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Hungry? Try bringing home the bacon

Bacon is making a comeback according to Lynne Rossetto Kasper, the public radio food commentator. It never lost its appeal to me. In this health-conscious day and age, you would think that bacon would be low on the list of preferred foods due to its fat content. Yet, as anyone who dabbles in pork belly commodities can tell you, bacon is solely responsible for giving a boost to the pork market.

Bacon has become so popular as a sandwich ingredient and a favorite of chefs in fine dining establishments that bacon shortages have caused prices to soar. However, bacon is still a bargain that can’t be beat when it comes to adding flavor. With low-sodium and lean varieties available, even the dieter can partake in moderation — but I believe in real food, real flavor.

Well into the 16th century, bacon or bacoun was a Middle English term used to refer to all pork in general. The term “bacon” comes from various Germanic and French dialects. It derives from the French bake, Common Germanic bakkon and Old Teutonic backs, all of which refer to the back.

You are probably familiar with the phrase “bring home the bacon.” In the 12th century, a church in the English town of Dunmow promised a side of bacon to any married man who could swear before the congregation and God that he had not quarreled with his wife for a year and a day. A husband who could bring home the bacon was held in high esteem by the community for his forbearance.

All bacon is not created equal. I will be the first to say I do not like turkey bacon. Give me a little of the real stuff or nothing. I have been using Benton’s bacon for several years now and have found no other bacon that really can beat the smoky taste of that bacon.

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This recipe is from the new Donald Link cookbook, Real Cajun, which I bought at his new shop/café/bar. It is different from other tomato pie recipes because there is no mayonnaise. I made two and they were delicious. The bacon just gives a nice flavor to the tomato pie. I would recommend this for your next potluck dinner! Oh yes, I made my own crust.

Aunt Cynthia’s Tomato Pie

(aka Cajun Pizza)

(Serves 6-8)

12 ounces sliced bacon

2 ripe medium tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch slices (get some really good tomatoes)

1 (9-inch) prebaked Pie Crust (recipe follows), cooked

salt and pepper

½ small onion

5 ounces Cheddar or pepper jack cheese, grated

Cook the bacon in the skillet until crisp and set aside to cool on paper towels or a brown paper bag. (Twelve ounces is probably a little more than you will need, but somehow a few extra pieces always get eaten.) I used this for two pies.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place a layer of tomato slices on the bottom of the crust and season lightly with salt and pepper. Top with a layer of onion slices and cheese. Repeat this process two more times. Crumble the cooked bacon over the top layer of onion and cheese and bake for about 25 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the tomatoes have released some of their moisture. Place the pie on a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Pie Crust

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons ice water

Using a fork or your fingers, cut the butter, lard, and salt into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse pebbles. Make a well in the middle of the mixture and add water. Knead for about 30 seconds until dough comes together. Roll the dough out on the floured surface until it’s ¼-inch thick and shape into a rustic free-form circle or gently drape it into a buttered pie pan and trim as necessary. Refrigerate the crust until needed.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a fork, prick the bottom of the pie in several places and bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Note: Pie crusts generally will bake more evenly when they are cold, so place the crust in the freezer for about 20 minutes before baking.

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In July’s “Southern Living” magazine, a recipe for bacon pimiento cheese caught my eye. A little café in Woodville near here serves a pimiento cheese sandwich with several slices of bacon on top. Now that is good also.

Bacon Pimiento Cheese

Makes about 3 ½ cups, enough for 8-10 sandwiches

4 slices bacon

2 (8-oz.) blocks sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 (4-oz.) jar diced pimiento, rinsed and drained

½ cup mayonnaise

2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

½ tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. ground red pepper

1/8 tsp. pepper

Cook bacon in a large skillet 4-5 minutes on each side or until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels. Crumble bacon. Stir together bacon, cheese and remaining ingredients just until blended. You can store the cheese mixture in an airtight container in a refrigerator up to one week.

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I was reading Julia Child’s The Way to Cook, published in 1989. She made the comment that this dressing with bacon was coming back into vogue in France. Maybe if we wait long enough we can eat what we want!

Julia Child’s Curly Endive with Bacon and Garlic Dressing

For 6 servings

2 heads of curly endive, can use other lettuces

3 or 4 strips of thick-sliced bacon

1 large clove of garlic

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 Tbsp. virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. wine vinegar

Wash and dry the lettuce, using the more tender leaves near the center if you have enough to spare, and turn it into a salad bowl; cover with damp towels and refrigerate until ready to use. Sauté the bacon until lightly brown and crisp, crumble it into a small bowl, and set aside. Pour the bacon fat into a small bowl, wipe out the frying pan, and return 1 tablespoon of clear bacon fat to it. Purée the garlic, mash to a fine paste with ¼ teaspoon of salt, and set aside.

Just before serving, pour the oil into the bacon fat, blend in the mashed garlic, and warm over moderate heat — but do not let the garlic brown. Pour in the wine vinegar, bring to the boil, and pour over the salad, turning and tossing to blend, and adding several grinds of pepper as you do so. Toss in half the crumbled bacon; sprinkle on the rest, and serve at once.