And now for something completely different . . .
Inspired by Glenn’s admonition to keep an open mind, I wandered over to Al Dente to see how (or if) bacon could be made better. There I saw a recipe for maple-glazed, oven-roasted bacon. I was further intrigued, not to mention, further inspired, by Moe Lane’s blogging of the results.
Well, it so happened that I had a pound of bacon (Hormel, center-cut, thick-sliced), as well as a bottle of Grade A amber maple syrup. But never being content to leave a recipe at rest, I decided to add a little something extra.
In addition to trying the recipe, I decided to try an experiment. So I made some oven-roasted bacon with no accompaniment–the null hypothesis. Along with that I made the oven-roasted, maple glazed bacon using the Al Dente recipe. Finally, I roasted a third batch using a glaze that I made from equal parts maple syrup and a coarse ground Dijon mustard.
Here are the three separate trays in the oven:
Yes, European ovens are small (It’s a good thing that I’m not cooking a 24 pound Thanksgiving turkey this November.) This particular oven is also not particularly uniform in temperature–even with the convection setting–so that provided some difficulties to the experiment. To compensate for the uneven heat, I had to rotate the three different trays of bacon frequently since the one on top was cooking more quickly.
Here are the three experiments on the same rack cooling and draining. In the upper left is the maple-glazed recipe. In the lower center is just plain bacon. In the upper right is the honey-mustard-glazed bacon:
And the results . . . I first tasted the Al Dente recipe. The flavor was good. The maple came through. What was disappointing however, was that the bacon didn’t have the crisp praline crackle I wanted. I was expecting crispy caramalized bacon, and instead I got bacon that was coated with a nice flavor, but a flavor that had assumed the consistency of the caramel filling of a snickers bar: chewy, not crisp.
The difference between crisp and chewy became more apparent when I went next to the unadulurated bacon: crisp, clean, pure bacon. Now, having said that, I’d like to see the same experiment carried out side by side on the same tray to see if the cooking insconsistencies of my European toy oven skewed the results in plain bacon’s favor. Nonetheless, as the sayin goes, less is more. And the saying proved correct in this case.
The third recipe was now up. And if one ingredient bested two, was their any hope that three would be better? As it so happened, there was. The maple flavor certainly came through. But the sweetness was also cut by the bitter mustard. Sweet and savory combined with salty and crispy–yes, crispy–produced a clear winner in this taste test experiment. Perhaps it was because the addition of mustard thinned the syrup’s consistency, causing the water to quickly evaporate and allowing the maple to caramelize on the bacon, or maybe it was because my oven favored the tray of bacon that ended its cooking time on the top shelf, but whatever the reason, the soggy chewiness of the maple-glazed bacon was gone. Instead we had crispy bacon with the infusion of more flavor. A win-win, indicating that yes, it is true: bacon can be made better.
There was one more taste comparison. It so happened that I had two fresh ciabatta rolls as well as some farm fresh eggs. How, I wondered would my bacon taste in a Euro-version of an egg McMuffin? The two finalists: pure bacon and honey-mustard bacon each joined a fried egg atop the toasted ciabatta roll.
Drumroll . . .
Well, perhaps it was just too much of a good thing. In both case, the addition of two more ingredients–roll and eggs–brought down the bacon. By itself, the bacon was better than it was in a sandwich.
So there you have it. Less is more, indeed.