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Bacon Man does appetizers

By Jeff Wilkin
Thursday, January 30, 2014

Some days are perfect for appetizers.

Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are two examples, and we’ve already spent those days this winter. Super Bowl Sunday is up next — finger foods are appropriate for professional football’s championship game.

If we’re talking about passing the pigskin, I’m talking about passing the bacon. I can offer several different ways to use bacon for hearty snacks while the Denver Broncos settle the supremacy issue with the Seattle Seahawks.

These recipes are simple bacon wraps from the bachelor kitchen. I’m teaming strips with vegetables, potatoes, chicken, cheese and shrimp.

For starters, shrimp. I know some people like to wrap large, raw shrimp with bacon, secure both with a skewer and cook the partnership over the barbecue grill. My problem is the bacon seems to cook a bit faster than the shrimp, even over low heat, and I hate to take a chance with just partially cooked shrimp. I have better success in the oven, where I can keep the heat a little lower and monitor the sizzle progress.

Once out of the oven, I transfer the shrimp and bacon from skewer to toothpick. I try to serve these right away.

It’s probably against culinary law, but I prefer cooking bacon separately for my potato and vegetable specials. I put strips on a long cookie tray or deep metal dish and bake them — no set time or temperature, I just watch the pieces until nearly well done. And for me, that’s just before they reach the crispy stage. All my bacon is then transferred to layers of paper towels, where excess grease is patted out.

This is my way — wrapping the bacon around two or three steak fries and keeping them together with a toothpick. The fries have been cooking on a separate cookie sheet at the same time. This bacon-potato gag would never work if the ingredients were hugging each other during the cooking process; I think the grease from the bacon would kind of soak into the fries.

I’ve also used bacon strips with lettuce and grape tomatoes. It’s almost brilliant. A few trimmed leaves of romaine or Boston lettuce are folded into compact squares. A cherry tomato goes on top of the lettuce, and the green and red are wrapped in bacon — half strips can be used — and secured with a tooth pick. So it’s bacon, lettuce and tomato without the bread. If you want a fourth down, Spanish olives are an option.

It’s a little easier to wrap the bacon pieces — whole slices don’t have to be used — inside the lettuce. And skewer from there.

Chicken tenders are also on my bacon appetizer team. Again, I prefer to cook them separately, then wrap them and keep them warm in the oven until serving time. Bacon strips can also be cut into small pieces and used with chunks of cheese. They can also stand a quick warm-up in the oven, but for just a few minutes, and you know why.

Dips are part of my game plan for appetizer days. Bacon and potato toothpicks visit a mix of steak sauce and ketchup; thick blue cheese salad dressing gets the call for the BLT skewer; honey mustard dipping sauce or salsa are the choices for the chicken combination.

The shrimp and bacon combo can stand on its own.

While we’re talking a lot of bacon testing and tasting, people should remember these appetizers are only occasional diversions. I wouldn’t want to eat bacon five times a week, but we can splurge a few times a year. And one of those times is Super Bowl Sunday.

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