It started with a mere apple in the Garden of Eden. A seemingly ordinary fruit, now overlooked and shriveling in many a countertop fruit bowl. But once made taboo it became the object of overwhelming desire. Ever so much greater is the lure of bacon.
The sumptuous and salty strip of smoky swine exudes a scent that makes even the most indifferent eaters prone to excessive salivation.
And these days the forbidden fruit of the animal kingdom is nearly impossible to ignore, especially since foodies and hipsters collectively decided to embrace the ultimate in un-kosher traif. Bacon is rearing its snout in all things savory, sweet and spirited, from cupcakes and cologne to bacon-infused vodka. L’chaim?
Fortunately, when it comes to bacon, the sty is no longer the limit. Put your hoofs up, my kosher, halal, veg and vegan friends. We can now have our bacon and eat it, too! Beef, duck, lamb, salmon, tempeh, tofu and turkey are all oinking for a spot among the growing lineup of porky proxies.
Soy-based bacons are the quickest to prepare. My friend Rachel stands by her maple tempeh bacon. But if we’re going for culinary integrity, it’s the furthest from the original. In pursuit of the best backup to boar, one must consider mouth-feel (crunchy when fried, but melts on your tongue) as well as flavor profile (salty, smoky goodness).
If you have a few days to spare and are willing to risk your security deposit on smoking at home, kosher bacon is a do-it-yourselfer’s delight. Select your protein of choice, soak in a brine solution, smoke, cool and slice with a good carving knife on a bias.
But if you’re already ducking your landlord on account of last month’s shindig or simply too hungry to wait, there are great options right here in town. Bless the Washington metro area, home to the three branches of federal government, 74 National Historic Landmarks and a fine array of kosher bacon products. Who knew? (See box for store recommendations)
Since I’ve never tasted the real thing, I knew I needed to turn to an expert for some superb recipes. Francesca, my bacon guru, grew up in a home where breakfast was not complete without a pork product and gave it all up when she got married. But don’t think the girl doesn’t miss her bacon.
Francesca invited me over recently for an all-out kosher bacon demonstration. I felt like she was on Iron Chef. I mean, the woman can cook!
For those of us who haven’t pigged out in a while, a piping hot plate of bacon and eggs surely suffices. But if you want to ham it up, a few of Francesca’s recipes will have your guests squealing with delight.
The first is a tip of the hat to our culinary ancestors. Did you know that much of Ashkenazi cooking is based on German and Eastern European cuisine, originally rife with pig and de-porked for Jewish tables?
With great kosher options, we can now bring back the bacon and indulge in a bacon-wrapped brisket, without giving Oma a loch in kop (Yiddish for hole in the head).
Enjoy more sinfully delicious dishes with recipes for an irresistible appetizer, spiced pecan stuffed figs wrapped in lamb bacon, and an unbelievably amazing dessert, chocolate pot de creme with chipotle and candied beef bacon.
With a fun recipe for every course of your next dinner party, wouldn’t you say this forbidden fruit is finally ripe for the picking?