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Cooking with Bacon

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Nuevos Huevos Rancheros

Serves 4

From the American Southwest down to the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, huevos rancheros are as common a breakfast item as waffles or bacon and eggs are in the United States. Ours adds bacon to the traditional ingredients and, rather than frying the eggs, we poach them in the hot, bacony, bean, and salsa mixture. For a fancier serving idea, divide the salsa among four half cup lightly greased ramekins, add an egg to each, sprinkle on the salt, pepper, and remaining bacon, and bake on a baking sheet in a 400°F oven for about 20 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

6 slices thick-cut bacon, coarsely chopped
1 can (about 15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Roasted Tomato and Pepper Salsa (recipe follows), or
1 1/2 cups store-bought salsa
4 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
4 small flour or corn tortillas, warmed

1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and most of the fat is rendered, 6 to 9 minutes, stirring often and adjusting the heat as necessary. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Remove and discard all but 41/2 teaspoons of bacon fat from the skillet.

2. Reheat the bacon fat in the skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, about 1 minute, then add the black beans, cumin, and two thirds of the cooked bacon. Cook until the mixture is heated through, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Add the salsa and let the mixture come to a simmer.

3. Using the back of a spoon, make 4 wells in the salsa, each about 2 inches across. Crack an egg into a small bowl and slide it gently into one of the wells without breaking the yolk (don't be concerned if some of the egg white runs out of the well). Repeat with the remaining eggs. Season the eggs with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the remaining bacon around the eggs. Cover the skillet and cook over medium heat, 4 to 6 minutes for slightly runny yolks, or as desired. Sprinkle cilantro over the huevos rancheros, divide it among 4 small bowls, and serve with warm tortillas.

Bacon Swizzle Stick

Makes 1 swizzle stick, can be multiplied as desired

Most swizzle sticks do one thing well: They swizzle. One evening, we invited our friend Richard Bonomo over to enjoy a cocktail and taste a few of our newly tested bacon recipes. Richard, a chemist and avid cook, helped us find a way to make a bacon swizzle stick hold its spiral shape by wrapping it in a paper towel before popping it in the microwave. Sometimes it really helps to have a scientist in the kitchen. The swizzle sticks are great with Bloody Marys, martinis, and planter's punch. Keep experimenting; it's fun.

Arrange a slice of bacon diagonally on top of a piece of paper towel. Holding the slice of bacon at each end, twist the slice in opposite directions into a tight spiral. Fold the paper towel in half over the twisted bacon slice so that the towel's opposite corners meet. Then, starting at the fold, roll the paper towel under the palms of your hands around the bacon into a tube. Microwave the bacon in its rolled paper towel on high power until it is firm and shaped like a swizzle stick, about 1 minute and 15 seconds. Because microwave ovens vary in power, check for doneness after about 1 minute. Unroll the paper towel and let the swizzle stick cool before using it as a garnish for your favorite Bloody or Virgin Mary.

Chocolate-Peanut-Bacon Toffee

Makes about 1 1/2 pounds

It's hard to eat just one piece of bacon, one peanut, or one little square of chocolate. Combine the three and you don't have a chance at moderation, so consider yourself warned: If you make this toffee be prepared to give some away or you will surely eat it all. If you like to make sweets as a holiday gift, add this brittle toffee to your repertoire. While it's delicious at room temperature, the toffee is wonderful to freeze and then break off a piece after dinner when you want something sweet but you don't want to commit to a full-on dessert.

5 slices applewood- or hickory-smoked bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups lightly salted cocktail peanuts, plus 2 tablespoons chopped lightly salted cocktail peanuts
15 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks, plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch-thick pieces, plus butter for greasing the baking pan
1 cup sugar1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces 70 percent cacao dark chocolate, finely chopped

1. Butter a 15- by 10- by 1-inch nonstick baking pan and place it on a heatproof surface.

2. Cook the bacon in a medium-size skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and crisp and most of the fat is rendered, 5 to 8 minutes, stirring often and adjusting the heat as necessary. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, reserving the bacon fat in the skillet.

3. Blot the drained pieces of bacon with paper towels to remove any excess grease. Set aside 3 tablespoons of the bacon pieces. Combine the remaining bacon pieces with the 1 1/2 cups of peanuts in a medium-size bowl.

4. Pour the bacon fat from the skillet through a wire-mesh strainer set over a small bowl and then place 1 tablespoon of the strained bacon fat in a heavy deep 3- or 4-quart saucepan.

5. Add the butter and sugar to the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the butter is almost melted, less than 1 minute. Then whisk constantly until the sugar is incorporated into the butter and the mixture is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vanilla. Attach a candy thermometer securely to the side of the saucepan and let the butter and sugar mixture boil, whisking occasionally, until it is a deep golden and registers 300˚F on the thermometer.

6. Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately stir in the bacon and peanut mixture. Pour the hot toffee mixture carefully into the center of the prepared baking pan. Using a butter knife or metal spatula, spread the toffee mixture so that it covers about two thirds of the surface of the pan and is slightly less than 1/2 inch thick. Let the toffee set for about 30 seconds, then sprinkle the chocolate on top, spreading it out with the butter knife or spatula. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped peanuts and the reserved bacon evenly over the top of the toffee and then freeze it until firm, about 30 minutes.

7. Slip the spatula under the toffee to loosen it from the pan and then break the toffee into pieces. The toffee can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

Fillet Francis

Serves 4

Francis Mallmann is the dean of South America's chefs. Trained in the greatest kitchens of France, his evolution as a chef took him back to the rustic wood-fired cookery of his Patagonian heritage. Here he solves the problem inherent in filet mignon: wonderful texture, not much taste. By wrapping the tournedos (one-inch-thick rounds of beef fillet) in fresh sage and bacon he adds layers of flavor and even more succulence to the meat-an easy and impressive dish.

4 beef tournedos (fillets 1 inch thick and about 5 ounces each)
16 fresh sage leaves
4 slices slab bacon (each about ⅛ inch thick, 1 inch wide, and long enough to wrap around a tournedo), or 4 slices lightly smoked bacon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Pat the tournedos dry with paper towels. Press 4 sage leaves on the side of each piece of fillet, spacing them evenly. Wrap a slice of bacon around each tournedo so that it holds the sage leaves against the meat. Tie the bacon in place with butcher's string.

2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until it starts to smoke and a drop of water sizzles on the surface. Season the tournedos with salt and pepper to taste and place them in the hot skillet on their bacon-wrapped sides.

3. Cook the tournedos without moving them until the bacon is well charred, 11/2 to 2 minutes. Rotate the tournedos a quarter turn and cook until that portion of bacon is crisped, then repeat the rotation 2 more times so the bacon is nicely crisped all around.

4. Place the tournedos on a flat side and cook until done to taste, 2 to 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the tournedos to a platter and let them rest for 3 minutes. Remove and discard the strings before serving the tournedos.

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