Friday, July 5, 2013

4th of July flavors

I love fireworks!  Especially when the promoters aren't aiming them at me!  Those poor folks in Simi Valley might not be such big fans anymore!

And no, I didn't take that first photo - I was too busy drinking and oohing and aahing!  I sure love all the shapes and colors they're creating these days, and the shows are never long enough for me! 

The fireworks party wasn't at my house, 'cause one of my neighbors has a waaaay better view of Tucson's "A" mountain where the best local show is fired off, so I had lots of time to play in the kitchen. 

Since we are all conscious of what we eat these days, I had to try this new healthy treat.     Candied Chocolate-covered Bacon!

OK, so maybe not so healthy!  
I saw it in the Honolulu newspaper and just had to know more.

I put several recipes together and created this - looks fairly close!
First, you need really good, thick bacon.  You're going to bake the bacon - bake it, really!! - so preheat the oven to about 400 degrees.  (I say 'about 400 degrees' because that's what most recipes called for, and my oven is totally unreliable, so I set it at 415.)  

The first I heard of baking bacon was about 15 years ago where I enjoyed breakfast at a local family style restaurant - The Cow Palace, in Amado, Arizona.  First thing the cooks do in the morning is put racks and racks of bacon in the oven to bake for breakfast.  It stays mostly flat, and isn't greasy.  Best way to cook bacon!!

To candy it,  mix together about a cup of brown sugar and some spice of your choice.  Recommendations range from cinnamon to onion powder to cayenne pepper.  I used some Jalapeno Salt from the local Santa Cruz chili factory.  To do a 12-oz pound of bacon (yes, I know 12 ounces is not a pound, but we all know the 'pound' of old is only 12 ounces now, and costs more than a real pound used to!), I added two good sized pinches of my jalapeno salt powder - could have used more!

Lay the bacon in the sugar mix and coat it heavily.  I found it's hard to over-do it!  

Then lay the pieces on the non-stick broiler pan that came with your oven.  If you don't have that, the best recommendation I found was to crumple up a bunch of aluminum foil, and then sort of flatten it out again so there are ridges and valleys, to collect the fat drippings and sugars.

Definitely line the bottom pan with foil if you use the broiler pan, because you do not want to clean up the drippings - just crumple it up and throw it away.  The broiler pan will clean up easily after baking if you immediately spray it with any kind of cleaner (I use Fantastic) and cover it with wet paper towels.  That keeps the stuff soft until you get around to washing up!

I cut the bacon in half to make manageable pieces to handle and eat!

The recipes I compiled said to bake the bacon (love that phrase, can you tell?!) for anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, so I started checking it at 15 minutes, and my quirky oven took 25 minutes to cook them up nice and crispy.

Remove the bacon to cool - but don't put it on a paper towel!!!  Put it on more foil to cool, or you'll have candied paper towels with your bacon!

While the bacon is cooling, make your chocolate for dipping.   

Melt a pound of baking chocolate or chocolate candy coating in a double boiler or in the microwave (since I rarely follow rules, I melted mine in a saucepan on the stove - you just have to watch it more closely than if you do it fancy, using a candy thermometer and such!) 

If you use chocolate candy coating, simply melting it is enough, or if you are using real chocolate, tempering it  is recommended, so that it remains shiny and hard at room temperature. 

I, of course, cheated on tempering the chocolate.  I didn't have enough chocolate on hand, so I combined Baker's Sweet Chocolate and some Nestle's Dark Chocolate Chips.  My finished product started melting in your hands before getting completely in your mouth.  I'm blaming it on the excessive heat here, but perhaps it had to do with the chocolate chips I used which aren't supposed to be used in tempering - they have additives to help them maintain their shapes, which don't work well in tempering!

Then just dip the bacon in the chocolate and let them cool - some recipes show them coated completely in chocolate, others dipped half-way top-to-bottom, and another as pictured, half way long wise.  I do recommend refrigerating them until ready to start munching.

They are a great conversation starter, and yummy to boot.  A couple of the more macho types at this party showed no interest in something so off-the-wall, but when the treats started disappearing, they dove in too.  Over all, a big success!!!  I don't even want to know how healthy they are, or aren't!!  o:)

Sooz recently recommended a really neat cooking website, and one recipe in particular - Creamy Bacon Cheese Crescent Rounds!  Since I was already indulging in bacon, I figured I'd try those too!

We are all familiar with Pillsbury Crescent Rolls.  They also make Crescent Rounds!  I'd never noticed them, but my Fry's grocery store carries them!  They are about as consistent in size and shape as snowflakes, but that's probably because of our heat index, again.  

400 degrees is the popular temperature for the oven today, so I set mine for 415 again.  I doubled the recipe shown on the website, so I had two cans of biscuits, hence 16 rounds.  

Fry up 10 slices of bacon.  Again I used a 12-ounce package of thick bacon, so I had 14 slices.  Can't have too much bacon, right??!!

Crumble the bacon and mix with 8-ounces of softened cream cheese, a half cup of finely chopped sweet onion (or green onion if you want more color), 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, 2/3 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese (I had a cup left in the bag from Trader Joe's, so I used it all) and 2 teaspoons of Cajun seasoning (I used about a tablespoon, and my tastebuds would have liked a little more!).  If the cream cheese is soft enough, this will all mix up easily with a big spoon.

Separate the Pillsbury Crescent Rounds onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, or my favorite, Reynolds Non-Stick foil.  Shape them and press down in the middle to form a little well with raised sides.  Recipe says to spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons of the bacon cream cheese filling into each round.  I used more like a big tablespoon of the goodies.  There was just a little leftover, and it was very tasty, even uncooked, so I knew these would be a treat!

Sprinkle them with some mozzarella cheese and a little more Cajun seasoning.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the little darlings are golden brown and the mozzarella is melted.  Mine took about 17 minutes in my user-unfriendly oven!

These were a huge hit and drew requests for the recipe! 

Food, my favorite dish!

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