Friday, March 18, 2011

Nueske's cookoff finalist #6: Kick out the jams

Nueske's cookoff finalist
Irene Rivera
The bacon-wrapped date is a classic bacony nosh. The combination of sweet dates and savory bacon, of mushy fruit and crunchy meat, is a nearly irresistible flavor treat. For her entry in the Nueske's Baconfest Chicago cookoff, Irene Rivera took this most fabulous of bacon snacks and elevated it to new levels of greatness by putting it in cookie form. Here, Ms. Rivera tells us about her Date and Bacon Jam Thumbprint Cookie recipe, and why she thinks bacon is the king of meats.

BDJ: How did you come up with this delicious idea?

Irene: I started with a list of both savory and sweet possibilities. There are definitely dishes that you automatically think bacon: bacon and eggs, BLT, loaded baked potato, etc... I wanted to come up with a dish that you normally wouldn't find bacon in, yet it makes sense. One of my husband's favorite appetizers to order at a tapas restaurant are the bacon wrapped dates. Bacon wrapped dates are a perfect example of sweet and salty, all food tastes better if you hit different taste buds. So after much contemplation I definitely wanted to make something sweet. The fact that your dish has to be completely assembled and you can only warm it up on site, also influenced my decision. Some of my ideas were eliminated because I knew it wouldn't hold up to transporting then reheating. Besides, who doesn't love cookies? I even adjusted the size in my second batch that I made for people who voted for me. They are the perfect two bite cookie, so you are insured to get a bite of the sticky bacon and date jam center.

BDJ: Why do you love bacon?

Irene: I love the salt and crunch. I prefer to bake my bacon on a cookie sheet with a rack. It makes for very crunchy bacon. I also love how bacon fat adds so much flavor. If you ever made a stuffing and sauteed your onion and celery in rendered bacon fat, then made the same recipe with just butter. You would feel deprived to eat the latter.

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

Irene Rivera's Date and Bacon Jam
Thumbprint Cookies
Irene: BLT with a fried egg, roasted tomato preferably. Answering this question is making me want to make one for breakfast tomorrow.

BDJ: Why should you win?

Irene: The competition is fierce. Without having tasted my competitors’ dishes, I am going to say I'd like to win if I deserve it. Seriously, I'm up against Joe's bacon schnitzel. I think the first time I saw the picture of his dish I had to wipe the drool from my mouth. My cookies are good; the cream cheese makes them delicate and creamy. The bacon and date jam is delicious, so much that I have a small container in my refrigerator of just the jam alone so I can spread it on toast.

BDJ: Anything to add?

Irene: Good luck to all my fellow competitors. I'm just excited to be part of this awesome event.

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