Friday, July 31, 2009

But pepper is GOOD with bacon...

Store guard avoids pepper spraying in nabbing alleged bacon thieves

From The Capital Times--click here for the original story
July 31, 2009

MADISON, Wisc.--Two alleged shoplifters pilfered bacon, sausage, makeup and magazines from Woodman's Food Market on the southwest side Thursday and tried to get away by attempting to use pepper spray on a security guard before being arrested, Madison police reported.

Kimberly Hutchins, 30, and a 16-year-old female, both of Madison, were arrested following the attempted shoplifting at about 12:45 p.m. at the supermarket at 711 S. Gammon Road.

Police spokesman Joel DeSpain said the security officer approached the two when they left the store.

"The older of the two (Hutchins) pulled out a can of pepper spray which was marked 'for law enforcement only,' and pointed it at the officer," DeSpain said. "He was able to knock the can out of her hand and put her in handcuffs."

Police located the other suspect and arrested both.

"Inside their purses were a number of items for which they had not paid, including cosmetics, magazines, bacon and sausage," DeSpain said.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Aside of Bacon: Folsom Pwison Bwues

Little Wesley here is a student at Heartwood Guitar, a music school in Washington. Listen to the mournful singing, even though I'm pretty sure the kid's never been to prison (unless Folsom has a kindergarten block I don't know about.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Road Rasher: Top Chef slings bacon, beer

Note: Head BDJ Lab Tech Jenni S. was lucky enough to score a spot at the first Wandering Goat, a traveling backyard dinner bash thrown by Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard. Here's her report...

God bless Twitter--I've scored more free stuff in the past couple of weeks from that site/service/whatever the F you want to call it than you could shake a stick at. Bacon soap from Archie McPhee, Lyle Lovett tickets from Ravinia, and--thanks to a Twitter-based contest--tickets to a swingin' backyard culinary bash. The host: Top Chef champ and Chicago native Stephanie Izard. The purpose: Izard's gearing up for the opening of her Drunken Goat restaurant a few months down the road. The crowd: veteran food journos like Steve Dolinsky (aka ABC-7's "Hungry Hound" guy), restaurant marketing whiz Ellen Malloy of the Restaurant Intelligence Agency, and scores of hungry food fans like me.

Holy crap, the food was great. I'm a horrible blogger, because I was more concerned with stuffing my face and imbibing mass quantities of Three Floyds' excellent Gumballhead wheat ale, than I was about marking down details regarding the food I was wolfing down. Here's what I ate, to the best of my now-cloudy memory:
* This grilled octopus dish, with pineapple and some other stuff sprinkled on it (pancetta, I think): awesome
* Little triangles of polenta, with wee slivers of radish, creamy sauce stuff, and tangy berries on the side: fabulous
* Cute little biscuit rounds with smoked BBQ pork and slaw on top: brilliant
* Oysters with some other stuff on the half shell: yum
* Calamari stuffed with lamb: OH MY GOD--I think i had three servings of this one
* Hunks of fried bread with some meat or other on top: never got to it because I was so apeshit about the calamari

Inside, Wandering Goaters were treated to a trio of divine gelatos: banana curry, lemon ginger and roasted red pepper. I marveled at all three, but the banana curry had me going back for seconds, despite the fact that my fullness level was already at the pants-bursting point.

Ms. Izard didn't just walk around schmoozing--she spent most of the evening working shoulder to shoulder with her prep staff in cooking and plating the dishes. However, she did take a break to grab a beer and tell me she's already hard at work on the menu for next month's menu. While she's tight-lipped about the specific dishes, she did share the star ingredient that will dominate the dishes: BACON. Come hell or high water, I will be there--and next time, I'll take better notes.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Road Rasher: Bacon at Pierogi Fest

The intrepid baconeers at BDJ Labs set out to Whiting, Ind., for the annual Pierogi Fest. If you've never been, mark your calendars for 2010--it's a modest affair but packed with fun and food, centering on (what else?) the marvelous Polish invention called the pierogi--a hearty dough filled wtih potato, cheese, mushroom, meat, sauerkraut, and tons of other fillings. In our hometown of Chicago, pierogi are accompanied by a number of condiments--sour cream, applesauce, onions and (our favorite) little bits of crispy bacon. We entered the Pierogi Fest fairgrounds in hopeful search of bacon bits.

We were disappointed. Many booths offered sour cream alongside their little Polish ravioli. A precious few put out applesauce as well. However, not a single booth sprinkled their wares with bacon bits. We would have cried, were it not for the delightfully named "bacon buns" at one booth. The doughy balls filled with crumbled bacon, brushed with butter and baked to golden brown were delicious, and they helped at least partially satisfy our never-ending hunger for bacon.

Still, after one bacon bun, we found we needed more meat. We had "chevops" (aka cevapcici, or myrad other spellings), a wondrous Serbian sausage that has every animal in the world stuffed into it. They look modest, like shriveled little Brown 'n Serves, but they taste like meat paradise.

We'll definitely be back next year. We might, however, bring our own side of bacon.

Friday, July 24, 2009


The subject
The dog-loving techs at BDJ Labs, for the most part, subscribe to the view that our puppies are not our pets, so much as they are our furry little children. As such, we're very interested about their health, happiness and diet. We admit, that curiosity and concern has led us to taste more than a few bits of canine cuisine, just to see what they're getting. Beggin Strips actually aren't so awesome--they taste more like salty Play-Doh than meat byproduct, although dogs such as Jenni S.'s terrier mix Willie (see pic at left) don't seem to mind. The folks at Three Dog Bakery, though, offer up dog treats that you just might be able to pass off as human nibbles at any party or gathering. Milk-Bones are somewhere in the middle--not good, not bad, just bland.

It's been a while since we tasted dog treats--we figured we'd try again, but this time with bacon.

The results
Well, we weren't expecting much--which is good, because this one was (WARNING: PUN AHEAD) dog-gone awful. The crunch of the Milk-Bone gave way to mush, and the bone took on grease with no bacon flavor. No one managed to get a single bite of the sample down--no one, that is, except for Willie the lab assistant.

The conclusion: Bacon + Milk-Bone = dog-gone arful

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Playing with pork: Mr. Bacon's Big Adventure

We at BDJ Labs couldn't be more in love with Archie McPhee if they sent us free bacon stuff. Luckily, happily, blissfully--that's exactly what they did. As a thank-you for constantly chatting about how awesome the purveyor of fun is (or maybe to shut us up--who knows?), they sent us a box of gratis goodies from their impressive collection of bacon-themed items, including the brand-new game Mr. Bacon's Big Adventure.

Now, if you don't know who Mr. Bacon is, you should--he's a walking strip (or rasher, if you're British) of bacon. Cool as all get out, and (except for shoes and a pair of dapper white gloves) totally nekkid. He's so awesome, every day's probably a big adventure for him, but this game lets you share in part of the excitement that his life must be. Screw Candy Land--gather the kids around for an evening of meat-filled family fun and play this whimsical artery-clogging game.

You can buy your game here. Or, if you're in Chicago, send us a message at if you'd like to challenge us to a Mr. Bacon's Big Adventure match. If playing with meat works up your appetite for more meaty McPhee material, fulfill the need here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Test #182: Bacon and KOHLRABI

The subject
When we meet someone that's never had kohlrabi, we have a dual reaction: the first half is sadness that the poor soul has never had the pleasure into crunching into this zesty, flavorful vegetable. The second half is a little 'yippee!' feeling we get knowing we're going to have the privilege of introducing the wonder that is kohlrabi to 'em. Jenni S., head BDJ Labs tech, remembers summer visits to her grandmother's house, during which Grandma always had a bowl of kohlrabi slices resting in a bowl of ice water for all-day snacking. We've grown them in our own personal gardens and while we always eventually find ourselves with more tomatoes than we can give away, surplus is never a problem with kohlrabi. There's never enough of it.

We've never had it cooked, but since we love it so much, we figured our first time should be with bacon.

The results
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. Our expectations for success were met and exceeded by a LONG ways when we bit into our test samples. Comparisons escape us, but we're reasonably comfortable with one lab tech's claim that the bacon-baked kohlrabi has a taste and mouthfeel "kinda like potato, only awesomer." Bad english, good parallel--the thin slice of kohlrabi tasted like slightly tangy spud, but it held up consistency-wise far better than a tuber would have. Yum city--definitely worth repeating at a bacon party.

The conclusion: Bacon + kohlrabi = big winner

Monday, July 20, 2009

Test #181: Bacon and CANTALOUPE

The subject
Farmers markets are hot in Chicago and every other urban area. Part of their appeal is the absolutely amazing flavor of the wares there, especially in comparison to the lifeless lumps of blegh found in the produce sections of Dominick's and Da Jewels. Early on in its existence, the hilarious blog Stuff White People Like wrote about the love caucasians have for buying beets and kohlrabi from people under a tent, rather than from The Man. Doing so feeds our desire to be environmentally conscious, socially responsible localvores, so we can pat ourselves on the back for being cool and awesome and better than everyone else.

We at BDJ Labs are no more immune to the lure of garden-fresh green things than any other city dweller. We fell victim to the siren call this weekend, in fact, and couldn't resist the tempting sweet smell of a cantaloupe the size of a yoga ball. We took it back to BDJ HQ and wolfed down half of it before we could take a second breath, then chopped the other half up for later, with one lucky hunk of melon reserved for a bacon test.

The results
This one was kind of a no-brainer, seeing as we've all marveled at the wondrous combination of melon and prosciutto. The one variable we weren't sure of was how baking would treat the delicate melon, so we took a piece closer to the rind, thinking that its firmer texture would render it more capable of taking the heat. That might have saved it--the piece mushed up a bit, but not too terribly much, and we ended up with a yummy taste treat. We're not sure if we'd recommend this for a party, because the consistency is a little too soft, but it sure was a tasty failure, for lack of a better word.

The conclusion: Bacon + cantaloupe = delicious semi-success

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bacon Bit: UK elderly denied bacon

We at BDJ respect the right of people of all faiths to observe the customs and rituals of their religions. However, when one person's observance of faith restricts others and prevents them from living their lives the way they want to, we have a problem. And when that wielding of personal beliefs restricts others' access to bacon, we have a HUGE problem. Witness this recent bulletin from the U.K.'s Daily Mail which lists the plight of bacon-loving retirees across the pond.

Muslim care home owner bans pensioners from eating bacon sandwiches

A Muslim care home owner has been branded 'a disgrace' after banning his pensioner residents from eating bacon.

The 40 pensioners - none of them Muslim - were shocked when all pork products were cut off the menu by owner Dr Zulfikar Ali Khan.

He stopped deliveries from the butcher who supplied the home for years and instead ordered halal-meat only from another firm.

The 40 pensioners - none of them Muslim - were shocked when all pork products were cut off the menu by owner Dr Zulfikar Ali Khan.

The 40 pensioners - none of them Muslim - were shocked when all pork products were cut off the menu by owner Dr Zulfikar Ali Khan.

It meant that the elderly residents at the 40-bed Queen's Care Centre in the pit village of Maltby, near Rotherham, missed out on traditional favourites like bacon sandwiches, sausage and mash, ham sandwiches and sausage rolls.

But the move has brought a furious reaction from the 37-strong staff - and the families of residents.

Said a relative of an elderly resident : 'This is a disgrace. The old people who are in the home and in their final years an deserve better.

'They are paying customers who are making profits for this man. The least he can do is give them their favourite food.

'Bacon butties and bangers and mash is traditional English food and that's what these people want, it's shocking that they should be deprived of the food they like on the whim of this man.'

Said one member of staff , who asked not to be named: 'Only halal meat was delivered to the home and all pork products such as bacon, ham sandwiches, pork pies, sausages and even lard were stopped.

'He did not consult the residents or seek their approval. Bacon sandwiches are a favourite here.

'It's also quite wrong that someone should impose their religious and cultural beliefs on others like this.

'For many years meat has been supplied by Crawshaws, a Rotherham family butcher but that contract ended two weeks ago and since then only halal meat has been delivered along with other products with brand names you would not recognise.

'We were told that if people wanted pork products we could go out and get them, but in reality this has not worked.

'We only have halal meat on the premises and so this is all we had to serve to residents because there is no other meat in the building.'

Dr Khan is believed to be the only one the only in the building.

Dr Khan is believed to be the only one the only in the building.

When asked about the decision, Dr Khan, who has owned the home since 1994, suggested that the halal meat had been brought in for Muslim staff - but he is believed to be the only one the only in the building.

He said staff had misconceptions about the situation and added : 'As soon as we realised residents were not getting what they wanted it was resolved a a senior staff meeting a week ago.

'We will be ordering all types of meat . It is complete nonsense. The residents are free to have whatever they want.

'Regarding meat we are moving from Crawshaws to Browns Meat Supplies - a British company which supplies all kinds of meat.

'There has been one delivery of halal meat and people have misunderstood the concept. As soon as I realised this I held a senior staff meeting which was minuted and I made it abundantly clear that residents could have any meat product or food they wished.

'I agree it would be quite wrong for someone to impose their religious or cultural beliefs on others, but this is not the case.'

Said a former member of staff who still has connections with the home: 'I believe Dr Khan intended to serve only halal meat at the home but has had to think again because of the row.

'The staff have been very unhappy and the manager has just left, one of several to go in the last few years.'

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The State of Bacon

The State is a fabulous show that graced the MTV airwaves about a decade ago, then faded into memory. It's the show that introduced Michael Ian Black, the people behind Reno 911 and other comedy genius types. Praises be, they've released the entire series on DVD, so now we can sit in our living rooms and relive gems like this.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Test #180: Bacon and SLIM JIM

The subject
We at BDJ Labs frankly believe that everything should be wrapped in meat--that includes meat itself. While some may claim that the spicy stick of snackitude known as a Slim Jim might not qualify as meat, thanks to all the scary chemicals added to it, we say, "Close enough." Today, we salute the Slim Jim by ensconscing it in our finest salted pork strips.

By the way: The image at left is a Halloween costume that, as far as we can tell, is no longer available. Oh, the humanity.

The result
You've heard the phrase, "Too much of a good thing," right? Yeah. This is it. Too much salt, spice, grease, etc. Plus it smells weird. Don't try this one at home, kids.

The conclusion: Bacon + Slim Jim = not something you'd want to snap into

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


We apologize for the gap in posting this week--oddly enough, all BDJ staffers have other obligations tying up their schedules. Our procurement department hasn't been able to conduct subject-seeking expeditions, and our baking specialists aren't available to don the oven mitts and go to town. Again, we apologize, and hope these bacon-related videos help you muddle through somehow.

Jim Gaffigan's a proud bacon lover. Wouldn't it be lovely if he came to Chicago for BaconFest?

How bacon is made, factory style. I guarantee the folks at Nueskes are gentler with their meat than these people. Dig the space-age music--sounds like a porn soundtrack.

A BACON-EATING CONTEST? Want to go to there! Watch and tell us if you want to smack that male host. Whiny beeyatch.

Do you have a favorite bacon video? If so, please post in the comments below--we'd love to see it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bacon Bit: Bacon Bonanza

We're feeling very random today--we stayed up to 3 a.m. knitting, watching the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, and eating Pocky. Wild children, we. Anyway, to reflect our mood, here's a bunch of random thoughts. We're only calling it a "bonanza" because that's an awesome word that makes our lazyassedness seem cooler--although the "Lazy Sunday" connection would make that label all right, too.

1. Baking bacon. We know you probably grew up making bacon in a skillet. You might even have had one of those splatter shields, which looks like a badminton racket from outer space. At BDJ, we hate splatter, and our meager budget doesn't allow for repeated paper towel and Formula 409 purchases, so we bake our bacon in the oven, whether we're doing bacon experiments or just enjoying pure, unadulterated strips. Some packages (Hormel, for instance) direct you to bake your bacon at 425 degrees for about 10-12 minutes--we find that slow and low is the tempo, so 350 degrees until the bacon looks as done as you'd like it (we personally prefer the crisp-chewy, medium-rare stage). We also recommend spraying with non-stick spray before baking.

2. Safety first. If you insist on frying in a skillet, for God's sake, don't cook naked--at least wear an apron. Also, this tip from Head BDJ Labs Tech Jenni S.: If you smoke your own bacon over a charcoal grill and, when moving coals from the coal-starter chute to the Weber, accidentally drop one, DO NOT STEP ON IT. It hurts. Better yet, don't grill barefoot.

3. Leftover bacon? We've never had that happen--we're the type of people that, after the pile of bacon strips is gone, find ourselves going back to the cookie sheet and looking for tiny morsels of bacon leavings. However, if you do have a strip or two leftover, here's a few suggestions on what you can do with 'em:
* Bacon pancakes--either crumble the bacon into the mix, or place the strips onto the skillet,
then immediately pour the batter over the strips (looks kinda neat)
* Salad--a nice BLT salad, with bacon bits, tomato, and a light ranch dressing makes for a delicious summer meal
* Mac 'n cheese--stir that crumbled bacon right in there; it wakes the nuclear-orange concoction right up
* Pizza--put it on top of frozen pizza before you bake it, or sprinkle on top of homemade
* Muffins--get some sweet-savory akshun going on by tossing a handful of bacon crumbles into your blueberry, apple, or any kind of muffin batter
* Cottage cheese--remember when this stuff was a part of every "dieter's plate" in every family restaurant across the country? Turns out it's not that healthy, so you might as well make it taste good with some bacon.
* Bacon mary--bloody marys are great in the morning or any time of day, and they're made even better (as we've said here before) with a Bacon Salt rim and bacon swizzle stick

4. Fake bacon. BDJ Labs is evenly divided regarding turkey bacon--some regard it as a pale, yet somewhat acceptable, substitute for the real thing; others among us think the words "turkey" and "bacon" shouldn't appear right next to each other, ever, except in the case of delicious turkey-bacon club sandwitches on a menu. Vegetarian bacon...well, we're not even going to dignify that with a response.

5. Bacon accoutrements. We can't get enough of Archie McPhee and all of their crazy bacon gear. Being loyal, hearty baconeers, none of us have ever had much use for a belt (our bacon bellies keep our pants up just fine, thanks), but we might just lose a few pounds to loosen our trousers, just so we can justify this purchase.

That's it--we've been up for a whole 90 minutes now, so we're exhausted. Naptime!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Test #180: Bacon and PEACHES

The subject

The results
Mmm, we love some peach cobbler--one of the most delicious treats resulting from summer's abundance. Bacon-wrapped peach tasted kinda like peach cobbler, only with the addition of delicious, delicious bacon. The only thing we can think of to improve: sprinkling with a bit of brown sugar during the last few minutes of baking.

The conclusion: Bacon + peaches = nommable

Next up: This week's Bacon Bit

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The King of Bacon

Earlier this week, BDJ Labs' Creative Department suggested to the lovely people at Archie McPhee that, rather than creating a narwhal tribute to the late King of Pop, they should employ the services of Mr. Bacon, since bacon is much more "Bad" and less "Off the Wall" (see what we did there?). They came up with this magnificent creation depicted at left. As a tribute to McPhee and His Royal Badness, BDJLCD wrote this song (sung to the tune of "Man in the Mirror":

I'm gonna make some meat
For breakfast today
It's gonna taste real good
With some apple pancakes
Maybe with some crepes

As I'm getting the bacon out
Oh, baby, there's no doubt
This pork is blowing my mind
Don't tell me 'bout the fat
'Cause I don't care 'bout that
If I did, I'd be eating Frosted Mini-Wheats

I turn the burner up
Get out my coffee cup
While the pan gets hot
I put the bacon in
The sizzle soon begins
This is gonna hit the spot--
Oy, vey, the hunger I've got!

I'm looking at the meat in the skillet
I'm watching it turn golden brown
Got coffee, so now--oops, I spilled it
Going in the drawer to get my fork
Cause now it's almost time to eat some pork
(na na na, na na na, na na, na nah)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

DIY BDJ: The wonders of homemade bacon

We at BDJ Labs have been enjoying the fruits of others' labor--Nueske's, Farmland, Whole Foods, Oscar Mayer, Hormel, etc.--since we were wee little baconeers. While all of those salted-pork brands are indubitably delicious, we'd heard from bacon buddies and read on the Interwebs that the taste of homemade bacon approaches pork nirvana. We're nothing if not crafty, so, after only the briefest of discussions, we decided to make the leap into DIY bacon.

Turns out, it's not that hard at all. You just need a few basics, some easier to find than others:
1. Pork belly. This is a cut of meat you can't buy at just any old megamart grocery store--you need to find yourself a butcher. We're lucky enough to live within easy striking distance of Paulina Meat Market, and butchers don't get any better than that (we feel the same way about their store that Carrie Bradshaw does about Jimmy Choo). Ask your butcher to cut the rind off, or just do it at home (it takes a sharp, sharp knife, so be careful). We got about 4 lbs.
2. Curing salt. It's not pink just to be cute--this salt (also known as Prague Powder No. 1) contains a wee bit of sodium nitrite to help keep meat fresh; the coloring is so that you can distinguish it from regular salt, because consuming too much of the pink variety at once can make you feel icky. We picked our pink salt up at Paulina, but the awesome Spice House sells it in their stores and online.
3. Hickory chips. Luckily, these are available at most stores that sell BBQ gear, so you won't have to wander all over creation to pick these up. If you like, you can use different woods (the fine people at Nueske's use applewood, for example), but don't just break up a 2x4 and throw it on the fire--buy stuff specifically packaged for grilling and smoking and doing other meaty things.
4. Patience. It's not like ripping open a package of strips and baking them--making your own bacon takes days. It'll pay off, don't worry.

Okay, now that you've got your special goodies ready, here's what you do:
1. Mix up 1/4 C regular salt with 1 tsp of the special stuff, then rub it all over the pork belly.
2. Stick the salted pork belly in a giant Ziploc bag, making sure to get as much of the air out as possible. Store in the fridge for a week, turning every day so it cures evenly.
3. Soak several cups of hickory chips for at least an hour, or overnight.
4. Remove the pork from the bag and rinse thoroughly.
5. Prep your charcoal grill; you'll only need a small amount of coals. When they've been glowing for a while, push them to one side of your grill and throw a handful of hickory chips on top. Put the grill rack on, then put a piece of tin foil big enough to put the pork on the opposite side of the grill, then smack that slab of pork on (the grill should be about 200 degrees--any hotter and the pork'll cook).
6. Put the lid on and smoke the pork for 2 to 4 hours, depending on how much smoke flavor you want. Check periodically and throw another handful of wood chips on whenever necessary.
7. Let the meat rest for one hour before refrigerating.

Pretty easy, right? Like Tom Petty said, the waiting (both the week the pork sits in the fridge, and the hours spent tending the smoker) is the hardest part. A very close second, though, is the cutting. When you decide to cut yourself a slice off, you'll find it's easier to do with a sharp knife (again, be careful), and you might want to put the slab in the freezer for an hour or so, to firm the meat up and make cutting easier.

Now the cooking: we found that slices of the homegrown cooked up far better in the oven. In our castiron skillet, it got too dark too fast, and curled around the edges too much for our taste. Instead, turn your oven to 350, put the strips of bacon on a nonstick pan and bake for 10-15 minutes until they look pretty.

Monday, July 6, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Bacon-maker plant on fire

We at BDJ Labs have nothing but love for the fine folks at Patrick Cudahy's Wisconsin plant, which caught fire earlier today. Our thoughts go out to the employees and families affected (although, thank God, no injuries reported so far), and we hope the facility is back up and running and plying hard-working Americans with quality meat products again soon.

Click here for the company's statement, and news about the incident.

Test #179: Bacon and STRAWBERRY

The subject
You gotta love this time of year. Strawberries actually taste fruitlike and cost less than a mortgage payment because they're so plentiful. If you walk in Chicago down the section of Lawrence between Broadway and Clark--the part of Uptown that BDJ Labs calls home--look closely at the triangular planters at the entrance to every side street. In addition to the lillies and heather that grace the containers, there's a blanket of strawberries poking through the mulch. We never get to eat them (homeless people, or maybe birds, get to them first), but no matter--fine grocery retailers are selling the berries at crazy low prices, so we decided to wrap a berry in bacon and see what happened.

FYI: The picture at left is the cover of a CD by the Lightning Seeds, a highly underrated Britpop band. Look 'em up.

The results
"What happened" is yuck. We knew strawberries were tricky to cook--too much heat and they turn into a flavorless red mush--but we thought maybe bacon-baking would be kind to the fruit and impart it with bacony goodness. No such luck--the bacon pan looked like a salted-pork crime scene. Actually, "crime" might not be the worst word, since the bacon/strawberry combo proved so nasty we tossed it in the garbage--and wasting bacon, friends, truly is an offense. If you have a wealth of berries, whether it be through a prolific strawberry patch or overpurchasing, we recommend you either eat them plain, in a yogurt/granola parfait, or in a strawberry-rhubarb pie. Ooh, baby.

The conclusion: Bacon + strawberry = the opposite of delightful

Next up: The results of BDJ's first attempt at homemade bacon! Oh, let us do a dance of mirth and glee together!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Bacon Bit: Makin' bacon

Great news, baconeers--BDJ Labs is making its own bacon! We purchased three hunks of pork belly, ranging in size from 1 to 2 lbs., and they've been resting in the fridge for several days. Using a blend of recipes found on the Interwebs, we decided to try a few different techniques and flavors, each beginning with a curing-salt blend. The first is honey flavored (we just love the juxtaposition of sweet and savory), the second is garlic (one of our favorite flavors), and the third is just plain salt. We haven't decided if we're going to hickory-smoke all three, or just smoke the salty one. We are about to have our last pre-bacon-making meeting to cement these decisions, then the smoking will commence. We'll keep you posted on the progress.

God bless America.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Taste of Chicago is BACONLESS?!

Note: For today's edition, Head BDJ Lab Tech Jenni S. visited the annual Taste of Chicago in Grant Park, fully expecting to return with a report on a few of the bacony treats available at the famous festival of food. Instead, she found the fest to be TOTALLY BACONLESS. Here's her story.

I know, right? Acres and acres of fabulous Chicago edibles, and not a bit of bacon in any booth. However, the trip wasn't a total loss; I managed to quiz world-famous master sommelier Alpana Singh (pictured here doing partial jazz hands) on what wine she might recommend pairing with a bacon dinner: Charles Smith Wines' Boom Boom Syrah, available at fine liquor stores everywhere.

Baconlessness aside, the food I shoved into my hungry maw made braving the crowds (full of double-wide strollers, I might add--WHEN WILL YOU PEOPLE LEARN?!) worthwhile. Here's a rundown of what I noshed on.

VeeVee's: taste portion of goat/rice (4 tix) Since the whole point of the Taste is to taste tastes you don't taste all the time, I started with spicy goat meat atop rice from this African restaurant. Sometimes taste portions are small, sometimes they're generous--this was the former. One itty-bitty piece of goat on a pathetic rice bed--delicious though it was, it wasn't worth three bucks in tickets.

Aunt Diana's: frozen baby banana (3 tix) So much for my self-imposed "new stuff only" rule--I passed a kid wielding one of these cool creations and it looked like chocolate-covered heaven on a stick. Sure enough, each bite made my tummy do a little happy dance, and although the treat has "baby" in the name, it was anything but infant-sized. It's kinda hard to eff up something that has two damned ingredients, so maybe we shouldn't be handing a James Beard award to Auntie Di, but she gets points for simple tastiness.

Goddess and the Grocer: red velvet cupcake (5 tix) I dug the Chef's Table dessert area; some of my favorite places in the city (Bittersweet, Julius Meinl) stuck their bestest sweets in this gourmet showcase, the line for which was nonexistent (yet people yards away were standing eight deep waiting for lukewarm slices of pizza--yawn). I opted for this sweet, because I'm a total whore for cupcakes. I made a wise, wise choice--perfect balance of cream-cheesy frosting and cake with the optimal level of moistness.

Arya Bhavan: samosa (4 tix) This gets my vote for overall best value--I was expecting a modest-size pastry with a small amount of filling. Nuh-uh. After handing over a measly four tickets, I received a giant baseball-size samosa with just the right amount of seasoning (don't you hate when restaurants just stuff plain-jane taters in a crust and call it a day) and sauce on top. If I could only pick one of the Taste restaurants to visit after the fest, it'd be this one--even if it serves baconless veggie dishes.

Vermillion: chimchurri masala chicken wings (4 tix) Those that know me, know I loves me some spice. I've had hot-sauce-tasting parties, I eat jalapeno slices right out of the jar, and I openly laugh at the weak claims made by fast-food dishes purporting to be hot (spicy chicken sandwich? You, Wendy, are completely full of shit). The heat these wings brought, though, had me sweating and reaching for my water bottle.

Soul Vegetarian East: sweet potato pie (4 tix) This was my, "Oh, crap, I still have four tickets left and I want to get the eff out of here" selection--I felt like tossing my tickets would be wasting, and I didn't want to give my leftovers to the dudes that beg for tickets near the exit (news flash: they sell them to the people coming in, two for a buck). Not bad, but I would prefer my desserts not be so sweet they turn my face inside out.

A few random comments, if I may:
1. If I were to create a drinking game that required me to do a shot every time I spotted an ugly-ass Ed Hardy shirt, I'd have been three sheets to the wind before I made it 10 steps past the gate.
2. President Obama needs to make it a top priority to outlaw double-wide strollers. I nearly lost my pinky toe to more than one clueless mom from Wilmette pushing her melon-headed children in these behemoth vehicles.
3. I usually cringe when I see an attendant in a bathroom (I can push the dryer button myself, thanks), but I applauded the entrepreneurial spirit of the homeless guy that stood outside the Port-A-Potties, handing out paper towels.

Happy Independence Weekend, baconeers.

Test #178: Bacon and WIENER

The subject
Heh-heh--we said WIENER. We at BDJ, being proud and loyal citizens of the great city of Chicago, truly love ourselves a great Chicago-style hot dog. Listen close, because we're not gonna say it again: Take a hot-dog bun (preferably poppy seed), insert an all-beef wiener (heh-heh), then top with yellow mustard, diced onions, nuclear-green relish, dill-pickle spear, tomato slices, sport peppers, and a sprinkling of celery salt. Slices of cucumber are optional (personally, we think three forms of cukes are too much), but we'll tell you one thing that's not optional: ketchup. Ketchup is something that should never, ever, ever come in contact with a hot dog. If you're not from the Windy City and you've attempted a wiener (heh) ketchup pairing in view of a native, you know what we mean--the negative reactions you get range from mild scoffing, to unabashed horror and rage.

One thing we thought would go well with a hot dog: bacon. We wrapped an all-beef hot dog in a couple slices of bacon and baked the wiener up real good.

The results
Ah, the transformative powers of salted pork. The beefy wiener (hee) started out deliciouser and weenielike, but bacon-baking made it into something still delicious, but different. The bacony goodness soaking into the sausage and mingling with the meat throughout imparted the hot dog with a stronger, bratwurst-like flavor. Very, very tasty--we'd definitely repeat this again, possibly on a bun with all the 'dragged through the garden' toppings that a true Chicago dog sports.

The conclusion: Bacon + hot dog = magic wiener (heh heh)