The February challenge for Charcutepalooza was bacon or pancetta. (Pancetta for the more adventurous, bacon for the apprentice level.)
I did actually complete the challenge by the Feb. 15 deadline, but my computer didn't make the journey with me - it died. So I wasn't able to post until now. I realize it's almost March and I should be brining something for the March challenge. Oh well.
I didn't want to go too crazy for February since it was my first Charcutepalooza challenge, so I went with the apprentice challenge: Bacon.
I stalked my Whole Foods meat counter to make sure they would have enough pork belly - in one piece - when I wanted to purchase it. Since that weekend was Super Bowl weekend, I was just crossing my fingers that no one was going to go gourmet with their parties and buy out the stock of pork belly.
Thankfully, they didn't. I came home with this lovely below - all four pounds of her.
I gave it a quick rub down with the mixture I had whipped up thanks to Michael Ruhlman's book. I hadn't been able to locate pink salt at the last minute (yes, I procrastinated), so I just used regular salt. And tried not to think about the botulism spores that could grow in the garlic throughout the week the pork belly would sit in the fridge.
By Tuesday I was still thinking about the botulism spores (read: having a panic attack about eating the bacon/giving the bacon away/killing someone).
I know Ruhlman had said it was unlikely to happen and that countless sources online said that cooking the bacon at a certain temperature would kill any botulism spores in it, but I couldn't help it.
I gave in to my neuroses. I plucked each and every piece of garlic off the pork belly before putting it back in the fridge.
So a few days after that, I pulled the pork belly out of the fridge and roasted it. (The apartment smelled SO GOOD.) I let it cool for awhile and then tried slicing it.
My friends, if you are doing this, do not immediately slice your bacon. It needs to be cold to get those traditional slices of bacon. (Believe me - I hacked up a couple inches of the pork belly before I got frustrated and stuck the whole thing in the freezer. It worked!) I left my pork belly in the freezer for about 45 minutes - it was nowhere close to freezing - and it made slicing so much easier.
That evening, Steve and I had BaconFest 2011.
My favorite part of the night was the first course: Braised Belgian endive with goat cheese, chopped bacon and topped with a lobster tail.
Second course was a BLT on toasted challah with a fried egg on top paired with homemade French fries. WOW. A classic - and it was phenomenal.
The third course was sweet and spicy bacon slathered in nutella courtesy of bell' alimento. SO good but I made the catastrophic mistake of putting the bacon on paper towels. It got stuck and I ended up picking bits of paper towel off the bacon as it cooled.
Here's the Belgian endive recipe (makes 2 servings):
2 Belgian endive, sliced lengthwise
2 strips bacon, chopped
crumbled goat cheese (amount depends on how much you love goat cheese!)
2 lobster tails, 3-4 ounces each
1 cup white wine
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Preheat your oven to broil.
Fry the chopped bacon and set aside. Discard most of the fat left in the pan (or you can get rid of all of it, but where's the fun in that?).
In the same pan, add the white wine and deglaze the pan. Bring the wine to a simmer and add the Belgian endive, flat side down. Allow the endive to brown a bit and then add the white wine vinegar and sugar. Let the mixture simmer for about 15 or 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, gently crack the lobster tails on the underside and add a bit of butter. Place shell side down on a roasting pan and broil for about 7 or 8 minutes.
Sprinkle the chopped bacon and goat cheese on the plate. When the Belgian endive is done, place on top of the bacon and goat cheese and drizzle the braising liquid over it. Remove the lobster tails from the shells and curl over the endive.