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.

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