Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cooking Bacon: You're doing it wrong.

©2011 John Houser III

I never even thought about writing a how-to-cook bacon post but after talking with a few people at the farmer's market on Sunday I realized that I had an obligation to fulfill. While waiting to pay at the Truck Patch Farms stand, I got to talking with the guy in front of me about how delicious their bacon was. The guy mentioned that he loves bacon but it is always such a mess to deal with while cooking. Fat spitting everywhere, bacon curling up and his general lack of attentiveness were his main problems with his favorite cured meat product.

So me, being the well natured, unbelievably helpful and handsome person that I am asked him if he had ever baked his bacon before. He looked at me like I had thirty seven penises attached to my....... well, penis.

I explained to him that in restaurants they pretty much all back their bacon on baking sheets with racks in them. I started doing this when I worked as a prep cook at The Candlelight Inn in 1993. It is a trick that has always stayed with me. You can cook a lot of bacon at one time quickly, evenly, and cleanly. You just put it in the oven, set a timer and walk away. If you were feeling a little devil-may-care you could do it naked if you wanted (and I have).

By this point I had a few people listening in on the conversation and asking me questions. It was then that I realized that I should probably post about this since it seems as if a fair amount of people probably don't know about this simple way to cook the king of American breakfast meats.

This is a fairly straight forward step-by-step, but I still will treat it as if it were a recipe.

Let's get started shall we?

Baking Sheet Bacon (aka restaurant bacon, baked bacon, naked bacon)

©2011 John Houser III
1 pound of bacon, sliced
1 sheet pan with wire rack insert
no clothes - optional

1. Set oven to 375°F

©2011 John Houser III

2. Place as much bacon on the sheet as you can (usually 1 sheet can hold 1/2 pound easily). You can add as much as you want but be advised that like Biggie Smalls once said "Mo bacon, Mo bacon grease". I'm pretty sure that's how the song went....

©2011 John Houser III

3. Place the bacon in the oven, set a timer for 20 minutes.

©2011 John Houser III

4. After 20 minutes, check your bacon for your desired crispness*.

©2011 John Houser III

5. Take out of the oven. CAUTION!!! There is hot bacon grease in the pan. Keep the pan parallel to the floor at all times otherwise skin bubbling oil will splatter out. Seriously, be careful. Once the sheet pan is out and set upon a trivet, immediately loosen the bacon with a spatula. Be sure to do this step. Bacon has a tendency to stick to the rack once it cools down.

©2011 John Houser III

You now have bacon to do with what you want. Don't tell me, I don't want to know.

©2011 John Houser III


*Bacon crispness is a matter that people will come to blows over. I've seen it, it gets ugly. It's worse than watching drunks argue over religion in a bar.  This is why it's always a good idea to ask the people you are cooking for how they like their bacon. My parents used to get made at each other when the other made bacon. My mother liked her bacon super crispy and my father liked his bacon soft and chewy. Having both of them cook me bacon those different ways made me appreciate the range of textures that bacon can give. Try it yourself. If you like soft, go crisp and vice versa. It's a different experience each way. What's the worse that will happen? You'll eat more bacon? A terrible price to pay indeed.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Secrets and the arcane tales of the cryptic and esoteric food occult

Errrr...... don't listen to the heading. It thinks it's clever


I’ve been keeping a deep dark secret for a while now. I’ve been hinting at it and now I can finally reveal it to you. I am a serial killer the weekend restaurant reviewer for the Baltimore Sun. I’m really happy to be working for them and it’s my pleasure as always to inform you about where you might be better off spending your hard earned money in Bmore. My first review came out last week and my newest came out yesterday. Here are the links:

SoBo Café-,0,7648023.story

Pure Wine Café -,0,6337299.story

My reviews will be a weekly occurrence and I will link to every last one of them (whether you like it or not). If you guys have any questions about anything involving the process or my decision making, feel free to fuck off ask. Seriously, I will answer your questions.

I’ll be posting a new recipe soon.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Shroomin on a Sunday Afternoon

© 2011 John Houser III

One of the better things about springtime is the return of the JFX Farmer's Market. It's a great place to grab some breakfast/ lunch, meet up with friends, get out of the house for a bit and most importantly; buy fresh vegetables.

One of the stands I really have never given my custom to was the mushroom farmers table. They sell, unsurprisingly, mushrooms and prepared mushroom dishes to eat there or take home. One of the reasons I have never bought anything from them in the past is because I thought that most of their prices were a bit too high for just a small box of mushrooms. Yes, yes... I know. Certain fresh mushrooms are expensive and I have no problem paying for them, but usually when presented with a choice between a box of expensive (to me) mushrooms and almost anything else in the FM (that's slang for Farmer's Market), I'm going with almost anything else.

That was until two weeks ago when I noticed that they were selling a box of assorted mushrooms for $11 (at time of writing). Curious, I looked over the contents of the box and was hit by a bolt of inspiration. I'm a sucker for caramelized mushrooms over toast and this seemed like the perfect mushroom mélange for the job. The different types of fungi would combine their collective flavors to make a mushroomy super group.

To add a spring flavor to the dish, I decided to add a few spears of our old friend Mr. Asparagus and a couple of spring onions. Rounding out the dish is some butter, garlic and thyme. And finally, to give the dish a punch in the face I am hitting it with some Dijon mustard, lemon juice and a little bit of chili pepper.

This dish is easy to make because there is  no need for fussiness or special techniques. The important thing to do for this dish is to remember to get a lot of caramelization on the mushrooms. It makes the dish and adds a depth that will make you want to go back to the mushroom people every week that the Farmer's Market is open.