Everday Gourmet (11/19/09)

Thanksgiving pig-out

Nov. 19, 2009

By Kim Dannies

Want to blow your collective family gathering away this year at the Thanksgiving table? Serve praline bacon on anything — anything at all — and they will go berserk. This bacon is more than just a trendy kiss from hog heaven — in my kitchen it’s already a tradition.

I know it’s shameful, but I have always found the traditional Thanksgiving menu a bit lackluster; now that there is going to be a little pork action at the table, I’ll be much happier. Praline bacon freezes well, so do it ahead and dole your stash out like a crack addict. This holiday I am torn between embedding precious chunks among roasted sweet potatoes, or topping creamy cheddar crackers with it. Maybe I’ll do both — after all, Thanksgiving is the official pig-out.

Praline Bacon

(From Chef Robin Schempp; rightstuffent.com)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a wide, shallow dish combine 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup roughly ground almonds or pecans, 2 teaspoons dry mustard, 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse ground pepper, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/3 cup mustard seeds.

Separate 2 pounds of bacon into strips. Dip and press each slice into the sugar mixture on both sides. Lay bacon strips on a large, rimmed baking sheet covered with parchment. Sprinkle excess sugar mixture over the bacon slices in the pan. Roast the bacon until fat begins to render, about 6 minutes. Rotate the pan front-to-back and continue roasting until the bacon is crisp and brown, 8 minutes. Cool; cut bacon into bite-sized pieces.

Sweet Potatoes

Peel and chunk-cut desired amount of sweet potatoes. Toss potatoes in a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes; gently flip the batch halfway through cooking for even roasting. Pour potatoes into a serving bowl and stud with lots of praline bacon.

Cheddar Cheese Hors d’oeuvres

In the bowl of a food processor, chop 1 pound of very sharp white cheddar cheese. Add 3 tablespoons of milk and pulse until the mixture forms a creamy paste. Meanwhile, caramelize apples by sautéing 5 peeled and chopped apples in 1 tablespoon of butter until soft (but not mushy.) Spread cheddar on a plain rice cracker; add a layer of apple, top with a chunk of praline bacon.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.