Monday, June 17, 2024

Salty, fatty, crispy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious: don’t forget the bacon!

It wasn’t until recently that I learned about cooking bacon in the oven.

Most of you probably know this, but for me, it was a game-changer. Although I don’t cook bacon much at home, the oven method makes it so much easier when I do. (Directions below.) And if you’re cooking bacon for a crowd, the oven is the way to go.

Here in Mazatlán, bacon (tocino) at restaurants is usually served rather limp. I’ve learned to ask for it bien dorado (extra crispy). I’ve also been disappointed in the quality of packaged bacon available in grocery stores; they all seem to be too thin-cut and salty for my taste.

A friend recently took me to Garate, her favorite butcher in the big Pino Suárez mercado here, and we had Mauricio slice Corona brand bacon to the thickness we wanted. Peering over piles of pig’s feet and other less easy to identify body parts, I asked him what part of the pig bacon comes from. He pointed just below his ribs and then, in English, said, “the belly.” Of course, I thought — where the fat is.

One would think that cooking bacon wouldn’t be that complicated, right? Heat management is key: once the pan, bacon and/or fat get too hot, it’s only a matter of seconds before it burns; low to moderate heat is best.

bacon sweet potatoes
These sweet potatoes combine a classic favorite: bacon and maple syrup.

And for stovetop cooking, a cast iron pan is your number-one choice. Next would be a nonstick skillet, although some argue that the heat gets higher than recommended for a nonstick surface. Then there’s stainless steel, but do you really want to deal with that much cleanup?

All of this leads us back to the oven (or toaster oven), where the even heat cooks the bacon perfectly and cleanup is a breeze.

Whichever way you cook bacon, there’s no need to wait for the pan or oven to heat up. Just lay the bacon in the pan or place it on a prepared baking sheet in the oven as they’re heating. You’ll get a head start on the cooking, and the bacon will come out just fine.

Bacon in the Oven

  • 12 slices bacon

Preheat oven to 425 F (218 C). Decide on a cold start or wait until the oven reaches target temperature. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment. Arrange bacon strips on pan, trying not to overlap.

Bake 10 minutes; rotate pan; continue baking until bacon is as browned as you like, 5–10 minutes more for thin-cut/10–15 minutes more for thick-cut.

Remove from oven, drain on paper towels.

Bacon Swizzle Sticks

  • 8 strips thick-cut bacon

Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Pierce top of each bacon strip with a skewer, wind bacon around the skewer, and then pierce the bottom of the strip with the other end to hold bacon strip in place. Put completed skewers on parchment-lined baking sheet; bake 10 minutes.

Using tongs, flip and cook 5–10 minutes more to desired crispness. Remove from oven, transfer skewers to paper towels and cool.

Blot excess oil. Gently slide skewers out of bacon.

One-Pan Fish with Bacon & Sweet Corn

Use fresh sweet corn if possible!

  • 4 (6-ounce) fish fillets (snapper, dorado, tilapia)
  • Salt
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 bacon slices, chopped
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 cups corn kernels

Lightly season both sides of fish with salt. In large bowl, combine ¼ cup parsley with red pepper flakes, garlic and thyme. Zest lemon into bowl; add 2 Tbsp. oil. Transfer fish to bowl; turn to coat. Cover, marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes. Cut zested lemon into 8 wedges; set aside.

Heat large skillet over medium. Add bacon, cook, stirring, until crispy. Transfer to paper towels, leaving drippings in pan.

bacon stuffed cherry tomatoes
Get your veggies the fun way with these bacon-stuffed cherry tomatoes.

Increase heat to medium-high. Add remaining 2 Tbsp. oil to drippings in skillet. Place fish in pan; cover with any leftover marinade. Cook until fish is firm, opaque and flakes easily, 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to platter; keep skillet on stove.

Lower heat to medium, add shallots and reserved bacon. Cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add corn, stir 2 minutes more.

Season with salt. Squeeze in juice from 3 lemon wedges. Add remaining parsley; spoon over fish. Serve with remaining lemon wedges.

Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 5 slices crisp cooked bacon, chopped finely
  • 1 shallot/small onion, minced
  • ¼ cup minced fresh cilantro or parsley
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • Black pepper

Using a sharp paring knife, cut small circle around stem of each tomato. Discard core and, using the handle of a small spoon, carefully scoop out seeds until interior is hollow. Set tomatoes stem-side down on paper towels; let drain 1 hour.

Mix bacon, shallot/onion, cilantro/parsley, Parmesan and mayonnaise; season with pepper. Slice a thin sliver from bottom of each tomato so it sits flat. Gently fill hollow with bacon mixture using small spoon.

Refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours before serving.

Maple-Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Bacon

  • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes), scrubbed and dried
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. maple syrup
  • 8 oz. thick-cut bacon
  • Flaky salt

Heat oven to 425 F (220 C). Line baking sheet with parchment. Cut each sweet potato in half lengthwise, then slice each half into 3 or 4 wedges, 1- to 1½ -inches thick.

In large bowl, toss potatoes with oil and salt. Spread onto baking sheet in single layer, leaving a little space between pieces. (Use two baking sheets if necessary).

Bake 20 minutes; drizzle with 2 Tbsp. maple syrup, toss. Cook another 15–20 minutes until wedges are deep brown on both sides.

Meanwhile, cook bacon as desired. Drain. Chop into ½ -inch pieces; toss with potato wedges and remaining maple syrup. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Candied Bacon

  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar or grated dark piloncillo
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound thick-cut bacon

Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Mix sugar/piloncillo, vinegar, maple syrup and pepper in small bowl. Place bacon slices on parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with sugar mixture. Bake 10 minutes, remove from oven, flip and baste again with sugar mixture.

Return to oven, bake another 10 minutes and baste again. Repeat basting every 5–10 minutes until bacon is browned and crisp, about 30 minutes total. Cool on wire rack.

Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expatsfeatured on CNBC and MarketWatch. She has lived in Mexico since 2006. You can find her on Facebook.

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