The gantlet was thrown.
I countered. "Well, **I** have Jerry's pork belly recipe." Jerry = Jerry Traunfeld, famed Herbfarm Chef. When he was at the helm, the Herbfarm was named the "Number 1 Dining Destination in America." Now we're all anxiously awaiting his new venture, Poppy.
A long, reverent silence followed....Jerry. Pork belly. Does it get any better?
Or so I thought.
I wondered...what would happen if I took my favorite toffee recipe, and substituted the nuts...for candied bacon? Off to the lab, er, uh, kitchen for mad scientist, part II.
"No, really, what time do you work?"
"I'll be here."
And now, without further ado....
Ladies & gentlemen, I present to you....Candied Bacon Toffee:
I have to admit, showing up at the meat counter...and giving something back...caused a minor sensation. But that was nothing compared to Mark's first taste of toffee. He spun around and shared some with the rest of the crew. "Don't think about it...just try it!"
My bacon muses...Mark Page and Adam Calhoun
The crew wore aprons that were already smeared and splattered with the morning butchery. And here I was, peddling toffee. I felt like I should be dressed in gingham and pig-tails...I was soooo out of place with my Betty Crocker moment. Still, I took solace in the universal brotherhood of bacon-lovers.
Wielding huge butcher knives, one by one, the crew shouted down the line, "Hey, do you sell this stuff?"
"Damn, this is good! Where can I buy it?"
Well, you can't buy it (yet!)...but you can make your own.
Start with some fabulous bacon. (If you have a Whole Foods near you...this Black Forest bacon is my favorite...but any bacon will do.) Or you could join the Bacon-of-the-Month club. Whatever. Hey...it's bacon. It can't be bad. It's the Universal Law of Bacon.
WARNING: Higly Addictive.
Now, on with the recipe:
Candied Bacon Toffee
Tip: Once your toffee is ready, things move very quickly. Mise en place is key, so get yourself properly set up before you begin.
For the candied bacon:
3/4 pounds of bacon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed golden brown sugar
2 tsp instant espresso powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup water
1 Tbsp. dark unsulfured molasses
1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
For the bacon:
On a foil-lined sheet pan, lay out your bacon strips. Coat the top with brown sugar. Bake in the oven for 12-14 minutes, flipping over half way through the baking time.
Allow the bacon to cool until warm, then cut (with scissors) into 1/4-1/2" pieces. Reserve in a separate bowl. (The ends may be a bit crispy. Keep those for yourself...and enjoy while you pull the other ingredients together.)
Hint: It's key to work with the bacon while it's still warm. If you wait too long, it has a tendency to stick to the foil.
For the toffee:
Prepare your mise en place: in a medium bowl, combine sugars, espresso powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine water and molasses. Butter a sheet pan or line with a Silpat.
Melt butter in a heavy 2 ½-quart saucepan over low heat. Add sugars, espresso powder, cinnamon, salt, water, and molasses; stir until sugar dissolves. Attach a clip-on candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat to medium; cook until thermometer registers 290 degrees (and no less!), stirring slowly but constantly and scraping bottom of pan with a silicone spatula, about 20 minutes. (You're on the homestretch when the molten toffee starts to become clear. If you're impatient like me...it will seem like this step takes forever. Stick with it....you're developing that lusty toffee flavor here.)
Once you arrive at 290 degrees, remove your pan from the heat, and quickly stir in the candied bacon. Immediately pour the mixture onto your prepared sheet pan; do not scrape the saucepan. Spread toffee to ¼-inch thickness. Use two forks to separate and distribute any bacon that clumps together. And finally, dust the top of the toffee with a light sprinkle of Kosher salt.
Stick the sheet pan in the refrigerator for about an hour (until the toffee is firm.) Break the toffee into pieces and store in an airtight container. Sharing is optional.
Ah...the limitless possibilities of pork. Toffee today...swine sculpture tomorrow....
Dan, Mark, Adam...thanks for the inspiration. Dan, just wait until Swine Divine, II. You won't believe what's up next!!!