“Special day! Oh, what have I forgotten now? Now, don’t panic. Is it Bacon Day? No, that’s crazy talk!” ~Homer, The Simpsons
Mmm . . . Bacon Day. It sounds like Homer Simpson nirvana, doesn't it? Now imagine thick cut bacon, packed with a deep layer of pecans and brown sugar, then baked to salty-sweet perfection. Crazy talk? Maybe, but it's Bacon Day, every day at Elizabeth's Restaurant in New Orleans, where they invented Praline Bacon in 1998.
It's no wonder New Orleans is the place where praline bacon, aka pig candy, first saw the light of day. The Big Easy's sugar karma goes way back.
When his indigo crop failed, Jean Etienne de Boré, descendant of French nobility, gambled on sugar to refurbish his dwindled fortunes. He worked to develop a way to granulate sugar and suceeded in 1795. Monsieur de Boré was highly respected and served as the city's first mayor. His plantation was at the site that is now New Orleans landmark, Audubon Park.
Jill Connor Browne is probably not a descendent of French nobility and she may hail from next door in Jackson, Mississippi, but she has New Orleans written all over her. She worked out her own unique take on the necessary food groups—salty, sweet, fried and cheese. Ms. Browne is the Original Sweet Potato Queen and played her part in the spread of the tempting porky treat. Pig candy (which fills three out of four of Ms. Browne's criteria) was immortalized in "The Sweet Potato Queens' Big-Ass Cookbook and Financial Planner."
The book was published in January, 2003 and tells about the time Queen Jill was at low ebb, with pneumonia and book tour lag in Kansas City. Fan Patty Leathers passed her a paper bag full of the brown sugared bacon. The rest is Sweet Potato Queen history. Women in tiaras with big red hair have been responsible for tons of bacon and brown sugar colliding in ovens all across America.
Pig candy knows no social barriers and is beloved by high- and low-brows alike. John Burnett gave a report for NPR from New Orleans in 2006. He and his family had breakfast at Elizabeth's. After a bit of discussion about Praline Bacon he headed to the kitchen to find out how it's made. Conclusion? Bacon candy is healing. The solace of having Elizabeth's familiar dishes back gave great comfort to locals in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Bacon . . . is there anything it can't do?
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 pound high quality thick-cut bacon
Mix the pecans and brown sugar together until evenly blended and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Position wire racks onto two baking sheets. Lay the bacon strips side by side on the rack, edges not touching.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until bacon is rendered and browning on the edges but not anywhere near done. NOTE: Time will vary according to the thickness of the bacon so watch it carefully. Remove the pans from the oven and CAREFULLY drain off bacon fat if you desire.
When cool enough to handle move the strips very close together. Spread the brown sugar and pecan mixture evenly over all the slices.
Put back in the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes more or until the topping is bubbly and the bacon is browned. Allow to cool. The bacon will firm as it sits.
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening
1 recipe Praline Bacon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
Combine chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at 50% power in 30 second increments, stirring after each. Times will vary depending on your microwave and the quality of the chocolate, but will be about 3 minutes or so. Stop before the chips are thoroughly melted and allow them to finish melting as you stir to blend them.
Place bacon slices on a rack over a clean baking sheet. Drizzle chocolate over all. Distribute pecan pieces evenly and sprinkle very lightly with Tony's. Allow to harden before serving.
In which Christopher Walken tells the story of the Three Little Pigs. Priceless.
Sweet Potato Queen image courtesy of PhotoBucket
Video courtesy of YouTube
All other images and texts copyright 2011 Theresa Rice