Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In Defense of the Bacon-in-the-Chocolate Trend

I’m seeing a backlash these days against the bacon-in-the-chocolate trend, but I think maybe it’s more of a backlash against food fads in general. Most fads are annoying and entirely disposable. They barely make a blip on the radar screen of Time. But trends that are worth their salt stand the test of time and transcend their trend status. That’s how classics are born.

Will bacon-in-the-chocolate stick around to become a classic? Who knows? Quiche is so 70s, pasta salad so 80s, stacked anything so 90s and bacon-in-the-chocolate so aught-years. But we still eat quiche and pasta salad. They're not such relics that we'll never eat them again, not that I'd call either of them classics.

But consider that anyone who has ever eaten pork in mole sauce in a Oaxacan restaurant has already discovered that pork and chocolate are natural friends. Like chicken—but with more flavor and better texture—pork truly shines in sweet applications, which is why you find it nestled under a layer of pineapple slices in Hawaii, topped with sweet and sour sauce in China and slathered with sweet or perhaps sweet-salty-hot-sour sauces most everywhere else.

But don’t eat bacon and chocolate together because it's The In Thing. Eat it because you like it. And if you don’t like it, find something you do like, and eat that instead. Maybe you'll start a trend.

I'll continue eating bacon with chocolate and pork with mole. And I'll carry on with my experiments to see what other concoctions I can devise to delight my taste buds. If the trends catch up with me, so be it.

Bacon Walnut Maple Fudge

This is not fudge in its strictest sense, but a liberation from the candy thermometer, one that yields tiny cubes of heaven in just a few easy steps.

First, a word about bacon: A good smoked bacon is what you want to use. Applewood smoked works well and is often the only smoky bacon you can find outside the South. (Watch out for "smoke-flavored bacon." That stuff is nasty.) Most regular grocery store bacon is unworthy of the poor hogs who gave their lives for its production. Use the best tasting bacon you can find for the best tasting fudge you can produce. If you don't live in the South, consider investing in a membership in one of the bacon of the month clubs.

16 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (or bittersweet or some combination of different chocolates—whatever makes you happy)
14 oz. sweetened, condensed milk (do not use fat-free—the consistency will be off)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. maple extract or maple flavoring (maple syrup won’t work)
1 c. walnuts, lightly toasted & coarsely chopped
6 slices of smoked bacon, cut into ¼-inch lardons, cooked well, drained & cooled
coarse sea salt, to taste

Lightly coat an 8- or 9-inch square pan or baking dish with non-stick spray and line with baking parchment or waxed paper.

Heat milk and chocolate in bain marie (or double boiler) over medium heat and stir to blend. Add extracts and stir to completely incorporate. Then stir in nuts and bacon.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and smooth to even thickness with a spatula. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.

Let cool for a few minutes and then refrigerate, uncovered, until fudge is set, about 2 hours. Cut into desired size pieces. Store any remaining fudge uncovered, as sealing it causes moisture to melt the salt.

Enjoy a piece with a big ol' glass of milk. Or if you're just too sophisticated for that, ruby port will do nicely.

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