Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bacon on the Cob

It's too bad grilling weather precedes corn season--nothing goes better with char-broiled meat than an ear of buttery golden niblets. Unfortunately, the pitifully small ears currently on sale at your friendly neighborhood grocer are not only pricey right now, they taste about as flavorful as the price sign above them.

Bacon to the rescue! This super-easy recipe can perk up the flavor and sweetness of the dullest ear of corn in no time. Never mind that adding fatty pork strips takes down the healthfulness of the corn by several pegs--it's delicious, dammit.

Bacon-Honey Corn Cobs


4 shucked ears of corn
8 strips of Nueske's bacon (or other hearty strips), cut in ribbons

Tear off four good-sized squares of tin foil and give 'em a nice coating of non-stick spray, then place an ear of corn on each one. Drizzle a little honey around the corn ears, then wrap in bacon (warning: it's a tad messy). Tightly wrap in the foil, then cook over indirect heat (or in a 350-degree oven) for about 20 minutes, until the corn is tender. Unwrap. Eat. Make lots of satisfied mmm noises.


The staff of BDJ Labs humbly prostrates themselves before you, but we couldn't go through with the squid nugget experiment. The things were just so...nasty. We talked amongst ourselves, and we concurred we couldn't very well wrap something in bacon that we wouldn't have the cajones to eat on its own in real life. We waivered on the topic, but what set us over the edge: when we read the package's broken English, we discovered that said nuggets of grossness are intended to serve as a soup flavoring, and not necessarily as a finger food--we fully acknowledge that we chickened out, but we feel that fact at least partially lets us off the hook.

Still, we feel horrible enough that we're currently flagellating ourselves with strips of Nueske's right now. We promise to make it up with you with an awesome week of bacon tests starting Monday--and in a few minutes, we'll post a delicious bacon recipe.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Test #164: Bacon and PEANUT SWEET RICE BALL

The subject
Many Asian foods bear literal-sounding--if not very poetic--names. Head BDJ Lab Tech Jenni's favorite dim sum joint Happy Chef, in Chicago's Chinatown Square, is a good example. The menu is written in Chinese, and the English part might as well be; names like "savory meat triangles" are apt, but they don't tell the entire story. Savory meat triangles are, indeed, fairly triangular, and they certainly contain meat. The whole story: a sweet dough surrounds a meaty filling, and deep-frying causes the triangle to puff up, making it look like an overinflated triangle (which is why she refers to them as "tasty footballs").

Peanut sweet rice balls are similar. Yep, there's peanuts involved, as are rice and a sweet flavor, but the name doesn't impart the fact that the peanut filling is actually more on the savory side, and that the sweet outside is made of rice flour, which is stickier than a toddler with a Sno-Cone. We decided the sweet-savory combo might make a good candidate for wrapping in that's just what we did.

The result
Fair to middlin'. While we had high hopes for the peanut filling, its hearty, almost meaty flavor actually fought with, rather than complemented, the bacon. We give a thumbs up for the sticky rice ball itself--the flavor went well with the bacon, and the super-sticky texture contrasted with the crispy-crunchy bacon in a fun way. We might consider repeating this experiment, but definitely not with this filling.

The conclusion: Bacon and peanut sweet rice ball = just so-so

Next up: Bacon + squid nugget (yes, we're afraid)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Test #163: Bacon and SHRIMP SNACKS

The subject
Shrimp crackers (or shrimp 'snacks' as the Marco Polo brand calls them) are lower on the oddity scale than most exotic Asian snacks. They resemble--in texture and in basic flavor--Cheetos, but with seafood flavor instead of cheese. This particular brand comes in different flavor, such as the sour cream and onion you see at left. We at BDJ Labs prefer ours plain--we also prefer the brand that calls them shrimp crackers and puts them in bits that look exactly like crinkle-cut french fries, but our procurement department failed yet again in acquiring the precise test subject we requested. Open note to BDJ Labs procurement staff: consider this message your probation notice.

Anyhoo, it turns out these small chip-shaped nuggets worked okay for our test. We wrapped one in bacon and went to town.

The result
Amazing--the shrimp snack all but disappeared (we're not surprised--they're very light and puffy). We put a bacon-ensconced shrimp snack in the oven, and we retrieved a baked bacon nugget with nothing inside. Well, not nothing--the snack's former presence was hinted at by a vague shrimpy flavor, and a bit of stickiness, but other than that, it was goner than gone. Chalk this one up to failure, but with the magical disappearing act, at least it's an entertaining failure.

The conclusion: Bacon + shrimp snack = poof!

Next up: Bacon + peanut sweet rice ball

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Test #162: Bacon and SEAFOOD SHU MAI

The subject
Shu mai (or shaomai, or siomai--there's a billion ways to spell it in English) are a delicious Chinese treat commonly found on dim sum menus. Fillings vary, but traditional shu mai contain a mixture of pork, shrimp, and mushroom ensconced in a wonton, then steamed and served with a soy-saucy dip. You might have tried frozen varieties from Trader Joe's or another neighborhood grocery store and been disappointed (like we were). While nothing beats the fresh, piping-hot shu mai served up at Chinese restaurants, the Doll brand frozen seafood shu mai (made in Hong Kong) we picked up from the Asian market down the street proved to be a close second. Awesome, yes--but would the awesomeness be boosted by bacon?

The result
Awesomeness elevated. We would have repeated the bacon test, had our lab staff not consumed the entire tray of seafood shu mai while waiting for the bacon-baked niblets to come out of the oven. We're not a patient lot at BDJ, sad to say. We'd definitely recommend serving these at a bacon-themed dinner, either as an appetizer or as part of the main event--and we highly recommend repeating our sauce recipe, which consisted of soy sauce mixed with a healthy dose of sririracha chili sauce. Yowza.

The conclusion: Bacon + seafood shu mai = awesome squared

Next up: Bacon and shrimp cracker

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Test #161: Bacon and TOMATO PRETZ

The subject
Asian snacks, for us, fall into one of a few categories. First up is ones that intrigue but slightly scare us--freeze-dried octopi (with the heads and dessicated beady eyeballs intact) are a good example. Second are the snacks we like but can't understand why aren't crowding American shelves--shrimp chips are one of these (good, but fish-flavored Cheetos might be too out-there for most people). Then, there's the ones we love and can't figure out why they're not in every home, grocery, and convenience store in the U.S. That's Tomato Pretz, a crackery stick the size and shape of your household thermometer flavored with veggilicious seasoning. They're awesome dipped in ranch, just dandy in their nude state, but we wondered if they would be improved with bacon spiraled around their delicate frame.

The result
As we said, they're delicate, so when we wrapped a thick slice of bacon around a Pretz, it broke in two places. We contemplated grouping two or three together, but it turns out lab staff had already eaten the rest of the package (oops). One was enough--the savory bacon married well with the savory biscuit stick. Plus, miracle of miracles, the frail biscuit stick braved the grease treatment well and ended up just as crispy-crunchy as ever. These would be decent appetizers at a bacon party, although we'd probably recommend leaving the bacon off and wrapping pretzel rods instead. Maybe the nice people at Glico (makers of Pretz, and the fantastic chocolate-covered counterpart Pocky) could come out with a tomato-bacon flavor.

The conclusion: Bacon + Tomato Pretz = mmmm-y

Next up: Bacon + seafood shu mai

Monday, May 25, 2009

Brace yourself for this week's ASIAN INVASION!

What makes the staff of BDJ Labs almost as happy as eating bacon? Why, eating Asian snacks, of course! Just two blocks away from our headquarters is Broadway Market, a grocery store that carries all sorts of treats from China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Korea. The variety of items they sell is stunning--about a zillion types of tofu (including the far superior yellow-skinned variety you find in Asian takeout food but not in most grocery chains), exotic fresh seafoods, and more noodles than you could shake a stick at.** In addition to all the goodies we buy for Asian recipes, we also stock our baskets full of Asian snacks--each bite is an adventure, whether it be shrimp crackers (kinda like Cheetos, only with fishy flavor instead of cheddar), Pocky (chocolate-covered sticks of deliciousness), or any number of frozen goodies. Since our cupboards are already full of these goodies, we decided we might as well bacon-wrap some of the things we have on hand, in addition to a few new things. Squid nuggets, for example, which we're afraid of, so we're working our way up to them.

Anyway, we're very excited--stay tuned, kids.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Test #160: Bacon and CHINESE BROCCOLI

The subject
Most people eat the "tree" part of the broccoli--the uppermost part of the plant--and toss the stalk away. In my humble (and completely correct) opinion, that's tragic, because the stalk's the best part. It stands up to stir-frying better, tastes great in dips, and doesn't get stuck in your teeth like those annoying little broccoli buds do. Chinese broccoli is nearly all stalk, with bonus lush leaves attached, which is why I love it. You can get it at your local Asian market, or if you go out for dim sum, servers often stroll through with plates of Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce--if they do, grab yourself some.

For today's test--in advance of next week's Asian Snax extravaganza--we wrapped one stalk of Chinese broccoli in bacon.

The result
Yummers--the bacon flavor didn't seep into the broccoli very much, but bacon-baking for a few minutes created a lovely two-step between the crisp-cooked bacon, and tender-crisp broccoli stalk. This would make a FABULOUS bacon-party appetizer with little or no modification--we might add a little oyster sauce, maybe teriyaki, but beyond that, this combo doesn't call for anything else but your teeth sinking into it.

The conclusion: Bacon + Chinese broccoli = awesometastic

Next up: Bacon + ice cream cone

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Test #159: Bacon and TOFU

The subject
In Archie McPhee's Mr. Bacon vs. Monsieur Tofu set, the two foodstuffs are seemingly at odds with each other. Understandably so, since one's the poster enfant of vegetarianism, and the other is the undisputed king of all meats. However, meat and tofu don't necessarily have to fight against each other. During a challenge on Top Chef's Season 4, molecular gastronomist Richard Blais and Chicago's very own Dale Talde got rave reviews for a dish that marinated tofu in beef fat (you can get the recipe here--it's mouthwatering). We at BDJ Labs wanted to see if the bean-curd cubes could get together in harmony, too. For ease of wrapping, we used the super-extra-firm kind with the skin on it (Tran's Tofu out of Chicago's our favorite).

The result
Yummers--tofu has a tendency to really adopt the flavor of whatever you put next to it; bacon-baking proved to be no exception. The tofu retained a bit of its tanginess, but the savory bacon flavor permeated the bean curd and elevated the tastiness considerably (to be honest, plain tofu ain't all that great). If we were to serve this at a bacongasm party, we might add a little something--a fresh basil leave, perhaps, maybe a slice of shiitake or porcini mushroom--but not a lot. Put this one firmly in the "success" column.

The conclusion: Bacon + tofu = reddish meat and ivory, live together in perfect harmony *

Next up: Bacon and Chinese broccoli

* Note to 20something and younger BDJ readers: That line's a hilarious allusion to a duet between Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. Please laugh at it and make us elderly people feel better.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuckered out

After spending the entire day running all over McCormick Place for the All Candy Expo, we're plum tuckered out. Please allow us to recuperate and we'll post today's bacon blog in a little while.

In the meantime, please enjoy this insanely adorable basket full of sleepy kittens.

Test #158: Bacon and WHEAT BREAD

The subject

Above is a video by the punk band Whole Wheat Bread. We at BDJ like them, but we didn't wrap THEM in bacon--intead, we took a slice of wheat bread from a plastic loaf bag and baked that after wrapping in a couple strips.

The result
While we didn't particularly care for this store-brand wheat bread (it tasted too yeasty--that's a fun word. Yeasty, yeasty, yeasty) before bacon-bakin' it, afterward it was heavenly--like garlic bread, only with bacon. In fact, we think it would be pretty danged awesome if you took a piece of garlic bread and topped it with a strip or two of bacon before popping it in the oven.

The conclusion: Bacon + wheat bread = plain ol' awesome

Next up: Bacon + tofu

Monday, May 18, 2009

Test #157: Bacon and RICE KRISPIE TREAT

The subject

I'd wager that most young chefs start their long cooking life with Rice Krispie Treats. Recipes don't get much simpler--the famously noisy cereal, butter, and marshmallows are all it calls for, yet the sense of accomplishment a kid gets from whipping a batch of these sticky bricks up is pretty palpable. More of a few of us can remember making them in our college cafeterias via the school microwaves (which perturbed the dishwashing staff to no end--that shiznit just does NOT come off). If the three-ingredient recipe is too much for you, there are now prepackaged Treats--which is what we used here.

The result
Never underestimate bacon's amazing power to transform the foods it touches. We bit into the bacon-baked Rice Krispie Treat fully expecting to find the same crunchy-chewy texture of the original, with the added bonus of a little bacon flavor. Instead, the treat was completely transmogrified into a smooth, sweet, bacony nugget--no crunch, just flavor and a little chewiness. We struggled to find something to compare it to, and the best we could come up with was bacon-wrapped taffy. Something like that. Well, whatever it was, it was damned delicious.

The conclusion: Bacon + Rice Krispie Treat = magical taste

Next up: Bacon + whole-wheat bread

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bacon Break

The BDJ Labs staff is on the road this weekend for a trip above the Cheddar Curtain. At this moment, we're in Wausau, Wisc.--half of our staff is in the lobby of the La Quinta, waiting for the other half to get their asses moving so we can go to breakfast (which, of course, will involve bacon). After that, we'll be searching local grocers and supermarkets for new and exciting types of bacon, bacon products, and other treats.

By the way, you shouldn't get too excited--the product at left isn't real. We can dream, though, can't we?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Test #156: Bacon and FLOUR TORTILLA

The subject
The tortilla is pretty damned versatile. It's the foundation of tons of different Mexican treats, but now we gringos/gringas have co-opted it for the lo-carb sandwich known as a "wrap," which is just a burrito with the ingredients of a turkey club in it. According to the Tortilla Industry Association (yep, that's a real group--go here if you don't believe me), the tortilla was created by a peasant for his hungry king in ancient times 10,000 years before Christ (whose face you can miraculously see in the tortilla at left). They estimate that Americans consume about 85 billion tortillas a year--that's a lot of fajitas.

For our test, we used a flour, rather than a corn tortilla.

The result
Yummy--the tortilla soaked up just enough bacon grease to flavor it and make the texture interesting (i.e. kinda smooth, but not too mushy). And while we enjoyed the sample, we found this to be one of the tests where we taste and wonder of the bacon-bakin' subject's potential of elevation through addition of other foods. The tortilla-bacon combo, for example, would be even more tasty if we'd slapped some cheese on the tortilla before rolling and wrapping it. Or, if we scrambled a couple eggs, then wrapped 'em up in the tortilla with some cheese before wrapping with bacon--sort of a super breakfast burrito. Mmm, we're getting hungry--this is what happens when we perform the test in the evening, but write the results before breakkie.

The results: Bacon + flour tortilla = muy bueno

Next up: Bacon + Rice Krispy Treat

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Test #155: Bacon and OATMEAL CREME PIE

The subject

We love Little Debbie snack cakes--the oatmeal creme pies being among our favorites--but there's no way in H-E-double-toothpicks that we would ever attempt eating an entire box in one minute. This is one of those things that occurs to straight males as a brilliant idea, but as an incredible demonstration of dumbassedness to the rest of the world. Funny, though.

Anyway, for this test, we took half an OCP and wrapped it in two slices of bacon.

The result
Another example of a test that, while in the realm of edibility (edibileness? whatever), is still something that tastes better without bacon than with. While the sugar/fat-laden creme didn't leak out between the bacon gaps and burn into a nasty mess, it did seep into the oatmeal cookie part, turning it into a mush that was a tad bit too sweet for our tastes, and not bacony enough. Oh, well--still leaves us with a whole bunch of OCPs for dessert. Yay!

The conclusion: Bacon + oatmeal creme pie = just okay

Next up: Bacon + tortilla

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Test #154: Bacon and PRUNE

The subject

Head BDJ Labs has a personal (albeit indirect) history with Barbara Mandrell. First, she met Barbara Mandrell when she performed at Poplar Creek in suburban Chicago (R.I.P.--it was torn down to make room for stupid Sears headquarters). Secondly, the Barbara Mandrell show was on when, in the summer between 3rd and 4th grade, she was bitten by the neighbor's dog; while she waited for Mom to get the station wagon keys, she listened to Barbara and her sisters sing about spaghetti. Thirdly, she loves prunes, the dried-fruit snack that we're bacon-bakin today.

The result
While we love prunes in their natural state, bacon baking doesn't seem to be their best use--surprising, since we've had bacon-wrapped dates and those are effin' fantastic. No, prunes turned to complete, supersweet mush--the ubersugariness and lack of texture turned us off. We definitely don't recommend this bacon-food pairing--not even to the Mandrell sisters.

The conclusion: Bacon + prune = nuh-uh

Next up: Bacon + oatmeal creme pie

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bacon Fail

I dunno--looks at least a minor win to us.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Test #153: Bacon + CUSTARD BAO

The subject
Bao are Chinese buns (the buns in this picture are actually American--sorry) filled with a wide variety of delicious stuff--BBQ pork, red bean, chicken, etc. You may have a fast-food chain near you called Wow Bao, and those are pretty okay; however, nothing beats fresh-made bao from a real-live Chinese restaurant when you're enjoying a dim sum pigout. The frozen variety aren't too bad, though; we picked up a bag of sweet custard bao from our friendly neighborhood Asian market and wrapped one in bacon.

The results
The bacony bao (fun to say, isn't it? Bao, bao, ba-bao bao...) was merely okay. The bacon only seasoned the dough a little bit; for the most part, it was bland and Styrofoamy. We suspect we may have procured freezer-burned buns and may repeat this test in the future, possibly with fresh pork-filled bao--this run isn't thrilling enough for our tastes.

The conclusion: Bacon + custard bao = fair to middlin'

Saturday: Bacon + mac 'n cheese
Sunday: This week's Bacon Bit

Bacon hair!

Apparently the virtual-world thingy Habbo lets you bestow your fake people with hair that looks like the queen of all meats. I'm thinking I'd try this with my actual hair, were I not absolutely certain that I'd look like a total tool. You're welcome to try it, however.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Test #152: Bacon + BEET

The subject
Beets are delicious, nutritious, yet people are suspicious; how can a food that looks that weird and bleeds bright magenta be tasty? Well, they are--they're fabulous in salads, pickled, and pureed. Add a beet to your mashed potatoes and voila!--purple 'taters. We at BDJ Labs are huuuuuuuuuge fans of The Office (new episode on tonight! Wooo!), and our favorite character hands down is Dwight Schrute, he of the mustard-colored shirts, boss haircut, and beet-farm ownership. We totally get why Angela was schtupping the Schrutemeister for so long--beets are sexy, and therefore, anyone that consumes mass quantities of beets is sexy.

For the purposes of this test, we took several slices of the fruit of Schrute Farms, wrapped them in bacon, and then patiently awaited the result.

The results
Hooray for beets! This test was a success--not as great as the Cadbury creme egg, but definitely ranked among the leaders. The beet slices, while not exactly crunchy, didn't turn into a big purple mushpile as we suspected--they held their own and tasted beetlike. There wasn't much transference of bacon to beet; however, the bacon layer directly touching the beet was dyed a really neat purple shade--it was like eating bacon made out of Barney, only better. Yum--thumbs up on this one.

The conclusion: Bacon + beet = Schruterrific!

Friday: Bacon + custard bao
Saturday: Bacon + macaroni 'n cheese

Aside of Bacon: "The Toast Song"

BDJ Head Lab Tech Jenni found this yesterday when looking for French toast videos (she originally heard it years ago on Dr. Demento's radio show), and now she can't get it out of her head. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Test #151: Bacon and FRENCH TOAST STICK

The subject

Who doesn't love French toast? Well, maybe vegans, but they're probably not reading a blog about bacon, so screw 'em. Anyway, French toast is one of those foods that's a slight pain in the tukis to make, a characteristic common among breakfast treats (we hate cleaning the waffle iron, for example), which is why we're glad it's been convenientized. While waffles have their ready-made, toaster-friendly counterpart (how many steps does THAT save? a lot), French toast has been made microwaveable and cut into finger-friendly sticks. That cuts out the mixing of the batter, dipping, frying, and arduous fork-cutting. We thought it'd be worth adding a step (bacon wrapping) to see if we could improve the taste (bacony goodness).

By the way, this clip has nothing to do with the actual food--the world record holder for most claps in a minute (more than 700) is Kent "Toast" French. Pretty awesome.

The result
Not surprisingly, the flavor is delicious--French toast and bacon are a proven pairing at IHOPs, Denny's and other breakfast-food purveyors all over the globe. However, because the sticks are tougher than their fresh-made counterparts, they were able to stand up texture-wise to the bacon treatment, whereas (we're certain) homemade French toast would most likely wither. This would make a great bacon party sweet treat, and we definitely recommend it to all you baconeers out there.

The conclusion: Bacon + French toast stick = magnifique

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Test #150: Bacon and WHEAT THIN

The subject
When it comes to snack crackers, Wheat Thins are about as yawnworthy as you get. They're made of wheat, and they're not very thick--tada! While they're pretty darned tasty, they're about as thrilling as watching paint dry, grass grow, etc.

Now, though, Nabisco's attempted to add excitement and glamor by offering different flavors--the "Artisan Cheese" varieties, for example, which includes Wisconsin Colby and Vermont Cheddar. We picked up a box from the Wheat Thins "Fiber Selects" line, choosing the Garden Vegetable flavor. It's a good thing they're not incredibly delicious; considering the remarkably high amount of fiber contained therein, going to town on a box could render you a dangerous weapon. We figured bacon, however, could bring up the 'wow' flavor factor on these lackluster snacks. Let's see if we were right...

The result
The end result of this test was a disappearing act worthy of Doug Henning (note to anyone under the age of 30: look him up--the magician was funny looking but could kick David Copperfield's ass any day of the week). We bit into the sample and could taste and feel only bacon. A sidelong glance at the sample's cross-section proved that there was, indeed, a cracker amid the layers of bacon, but the flavor was totally absent. If we strained super hard, we could detect the grainy texture of the cracker, but no crunch or wheaty flavor. Weird. I guess we're glad it didn't make the bacon taste bad, but we're bewildered why the Wheat Thin decided to bail out on the flavor marriage with bacon. Cold feet?

The conclusion: Bacon + Wheat Thin = mysterious

Wednesday: Bacon + french toast stick
Thursday: Bacon + pickled beet

Friday, May 1, 2009

Test #149: Bacon and BROWNIE

The subject
A brownie is many things: In Scottish folklore, a brownie is a helpful being that comes out at night to clean and do other helpful chores. The term also describes a girl who's too young to be a full-fledged Girl Scout, but still has a strange urge to do good deeds and dress in an adorkable costume. Our personal favorite, though, is the super-moist chocolate cake square, which first appeared about 100 years ago. We especially like the edible brownies that Pillsbury offers up--all the dry ingredients in a box, so you don't have to do all that pesky measuring work. We whipped up a pan in BDJ Labs, frosted it, and then cut a square for testing.

The results
We're sorry for the lack of "after" photo--we didn't realize we'd accidentally deleted it from the BDJ Labs camera until after we'd eaten the entire pan of brownies. Ah, well. We can tell you that the result was a-friggin-mazing--the brownie fluffed up and attained a level of cake moistness that had before that point never been seen in the entire universe. Each bite was like being visited by a chocolate angel with wings of bacon. The mark of a good test: the lab falls completely silent, except for nomming sounds, from the first test bite until the test plate is totally empty (and, sometimes, licked clean--we're not proud). Our only regret, and it's a small one--next time, we'd scrape off and reserve the frosting, bacon-bake the brownie, then put the frosting back on top at the end.
Beat that, Betty Crocker.

The conclusion: Bacon + brownie = chocoluscious

Saturday: Bacon + Wheat Thin
Sunday: This week's Bacon Bit