Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bacon on the Menu (Eric's 28th Birthday Dinner Party)

 It was a week ago and we were planing out what we would cook for round 3 of the Project Food Blog contest and Charisse had just asked what Eric's favorite ingredient was. This was followed by an impassioned argument that pepperoni pizza was not an ingredient but a meal into it's own and not suitable for a "luxury"dinner party. We were trying to set a menu for the evening (part of the challenge) and wanted all the courses to be tied together somehow. Usually when we go out to eat there's no cohesion in the menu, no flow between courses, its just 3 or 4 different dishes that we happen to like. Its a meal simply because all the plates happen to land on our table. When Foodbuzz announced this challenge we knew we wanted all of our courses tied together somehow and the idea of a common ingredient felt like a good creative way to do that. With pizza off the table we were still bouncing ideas around when Eric, staying true to form suggested bacon. It was all "haha, very funny" at first, but the idea really stuck. It was Eric's birthday after all, so after some serious head scratching we decided that  bacon could and should adventure  outside of the breakfast griddle. By Wednesday we had a menu of 3 courses, a dessert and a signature drink, all involving bacon in some way.
On Thursday after work we got in the little Nissan Versa and headed to Costco, always a dangerous thing. Way too much money and a very full little car later we were in the kitchen preparing for the next day. One thing we've learned over the years is Eric has no time management skills. Actually Eric knew this already but Charisse had to figure this out over many instances of: "You said this would take 20 minutes and its been 5 hours!". Needless to say with multiple courses like this, Charisse claims the kitchen as her own. A key thing for us when we produce something like this menu is the preplanning. Charisse will figure out how long each course will take to cook and time out when she needs to have them done by. We also will pre-cook as much as possible the night before. Anything that can be made ahead of time and reheated or just thrown in the oven to start cooking must get done the day before. We spent about 4 hours Thursday night pre-cooking and prepping (chopping, slicing etc) everything so on Friday there was very little work to be done. That meant that we all socialized more and felt like we were part of the party, not part of the hired help.
Since it was Eric's birthday, we figured it was only fitting to have both of our parents over for a birthday dinner party. When everyone arrived Eric started pouring our signature Candied Bacon Martinis, a drink for any guest with a sweet tooth.  A signature cocktail is a great way to start the evening and set the mood and theme for any party, plus it's a great way to save a little dough on liquor. Knowing exactly what you need, instead of guessing what your guests will be asking for. With Amaretto, maple syrup and Applejack brandy this drink is like liquid candy for grownups and Charisse's Dad loved it. When Pat was done licking the bottom of his glass, we pulled out the first course which featured one of the best things we've ever tasted: Bourbon Bacon Marmalade. Although it took 2 pounds of bacon and over three hours to make, it was totally worth the work. We served it on a sweet potato cake topped with grilled prawns, and it a dream come true. Seriously, we could have ended the dinner with this course and our guests wouldn't have know the difference. But we had to resist seconds and move on to the next course of the evening our Leek Shooters with Bacon Essence. They were creamy and tasted almost like we'd smoked the leeks, a trick we use in the kitchen often. It is amazing what a little rendered bacon fat can do for an ordinary dish.  Our main course was an individual serving of Cornish Game Hen with Apple Bacon Stuffing for each guest. Again our secret ingredient (bacon fat) made its appearance as a smokey back flavor that turned the skins of the hen into a crispy golden brown delight. And of course we couldn't have a birthday celebration with out a fantastic dessert fit for birthday boy! All of his favorite things were incorporated into the hit of the evening. A molten chocolate stout cake topped with a Bacon Creme Anglaise and Pig Candy.
After the guests had eaten and Eric opened his gifts we all decided it was time to loosen our belts by a few notches and Charisse admitted that she was a bit worried about how the meal was going to turn out, but was pleasantly surprised with the results. Everyone agreed that when they read the menu, Bacon Martinis? Bacon Creme Anglaise? They were a little concerned themselves, but wanted to be adventurous and try new things and boy were they satisfied. Now if only we had a secret on how to get the kitchen clean after a dinner party!




Candied Bacon Martini
What You Will Need

6 ounces vodka
4 ounces Applejack brandy
2 ounces amaretto liqueur 
2 ounces maple syrup 
2 slices of Pig Candy (halved crosswise)

Combine all of the ingredients, except bacon, a large cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled and serve in chilled martini glasses with 1 slice of candied bacon. 



Pig Candy
What You Will Need

bacon 
brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 400* Dredge the bacon in brown sugar, place on a cooling rack on top and place the cooling rack on a baking tray.  Bake for 15-25 minutes until deeply caramelized. Let cool until hardened.  



Grilled Prawns over Sweet Potato Cakes with Bourbon Bacon Marmalade 
What You Will Need

12 prawns
3 sweet potatoes  
1 1/3 cups panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup toasted pecans (chopped)
1 Tbs brown sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 egg
1/2 cup flour
1 cup oil for frying 
salt and pepper
1 cup Bourbon Bacon Marmalade

Preheat the oven to 425*

Arrange sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Roast for 45 minutes until soft. Let cool and remove skins.  In a large mixing bowl smash the sweet potatoes and stir in the panko crumbs, pecans, sugar, nutmeg, egg, salt and pepper.  

Flour hands and form the mixture into patties.  Coat with a light layer of flour and set aside.  

Heat a deep skillet with the fry oil and when it starts to sizzle, fry the cakes for about 3 minutes on each side until you get a nice browning.  Drain on paper towel.  

In the mean time, heat a grill pan on medium high heat. Salt and pepper the prawns ( I also added a pinch of cayenne and paprika to the mix).  Grill prawns about 1 minute on each side until pink.  

Top sweet potato cakes with a large dollop of Bourbon Bacon Marmalade, and top with two prawns.  


Bourbon Bacon Marmalade
What You Will Need

2 lbs bacon
2 yellow onions (chopped)
4 cloves garlic (chopped)
1/2 cup bourbon
6 Tbs brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 cups freshly brewed coffee
Tabasco sauce to taste
pepper to taste

In a large, heavy bottom pot, fry the bacon until crispy. Work in batches until all the bacon is cooked. Drain on paper towels. Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook in the rendered fat until the onion is soft. Chop bacon and add back to the pot.  Add all of the remaining ingredients except for the Tabasco and pepper. Bring the pot to a boil, then simmer for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.  If the mixture dries out add 1/2 cup water.  

After two hours, most of the liquid should be reduced. If not, continue to simmer for another 30 mins.  Remove from heat and let rest for 30 minutes. Add Tabasco and pepper.  

Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse 5 or 6 times to blend but do not over blend or you will lose your texture. 


Leek Shooters with Bacon Essence
What You Will Need

3 Tbs butter
1 Tbs rendered bacon fat
4 slices bacon
3 cups sliced leeks
2 cloves garlic (minced)
4 cups chicken stock
1 potato (peeled and cubed)
1/3 cup parsley (minced)
1 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, fry bacon until crispy and fat is rendered. Remove bacon and drain on paper towel. In the pot melt butter with the rendered fat, add leeks and cook until tender, add garlic and cook another 2 minutes.  Add chicken stock and potato and bring to boil. Simmer, covered until potatoes are tender about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Return to medium heat and add cream, heat through and salt and pepper to taste. 

Crumble the bacon and serve as a garnish for soup. 


Cornish Game Hens with Apple Bacon Stuffing
What you will need

4 cornish game hens
rendered bacon fat
6 slices bacon
1/2 cup onion (minced)
1 1/2 cup dry bread cubes
1 cup apple (chopped)
handful of fresh parsley (minced)
pinch of dried thyme and marjoram 
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup butter

Fry bacon slices until crisp, drain on paper towel and set aside. In the rendered fat, add butter and cook the onion until softened. 

In a large bowl, combine bread, apple, parsley, thyme and marjoram and toss to mix. Pour onion mixture over bread crumbs and toss to coat. Pour chicken stock over the bread mixture until desired consistency. You want your stuffing to be moist and sticky but not soggy. Salt and Pepper. 

Rinse the hens with cold water and season cavity with salt. Stuff each hen making sure not to pack them too tightly. Tie legs together and tuck wings under. 

Preheat oven to 375* 

Place hens breast side up in a roasting pan and massage rendered bacon fat all over the birds, this will give them a nice brown, crispy skin.  Cover with foil and roast for 30 minutes, remove foil and cook for another hour until the inside of the bird registers 170*. Remove when done, cover with foil and let rest for at least 10 minutes.  Serve on a nest of Roasted Root Vegetables. 


Roasted Root Vegetables
What You Will Need

2 onions 
4 carrots 
3 parsnips
4 turnips

Coarsely chop all of the vegetables and toss with olive oil and salt. Roast at 375* for 1-1 1/2 hours until vegetables are soft and caramelized


Molten Chocolate Stout Cake with Bacon Creme Anglaise 

Molten Chocolate Stout Cake
What You Will Need

1/4 cup unsalted butter
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup chocolate stout
1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs (beaten with a pinch of salt)
1/3 cup flour
6 custard cups, buttered

Preheat the oven to 400*

Melt butter, sugar and chocolate together and whisk until smooth. Temper the eggs by adding a little of the chocolate to the eggs and whisk. Once the eggs are tempered, add them to the chocolate and whisk. Add the stout, vanilla and flour and mix until combined. Pour into custard cups and cook for 10 minutes. Let cool a bit and using a plate, invert them so they release from the cups. Top with Bacon Creme Anglaise and Pig Candy


Bacon Creme Anglaise
What You Will Need

4 egg yolks
2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 piece of bacon (cut in half)
 

Cook bacon until fat is rendered but bacon is not crisp.

In a double boiler, scald milk. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar, add about 1/4 cup of the hot milk to the eggs and whisk to temper the eggs. Repeat, then pour the eggs into the double broiler and whisk. Add the bacon and whisk until thickened. Taste check every once in a while. You will want the bacon to impart a smoky flavor but not actually taste like bacon, so remove when desired flavor is reached and discard bacon.  Once thick, remove from heat, and let cool.  

40 comments:

  1. Love how you included bacon in every dish. Beautiful pictures and a stunning dinner party!!

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  2. I love how you tied this entire meal together with one yummy ingredient - bacon!

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  3. Can't wait to show my sister this FAB post! She is a bacon lover tried and true! Beautiful post, your table looks gorgeous and all of your food too! Best of luck... rooting for round 4 ! Megs

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  4. What a GREAT theme for the challenge - who doesn't love bacon! Looks like everyone had a fantastic time and you captured it beautifully! Nice job!!!

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  5. I love this dinner. I just started curing my own bacon so I obviously have a very soft and crispy spot. Bacon-tinis..Priceless!

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  6. Bacon flavors everything! Great theme. Best wishes.

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  7. You are so creative to tie all these bacon recipes together into a dinner. My husband would love all these...he is bacon obsessed! And his birthday is only a month away...I seriously might need to return to this post! Thank you :)

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  8. I can't believe that you made bacon martinis! Brilliant! Great theme for this party.

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  9. Gorgeous and super-impressive! It's 5am and I'm dying for a bacon martini!

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  10. What a wonderful dinner party for the PFB #3!
    You had great co-ordination of details throughout the party. Wish that I had been there.

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  11. You got my vote! Glad you included recipes on the post! Good luck!!

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  13. I just love that there is candied PIG on this menu. I can't tell you how many times I went back to make sure I wasn't supposed to be reading "fig"! Great post!

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  14. Bacon NIRVANA!! Great choice in themed ingredient. Love all of the courses.

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  15. mmm, bacon! delicious dinner! it looks like a great time. you've got my vote - good luck!

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  16. Happy Birthday Eric! The hens look great!
    Good luck, the party sounded awesome.
    LL

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  17. A menu built around bacon! This has got to be the perfect dinner party. And a candied bacon martini? Yum!

    Good luck!

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  18. congrats, you have officially made me miss bacon! AHHH i wish i could eat all of that!

    http://whitneysamusebouche.blogspot.com/

    Whit

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  19. Now THAT'S a happy birthday! None of my guests ate pork, so I had to give my favorite protein the cold shoulder for the night. I think you used enough for the both of us! Great post!

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  20. Yum! Pork, particularly bacon, is our favorite! We even had a pig roast for our wedding reception last spring!

    Kelly
    Sounding My Barbaric Gulp!
    http://www.barbaricgulp.com

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  21. Bacon heaven! Wow, I love your theme! That is definitely how to celebrate!

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  22. This gets my vote... very well done. First time here, excellent style look, writing and photos... will be back

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  23. I thought about a one-ingredient theme too initially, so love how you carried it through!

    (see my entry here: http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/3/view/1094)

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  24. OK. I have to say, I think bacon is the ONLY ingredient that you could use in every course, and people would still be wanting more. Nice job with a creative idea. Now I want bacon. In everything. I voted. So send me some darn bacon.

    Lisa.

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  25. Oh my goodness! Bacon paradise! I voted for you ealprlier today.good luck! ;)

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  26. What a beautiful party...and what a fun theme! Now all I want to do is sit down to a plate of bacon! Thank you for sharing the recipes too. And you have my vote! Thanks for sharing!

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  27. Bacon! Bacon! Bacon! YUM! Hope we both make it to the next round! :-) You have my vote!

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  28. Bacon... you didn't need to write anymore. You've got my vote! Good luck!

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  29. I'm so glad you took this route, it appears to have resulted in something amazing. I love the versatility of bacon, it's the only meat that I would consistently want in a dessert. Good luck this week, you've got a vote of mine!

    Lick My Spoon

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  30. Like the others, you had me (and my vote) at bacon!

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  31. Bacon can almost be cliche these days, but this is genius. Serious genius. Lots of fun and everything looked balanced and pretty and thoughtful and just plain delicious. I wish I went to this party! You got our vote!

    (Here's our entry: http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/3/view/1143 )

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  32. Bacon, bacon, bacon! Love it! Your table is beautiful and everything looks insanely delicious. Good luck!

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  33. obsessed with your menu. voted for you! hope we both move forward. :)

    http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/3/view/1080

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  34. What a cool idea to make your theme an ingredient. Bacon is so versatile... great choice by Eric. Great job on this challenge... good luck!

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  35. You found the word into my heart. Awesome menu. :)

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  36. I love any and all things bacon, but your martini takes the cake! What an amazing concoction! I'm definitely keeping this post bookmarked. Great dishes!

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