Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ring In 2010 With Oscar Mayer Bacon

Chef John Li has one of the most enviable jobs in the world. As senior executive chef for Kraft Foodservice, he gets to spend his workday playing with his food.

Among the recent edibles he's been toying with: Oscar Mayer Super Thick Cut Applewood Smoked Bacon. The name might be a mouthful, but so's the bacon--at nine slices per 16-oz package, an individual strip is more than twice the thickness of your average rasher. Why, when the bacon lovers of America are seeing their food budgets getting trimmer, did Oscar Mayer decide to plump up its bacon?

"Bacon is hot right now--it's the 'It' ingredient," says Chef Li. "Fine-dining restaurants are cutting their own pork bellies and trying things with different smokes, cutting bacon very thick, and putting a lot of effort into it. We wanted to give people that restaurant experience, but without the expense or hassle."

Their hard work paid off--the super-thick rashers have more in common with a steak than the flimsy, paper-thin pork strips most bacon brands you find in a supermarket. "Cutting it thick over thin gives you a whole different eating experience--it's more meaty and indulgent," he says. It also uses applewood, rather than the conventional hickory, for a better balance between the meat's savory/salty/smoky notes.

After Oscar Mayer came up with the Super Thick prototype, Chef Li and co. got to play mad bacon scientists and come up with recipes. They crafted maple-bacon ice cream, poured bacon bloody marys, and whipped up batches of candied bacon. They also cooked it up by its lonesome. By the way, Chef Li advises that if you're cooking up a mess o' bacon at once, oven-baking is the way to go. Less mess, no need to flip, and it imparts the Super Thick bacon with that ideal chewy/crispy texture baconeers crave so desperately. However, if you're cooking up a few strips, he encourages home chefs to use a wide, deep-sided skillet...and reserve the pan grease for other cooking (toasting croutons for salad, say).

The people at Oscar Mayer were kind enough to ship a bunch of the Super Thick bacon to BDJ Labs, along with some of Chef Li's recipe creations. We tried them, to universal rave reviews. However, as awesome as the bacon is in recipes, it's delish all by itself--consensus among Labs staff is that it's better than any bacon we've ever picked up from a supermarket, end of story.

As you're preparing for your New Year's Eve celebrations, and tomorrow's football-watching parties, you might want to one or all of these scrumptious ideas yourself, and get 2010 off to a fabulous, bacony start.

Prep time: 25 minutes
Total time: 28 minutes
Serves 4

2 slices Oscar Mayer Super Thick Cut Applewood Smoked Bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-in-wide strips
4 slices French bread, 3/4 in thick
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, halved
4 extra-thin Swiss cheese slices, cut in half
1 plum tomato, seeded/chopped
HEAT broiler.
COOK and stir bacon in skillet on medium heat 12 min. or until browned; drain on paper towels.
MEANWHILE, brush one side of each bread slice with oil. Broil, 4 inches from heat, 1 to 2 min. or until toasted; rub with cut sides of garlic.
COVER with 4 cheese pieces, bacon and tomatoes. Top with remaining cheese; broil 1 min. or until melted.


Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Makes 25 servings
6 slices OSCAR MAYER Super Thick Cut Applewood Smoked Bacon, finely chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 c whipping cream
1 pkg (6 oz) pecan halves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
COOK and stir bacon in skillet on medium heat 12 min. or until browned; drain on paper towels
PLACE next 5 ingredients in large saucepan; cook on medium heat 15 min. or until temperature reaches 239ºF (soft-ball stage) on candy thermometer, stirring occasionally.
REMOVE saucepan from heat. Stir in bacon, nuts and cinnamon. Immediately pour onto baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray; refrigerate 10 min. or until firm. Break into bite-size pieces.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Serves 2
1-1/2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1-1/2 Tbsp. thick-and-spicy barbecue sauce
4 slices cracked wheat bread, toasted
2 lettuce leaves
2 slices sweet onion
1 tomato, cut into 4 slices
4 slices OSCAR MAYER Super Thick Cut Applewood Smoked Bacon, cooked
MIX mayo and barbecue sauce; spread onto toast slices.
FILL toast slices with remaining ingredients to make 2 sandwiches.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

BREAKIN' BACON NEWS: Sweet bacon cookoff

Baconeers know that salty, savory bacon makes an excellent companion to sweet stuff--chocolate, apples, caramel, etc. Now, one of the country's finer newspapers has caught on and is sponsoring a bacon dessert cookoff. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is offering fame and fabulous prizes to one amateur chef, and one pro, who can come up with a tantalizing treat that features bacon. You have until Jan. 11 to send in your entry. Think you have what it takes? Click here, Spartacus.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bacon Bit: Chicago Mag's Big Bacon Bonanza

The excellent local rag Chicago Magazine has put five bacon brands to the test--
1. Strips from Paulina Meat Market
2. Applewoody bacon from Nueske's
3. Pork planks from Niman Ranch
4. Hickory-smoked jobbies from Gepperth's
5. Applewood-smoked stuff from Dreymiller & Kray

Not surprising, Nueske's came out on top, but the others measured up fairly well. If you'd like to read the details, click right here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Test #193: Bacon and ESCAROLE

The subject
The BDJ Labs Christmas dinner consisted of a bunch of Food Network recipes, including a dish from Emeril Lagasse: Herb Cheese-stuffed Eggplant with Braised Radicchio, Fennel and Escarole. Absolutely scrumptious, despite the complete absence of bacon from the ingredient list. The downside: we're up to our armpits in leftover escarole, which is a leafy green related to endive (fun fact: also a close cousin of the daisy). We're weary of escarole salads, so we figured, WTF--let's wrap some in bacon.

The result
Wow--two "meh" tests in a row. Not good. Not horrible, either--the flavor was pretty okay, but the texture was a little off. We likes us some wilted greens, but the escarole hunks we wrapped up in the bacon got too wilty. A far better combo would have been a salad with a poppyseed or ranch dressing, and some crispy bacon crumbled atop the whole shebang.

The conclusion: Bacon + escarole = not exactly BAM! worthy

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Test #192: Bacon and VODKA BEANS

The subject
Vodka is a magical libation--but dang, it's expensive (except for the low-brow brands like Wolfschmidt, which some well-meaning soul brought to our BDJ Labs Halloween party and left here, but it's about eight miles past nasty, unfortunately). Which is why, when we saw a box labeled "vodka beans" at Gene's Sausage Shop in Chicago's Lincoln Square, we were thrilled. We envisioned extracting the seeds from said beans, planting them in the patch of earth behind the complex, then harvesting 1.75-L bottles of the stuff toward the end of the summer.

Sadly, the "beans" are somewhat of a fraud--they're actually little boomerang-shaped chocolates with vodka filling. No vodka bushes in the backlot for us. Still pretty awesome, though--each little boozy bonbon is 26 proof, so if you were to eat a box all by yourself, you'd be feeling no pain. We decided to wrap one in bacon and see if we couldn't improve on the beans.

The results
Meh. The whole, in this case, is not greater than the sum of the parts. The bacon cooked up crisp-chewy, but the bacon and hootch kind of escaped, even though we wrapped the beans up in swaddling bacon clothes, kind of like tiny 8 lb, 6 oz baby Jesus. So, we were left with bacon that was merely kissed with chocolate, and a hint of vodka-y goodness. It would have been better had we cooked the bacon, then maybe topped a slice with a bean. Better yet, keep the two separate and enjoy their wonders apart.

The conclusion: Bacon + vodka beans = nyet good.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Give YOURSELF the gift of bacon!

The gifts are all opened, the wrapping paper's in the Dumpster, and the Christmas wine has become hangover juice (sorry--we'll type quietly so we don't make your headache worse). Did you get everything you wanted? Probably not. At the very least, we KNOW you didn't get enough bacon.

We at BDJ Labs are nothing, if not helpful. We'd love to help you reduce your holiday bacon deficit with a package of delicious Oscar Mayer Super Mega Ultra Thick bacon. It's awesome--about the size of three regular, wussy strips of bacon stacked on top of each other. Perfect for recipes, well-above-average BLTs, and all your other bacon needs. To get your own personal bacon, you just have to:
A. Become a BDJ Disciple (scroll down the right-hand side of this page and scroll down to the "follow" button--hit that puppy and you're golden).
B. Retweet this here message: "RT this here tweet and win Oscar Mayer#BACON from Bacon Du Jour! #bdjme "

We'll draw a few ppl from Column A and Column B and send them coupons for free packages of Oscar Mayer Super Thick Bacon. You can enter up to six times a day (any more than that and you'll annoy the shiitake out of your followers).

Good luck, baconeers!

Friday, December 25, 2009

2009 Bacon Gift Guide Item 12: The Greatest Gift of All

Oh, hell--it's Christmas Day and, on your way to the big family gathering, you realize you forgot a gift for your mom/sister/grandma/the weird uncle you hope you don't have to sit next to at dinner because he drinks too much and quotes Glenn Beck constantly. The only store open is Walgreen's, and you really don't want to get your giftee the latest copy of In Touch. Give them bacon--it's cheap, delicious, and you're sure to get high praise from all the others in the room.

A very bacon-y Christmas to you all!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

2009 Bacon Gift Guide Item 11: Christian Yoga

What does this have to do with bacon, you ask? Nothing, really--it's just really friggin' funny. Janine Turner, who used to star in Northern Exposure, a top-rated television show (lo, how the mighty have fallen) is now sharing with us the wonders of combining Christ's love with the body-toning wonders of yoga. As she and yoga whiz Mary Cunningham work through poses like the Mighty Disciple and Salvation Rotation, they impart life lessons and discuss scripture. It must work--look at the abs Jesus gave her.

While, sadly, this is out of print, you can find it used at eBay, used video stores, and the like. Good luck, and God bless.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009 Bacon Gift Guide Item 10: Bacon Book

Many a baconeer isn't content with feeding their mouth bacon--they also wish to feed their minds. How is bacon made? Where does it come from? Where does the word "bacon" come from? Author and bacon broad Heather Lauer's book answers all those questions and more--and includes tons of delicious recipes to boot., $12.23.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

BREAKING BACON: Big Oscar Mayer Bacon Bonanza Giveaway!

The staff of BDJ Labs is pleased as punch to announce our first BIG! BACON! GIVEAWAY! The kind folks at Oscar Mayer were kind enough to send us a big pig pack of their new super-duper thick, applewood smoked bacon (rave review coming soon), and a huge-ass stack of coupons for when we run out. While we'd very much like to keep all of this fabulousness for ourselves, this stuff is too good NOT to share. So, we're giving it away.

"How can I get some of that yummy Oscar Mayer bacon in my own belleh?" you ask? We answer--one (or both) of two ways:
1. Become a BDJ Disciple--scroll down on the home page and look on the right. See that "follow" button? Click that mother and you're entered.
2. Tweet for meat--cut and paste the following msg to your followers "Free Oscar Mayer bacon? Yes, please! #bdjme"

Each day, we'll draw a lucky winner and announce here on BDJ until we run out of coupons. We're not gonna start drawing until the day after Christmas, but you can get a jump on your competition by following BDJ and tweeting now. Tweet up to six entries a day.

Good luck, and Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2009

2009 Bacon Gift Guide Item 8: Nueske's Bacon

We were gonna say something corny like, "And on the eighth day, God created Nueske's bacon," but he didn't. However, he DID create the Nueske family some odd years ago, and THEY created their heavenly bacon. There's a reason why chefs all over the country use Nueske's swine strips in their recipes, and why restaurants all over the U.S. of A. give Nueske's top billing on their menus--it's incomparable.

The staff of BDJ Labs made a pilgrimage to Wittenberg, Wisconsin last week and picked up several pounds of the stuff (report to come next week), and we've been munching on it steadily since we returned. However, since we know not everyone's within easy driving distance of the Bacon Capitol of the World, we're more than happy to share the Nueske's site, where you can buy bacon, sausage, hams, and all sorts of treats, and have them delivered to your beloved's door. Purchase this for the baconeers on your list, and you'll definitely be their favorite person this joyous season.

Nueske's, prices vary.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009 Bacon Gift Guide Item 7: Bacon Tux Gag Gift Box

While not a gift, per se, this is still an item that you'll want to give to someone. When your gift recipient unwraps your gift, they'll see this box hawking a tuxedo made of bacon. Hopefully they'll be highly amused (rather than heartbreakingly disappointed) when they open the box to find something other than meaty formalwear., $5.95

Saturday, December 19, 2009

2009 Bacon Gift Guide Item 6: Bacon-Maple Coffee

Undeniably, one of the best smell combinations in the world is the comingled aroma of just-brewed coffee and hot, crispy bacon. Enter Maple Bacon Morning from the folks at Boca Java. This caffeinated concoction puts the tantalizing flavors and scents of a hot cuppa joe and salted pork strips together in one place. Weird? Possibly. Genius? Undeniably.

Boca Java, $7.49/8 oz.

Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 Bacon Gift Guide Item 5: Pimp Bacon! is chock fulla handmade gifts--some sublime, some ridiculous (the latter enshrined on the fabulous Web site If you yourself aren't artistically inclined and would like to give your sweetie a personalized, unique bacon-themed gift, log onto and type in "bacon"--you'll find scores of earrings, dolls, miniatures, and ...well, we're not sure what you'd call Pimp Bacon. An action figure? Yeah, we'll go with that., $17

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2009 Bacon Gift Guide Item 4: Bacon Baskets from Bleeding Heart Bakery

Some days we, the happy baconeers at BDJ Labs, can't believe our good fortune. One of those days came a few weeks ago, when Michelle G. of Chicago's famous Bleeding Heart Bakery, invited us to help sample some of the bacon-laden treats she crafted for her holiday bacon baskets. From bacon brownies, to salt/pepper/bacon shortbread, to "breakfast bark" (hunks of dark chocolate with espresso, java beans, and bits o' bacon), each edible was more delectable than the one before.

Our luck must be rubbing off on you through your computer screen, because now you, dear BDJ fan, can procure all of these bacony treats for a loved one or yourself in one of BDJ Labs gift baskets. Tucked into each one is a stunning array of bacon edibles and gifts, such as Archie McPhee's "Bacon Squeezins" water bottles, Mike A.'s world-famous bacon caramels, bacon chocolate chip cookies, Das Foods's "Man Bait" maple/bacon lollipops, and more. We'd buy these for everyone on our Christmas lists, but we're afraid we'd take them home and eat them all up before the holiday, so maybe we'd better have them delivered instead.

Bleeding Heart Bakery; call 773-327-6934 for pricing details.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009 Bacon Gift Guide Item 3: Baconfest Chicago T-shirt

Coming in April: Baconfest Chicago, a day of celebrating the world's perfect food. Four months is a long time to wait for such a joyous occasion, but why not look fashionable (and bacony) while you wait for the event to arrive? This Baconfest Chicago T-shirt (modeled by Seth Z., one of the event's top baconeers) is comfortable, stylish, and undeniably cool. Unfortunately, it's made out of cotton, not bacon, so don't try eating it., $20.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2009 Bacon Gift Guide Item 2: Bacon Watch

This isn't a new item, but a fast classic--Archie McPhee's bacon watch should be on the wrist of every baconeer in the world. Sadly, most wrists in the BDJ Labs are still adorned by borning, non-meaty timepieces because no one's gifted us with one of these. Santa, if you're listening, please stuff one of these in every BDJ Labs staffer's stocking, so that we all can have a merry, porky Christmas.

ArchieMcPhee, $24.99.

Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 Bacon Gift Guide Item 1: MMMvelopes

First, there were plain boring envelopes that, when licked, gave a mild but weird chemical taste. Then, office-product innovators came up with minty ones--nice try, but they didn't make the task of mailing stuff much better (or less tongue-sticky). Now, thank the Lord, there are MMMvelopes. From the makers of BaconSalt, these mailers not only LOOK like bacon, the sticky stuff on the flap TASTES like bacon. The USPS might want to prepare for the inevitable rush of mail that's coming, now that these babies are commercially available--they just might revive the lost art of letter writing.

25 envelopes for $6.99,

Friday, December 11, 2009

Give the Gift of Bacon

Tis the season of giving, and eating. What better gift to give, then, than bacon? That's why BDJ Labs is stuffing your stocking with its annual Bacon Gift Guide next week. We'll share with you the hottest (and tastiest) pork-themed presents to give to your beloved baconeers, or to buy for yourself.

Have you spotted any delicious bacony gifts? If so, please send 'em to our attention: If your idea gets listed, you just might win a fabulous prize from our bacon prize closet!

Happy Holidays!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Aside of Bacon: The Lost Art of Liner Notes

Yeah, we know--records have nothing to do with bacon. However, we picked up a record at a resale shop, and the liner notes are too delicious (there's your connection, if you need one) NOT to share.

Long before MP3 downloads set the recording industry on its ear, there were these big, flat, Frisbee-looking things called "records"--also known as "LPs" or "albums." Still used by DJs and musicphile hipster doofuses, they're now an endangered species. While listening to your iPod just calls for pushing buttons, playing a record is a physical, almost ritualistic experience. Slowly slip the delicate disc from its cardboard shell, touching only the edges (fingerprints and scratches are instant death to a record), and gingerly lower it onto the turntable before carefully resting the needle onto the album. Head BDJ Labs Tech Jenni S. collects albums, but while others select theirs by the quality of the music or affection for the artist, she chooses her albums for the uniqueness of the covers. Her living room wall is decorated with a scary array of candy-colored covers, singers with bad hair, and curious drawings of beer cans.

Lost with the decline of records is the art of liner notes. Each album cover had about a square foot of space to entice eyeballs with the cover (one of the most enticing being Herb Alpert's Whipped Cream and Other Delights, featuring a woman wearing nothing but dessert topping), and lure them in with text on the back cover. These little nuggets of literature were important enough to the recording industry that they used to give out Grammys for them. Stan Cornyn earned the title "King of the Liner Notes" for writing scores of these testaments, making even the dreckiest of dreck sound like aural gold. In the case of Nancy Sinatra's 1966 album Boots, the author took the whole "seduction" perhaps a little too literally:

"She looks good, dresses good, lives good, eats, drinks, loves, breathes, dances, sings, cries good. Five foot three and tiger eyes. A mouth made for lollipops or kisses. Stingers or melting smiles. Ninety-five pounds of affection.

She's been there already. Barely in her twenties, she looks younger. That look, like Lolita Humbert, like Daisy Clover. The power to exalt, or to destroy, wanting only the former, but unafraid to invoke the latter if the time comes.

The eyes that see through, know more, look longer.

Unafraid to pull on the boots again, toss off a burnt out thing with a casual 'So long, babe,' and get.

A young fragile living thing, on its own in a woundrous world. On her own. Earning her daily crepes and Cokes by singing the facts of love. Her voice tells as much as her songs. No faked up grandure, her voice is like it is, a litte tired, little put down, a lot loving.

No one is born sophisticated. It's a place you have to crawl to, crawling out of hayseed country, over miles of unsanded pavement, past Trouble, past corners and forks with no auto club signs to point you, till you get there and you wake up wiser.

She's arrived. She sings you about the long crawl. And makes you have to listen.

She's there."

Pretty heavy stuff for a record that consists mostly of covers, capped off by a novelty song. Still, the liner notes give you something to look at while you wait for the music to start in that little gap between the time you drop the needle on the spinning record and the notes hit your ears.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Test #191: Bacon and ALMOND JOY PIECES

The subject
When not eating bacon, the staff of BDJ Labs often fortifies themselves with one of the other major food groups: candy. Almond Joy is one of our favorite chocolatey confections, but we have to agree with the sentiment of the taller gentleman in this comic: while the candy delivers the eponymous nuts the label promises, we've never munched down on Almond Joy and found it contained actual boundless happiness.

Almond Joy Pieces, however, are another story. When we first encountered them at the National Confectioners Association's 2009 show, we were happy to see the fine people at Hershey's had the bright idea to expand the "pieces" concept to other candies in its stable, including York Peppermint Patties, Hershey's Dark and Almond Joy. While all were yummy, the Almond Joy Pieces made us jump for...well, joy. They pack wee pieces of almond and coconut in a candy shell, perfectly replicating the experience of eating the full-size candy bar in a wee little nugget of yum. The only letdown: the candy wouldn't be on the market until the end of the year, which meant that when our samples were eaten (30 seconds after we got home from the show, sadly), we'd have MONTHS to wait until we could restock.

We couldn't stop ourselves from happy-dancing when we saw the bright blue package on our local grocery shelves last week. We took home two of the stand-up pouches and promptly wrapped some of the buttony candies in bacon.

The results
Ooh, baby. The shell melted completely, and the colored sugar oozed out the side, which lead to blue bacon (neat!). What remained was the chocolate, almond, and coconut goodness, so the tidbits were pretty much just bacon-covered Almond Joy--a flavor combination we give all-around enthusiastic thumps up. Definitely worth repeating. Our one recommendation: if you or your guests might find Smurf-colored bacon a turnoff, weed out the blue Pieces and use just the beigey ones.

The conclusion: Bacon + Almond Joy Pieces = ooh, baby.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bacon Bit: Genius in Marketing

There are hardly words to express our glee. If only this bacon-hawking monster vehicle were parked in our neighborhood. Thanks to Carl Weaver at the National Confectioners Association for bringing this awesome sight to our attention.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Test #190: Bacon and CARROT

The subject
People say they love a certain food all the time. But when we at BDJ Labs say we love carrots, we mean it. Carrots are the closest to candy that a vegetable can come, and we sing the praises of the person who first packaged baby carrots. This love for the vegetable traces back to our childhoods, during which carrots were frequent, welcome occupants of our lunchboxes--and in the case of BDJ Labs' Head Tech Jenni S., a carrot was a cherished friend. Well, sort of; she had a stuffed carrot doll (like the one at left, only about a foot tall and with dangly arms/legs) that she carried around. She was a weird kid.

But we digress. Carrots rule--not nearly as much as bacon, but they rank among our favorite non-meat edibles. We at BDJ Labs figured that wrapping a lucky wee baby carrot in a strip of salted pork could only increase our deep abiding love for the king of vegetables, so we swaddled one infant carrot in a bacon blanket. Let's see how the delivery turned out...

The results
Our expectation of success didn't diminish our pleasure at the results. The carrot cooked up perfectly--still crisp, not at all mushy--and its sweetness increased, making it a perfect complement to the savory bacon. Were we to do this recipe again, we'd bacon-wrap a whole litter of baby carrots, bake them, and sprinkle a wee bit of brown sugar on them in the last few minutes of cooking. Mmm, candied bacon carrots...

The conclusion: Bacon + carrot = Thumbs up, doc

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bacon Bit: Beer AND Bacon? We're There!

So there's this site called Groupon, and if you sign up, every day you get offered some fabulous deal in your city--half-off your bill at a great sushi place, 60% a massage at a spa, 75% off at a skydiving joint, etc. We at BDJ Labs don't hit the "buy" button on Groupon deals a fraction of the times that we want to, because times are tight and stuff. However, this morning Head Lab Tech Jenni S. saw today's offer in her inbox and took about a millisecond of thinking before signing up. Here's the deal:

Paddy Long's, an Irish flavored joint on Diversey in Chicago, offers a two-hour event during which they pair five different bacons with five different seasonal brews. The hosts guide you through the Italian pancettas and Danish bacon and other meats, and how their various sweet/savory properties make them great matches for the beers and ales they're mated with. The kicker: Groupon's offering the experience for $20, about half the normal pricetag.

Without further ado, here's the link. Click here, and we'll see you there.