes -- the cookie sheet base was cool enough to lift up and pour from -- I noticed that the muffin tin itself was still hot enough to be uncomfortable to hold. If the inner support is hot enough to cook the bacon from inside at the same time as the oven cooks from the outside, that might be what's shrinking them up and popping them off the tins.


I'll post again once we're back from Bacon Club, with the final verdict and photos. Either way, it's awfully fun to spend a morning doing arts and crafts with raw bacon and then filling the house with the smell of crisped bacon. Yay.

BTW: we used 4 12oz packs of regular thin-cut bacon for this, which filled two large trays (maybe 25 cups). I made a whole pound of pasta rather than Alton's 8oz, and it seemed cheesy enough, but perhaps it would be saucier with less pasta. In any case, a drier, clingier mac-n-cheese was just the ticket for this application, as it stayed in the cups properly and didn't ooze liquid cheese through the holes in many of the cups when re-heated. Not that you need even close to that much mac-n-cheese; we've got 2/3 of the pot left for dinner tomorrow.

(PS: I don't seem to have any posts about Chow & Chow, and neither does tallasiandude -- we must have been too busy. This was a rather fun party in which we made a boatload of dumplings and other chinese dishes, ate them, and then stayed up far too late watching Stephen Chow movies. Recommended.)

Posted by foodnerd at March 8, 2008 01:39 PM

OK, this is just awesome. I will be trying this. Oh yes, there will be bacon.

Also, in an odd example of sychronicity, this cookie recipe with bacon was quite the cause célè on the IRC chat room at work a couple days ago.

Posted by: Matthias at March 8, 2008 09:41 PM

Frigging Movable Type ate my link tags. How the hell do we put links in here? The URL is

Also, the first comment was supposed to say "celebre," with HTML-entity accent goodness, but something went wrong there too. Curse you, Movable Type!

Posted by: Matthias at March 8, 2008 09:45 PM

a friend of ours on tallasiandude's frisbee team (which is obsessed with bacon) made some bacon chocolate chip cookies that were just dreamy. also, someone at bacon club said that one time they fried up some bacon in 1/2 or 1/4 slices and then dipped them in dark chocolate. that sounds to me like a REALLY good idea.

Posted by: foodnerd at March 8, 2008 09:49 PM

in fact, now that i follow your link, i think it was that very blogpost that he got his cookie recipe from...

Posted by: foodnerd at March 8, 2008 09:51 PM

Figured there had to be some sort of connection.

Posted by: Matthias at March 9, 2008 05:13 AM

Just wanted to comment on the M&C part here. :-) I learned to make M&C from my mom, which is apparently pretty darn close to the 19th century recipe you mentioned above. Only difference is that we add a bit of milk to the casserole before baking. We also use extra sharp cheddar (white) and some parmesan too. Once we went nuts and added some ricotta too, which was MAJORLY creamy, but a bit too much so - heh.

Posted by: Kristen at March 10, 2008 12:13 AM
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