Friday, March 11, 2011

Nueske's cookoff finalist #1: Bacon is HOT!

Michi Trota slings bacon and spins fire. Aw, yeah!
Photo: Matt Porubcansky
Michi Trota's awesome flourless bacon and spiced chocolate torte recipe landed her one of the much-coveted finalist spots in the upcoming Nueske's Amateur Cookoff at Baconfest Chicago. When she's not playing with or eating with bacon, she's spinning fire monthly at Chicago's Full Moon Jams, which is pretty danged awesome. Here she shares some secrets and insights about her love for the World's Perfect Food.

BDJ: How did you come up with this delicious idea?
MT: I love desserts - as far as I'm concerned, they are the vital capstone to any meal. I don't care how great the appetizer or entree was, if the dessert isn't up to par, it's like going on an amazing date only to get a handshake and a "I'll call you sometime" at the end of the night.

I've been a big fan of the trend incorporating bacon into traditional sweets. The saltiness of bacon is a natural pairing with the richness of chocolate - I've had bacon with milk, semi-sweet and bittersweet dark chocolate and in my opinion, it pairs best with semi-sweet because there's enough of the sweet notes in the chocolate to balance the salt of the bacon without either being overwhelmed. So that was the basic idea behind the torte: balancing salt & sweet notes and also the crisp crunchiness of the bacon with the dense, velvety texture of the torte. The whiskey in the torte batter was a bit of a whim but it pairs well with both the chocolate and bacon.

I also LOVE spice with chocolate, and the smokiness of chipotle chili pepper and the slightly more sweet taste of ancho chili pepper seemed like great accents for both the bacon and chocolate, so I worked that into the ganache but not the torte. Maple with bacon seems like a foregone conclusion, so I worked a little bit of syrup into the caramel drizzle decorating the cake. The maple in the caramel also plays off the piece de resistance on the cake: bacon candied in maple syrup and a touch of brown sugar. I think the bacon candy is my favorite part about the cake. I had a friend who makes bacon candy by coating it in sugar and baking it, so the idea came from conversations with him about the best way to crisp the bacon without burning the glaze. It ended up being far easier to make than I thought and now that I know how to do it, it's DANGEROUS knowledge because that stuff is like crack. I have to make far more bacon candy than I need for the cake because it ends up becoming snack food.

BDJ: Why do you love bacon?

MT: Seriously? You need to ask me this? I'd have to counter with another question: "How can anyone NOT love bacon??" It's salty crispy magic in your mouth and works in both savory and sweet dishes with the right amount of creativity. Everyone should embrace the power of the Pork Side.
Michi Trota's flourless bacon and spiced chocolate torte.
Photo: Michi Trota

BDJ:  What's your favorite way to eat bacon (besides in this recipe, of course)?

MT: A very difficult question. I do love grilled cheese with a very sharp cheddar, tart Honeycrisp apples & pepper bacon on sourdough; or cider bourbon-braised bacon (this recipe on was fan-freaking-tastic so if you can get slab bacon, I highly recommend it!). For sweet, bacon & chocolate of course - the Vosges Mo' Bacon bars are delicious - although next I plan on experimenting with adding bacon hand-rolled chocolate truffles and creme brulees (hand torches and bacon? How can you go wrong?).

But I guess if it came down to it, eating a simple, perfectly crisp piece of bacon hot out of the oven would be my favorite.

BDJ: Why should you win?

MT: Obviously everyone who entered the contest loves bacon - I know that for me, it was a pretty significant amount of time and effort to make that cake and I can't imagine that any of the other entrants did any less. And I'm really very impressed by the creativity in many of the dishes, especially in my fellow final contestants. I think what it comes down to, though, is how good the dish is - taste, texture, presentation and how well it showcases bacon. So I'd say that I believe I should win because my dish hits all those checkmarks. Yes, there is spice and maple and chocolate, but those flavors don't overwhelm the bacon, they enhance it so that the bacon shines - literally. I took a picture of a piece of the torte on a sunny day with the light coming through the piece of bacon candy and it looks like stained glass (attached to the email). I just hope the judges agree with that assessment!

BDJ: Any last words?

MT: I'd like to say "Thank you" to everyone who voted for my dish because I wouldn't have made it in without those votes. Also, "Congratulations and good luck!" to the other Final Six. I can't wait to try their dishes. I'm especially intrigued by the Tandoori Bacon Nachos - crispy chicken skin "chips?" That's genius!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this, Jenni! I can't wait for the 'fest and to meet my fellow contestants. Hope we can enjoy a drink together, as long as it's got bacon, of course!

    For anyone who's interested, I posted the recipe for the torte at my website, Magpies Marbles: Just remember to build in time for the torte to sit overnight in the fridge to get that dense, rich texture.

    Also, come and check out the Chicago Full Moon Fire jams, which are a free to the community event and start up again this April. You can find the jam schedule & other information on my fire performance site,