Bacon. It’s one of the few foods that is both salty and sweet at the same time, while also delivering an unrivalled dose of savory umami.
It’s practically all protein and fat, with many varieties welcomed by those following low-carbohydrate, paleo and keto diets.
It’s one of life’s guilty pleasures and its popularity shows no signs of abating. And adding flavor to this satiating food increases its uses and applications.
This is something Chef Peter Sherman, owner of BarBacon, New York City, knows well. He makes bacon the star, serving it in everything from appetizers to desserts.
One of his originals is Kentucky Fried Bacon (KFB) Bites, which are bite-sized crispy pieces of battered thick-cut bacon served like chicken nuggets. The inch-long chunks are dusted in flour, dipped in egg and covered with panko crumbs. After deep frying, they are covered with Thai chili honey and served with house pickles.
“The inspiration was confit bacon,” he says. “This technique tenderizes the bacon, creating a desirable texture. There’s endless flavorpossibilities.”
Flavors or seasonings may be added to the batter or breading. The drizzle can be any sauce or even a dusting of herbs and spices that adsorbs onto the crispy crust.
In addition to being an appetizer, KFB Bites are served in a pretzel bun with ginger sage pork sausage and pineapple jalapeño slaw. They can also be found covered with pickled vegetables, cilantro, basil, mint and spicy aioli in a Banh Mi sandwich.
Another BarBacon specialty is its flight of four flavored bacons, alone or paired with samplings of craft beers. Sherman works with purveyors across the country, tasting endless bacon samples to decide the varieties to feature at varying times a year.
“My objective is to elevate bacon into an artisanal product. It has to have a culinary purpose,” he says. “It does not need to be pork, but it has to taste like bacon. The cure is important.”
The bacon flight starts with a mildly flavored slice – such as pecan wood smoked – and ends with some kick. This typically includes a black pepper-encrusted variety as well as a jalapeño-infused bacon.
Other featured bacons may include Applewood smoked, maple glazed and corn cob smoked. The latter, as the name suggests, is bacon smoked over a bed of corn cobs. This renders a stronger smokiness than most hardwoods, with a touch of sweet corn aroma.
To read more about bacon's potential, head to our sister publication Meat & Poultry.