HomeLifestyleFoodIn The Kitchen With Vera: Bacon me crazy

In The Kitchen With Vera: Bacon me crazy

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My mother-in-law gave me a tip back in the early 70s that if you didn’t have a plan for dinner, just fry some bacon while you are searching through the pantry, refrigerator and freezer and the aroma will be great when your husband comes home! I guess I’m really dating myself at this point, not to mention how hectic our lives have become, but the smell of bacon will definitely get people to the kitchen or the table!

Vera’s cooking with bacon this week.

This week’s show features three recipes using bacon but also some great tips on cooking bacon four different ways. The first recipe is Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Bacon. Just about the time we think that a recipe for Macaroni and Cheese can’t get any better than the one in my cookbook, now I’m introducing you to this amazing version. Can’t wait to hear your comments.

Baked Mac and Cheese with Bacon

Ingredients

  • 1-pound uncooked large elbow macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • ¾ cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated (about ½ cup)
  • 12 thick cut bacon slices, cooked and crumbled, divided (use ½ bacon if less bacon desired) 
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup whole buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing dish
  • 12 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
  • 4 ounces Monterey Jack, provolone, or mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 2 large eggs, well beaten

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring 3 quarts water to a boil over high in a large stockpot. Stir in pasta and 1 tablespoon of the salt and return to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender but still firm, about 6 minutes. Reserve and set aside 2 cups cooking water, and then drain the pasta. Return pasta to pot and remove from heat. Cover to keep warm.
  2. Generously butter a 13- x 9-inch baking dish and set aside. Toss together breadcrumbs; Parmesan cheese; and half of the cooked, crumbled bacon in a bowl, and set aside. Stir together flour, pepper, mustard, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a small bowl. Heat milk and buttermilk in a medium saucepan over medium, undisturbed, until barely steaming but not boiling, 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high. Add flour mixture. Cook, whisking often, until mixture is smooth and thick and has a delicate golden color and toasted aroma, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in warm milk mixture. Bring to a boil over high. Cook, stirring often, until thickened to the texture of cream, about 3 minutes.
  4. Stir shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses into milk mixture and remove from heat. Stir in beaten eggs until mixture forms a smooth sauce.
  5. Uncover cooked pasta and stir. (If pasta sticks together, stir in reserved warm cooking water, and drain again.) Stir cheese mixture and remaining bacon into drained pasta in stockpot.

Transfer pasta mixture to prepared baking dish, and sprinkle evenly with breadcrumb mixture. Bake in preheated oven until firm, puffed up, and lightly browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

Bacon Mac and cheese

Next is a Brussel Sprouts Salad that has bacon as the secret ingredient and that flavor profile is fantastic in this new recipe. This paired with a hamburger or your favorite grilled chicken or steak is a hit!

Roasted Brussels Sprout Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette 

Shaved Brussels Sprouts make an excellent salad with all the delicious sweet and salty ingredients mixed in. This is one of my new favorites that was introduced on my show as an exceptional side dish. 

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: Makes approximately 6 servings

Ingredients:

2 pound Brussels sprouts, washed and root end trimmed

Extra-virgin olive oil, to taste

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

½ cup candied pecan halves, broken into pieces (from The VeryVera Cookbook: Recipes from My Table)

¼ cup dried cranberries 

6 ounces thick cut bacon, very finely chopped

½ cup crumbled Feta cheese

Apple Cider Vinaigrette

1 garlic clove, minced

1 small shallot, sliced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons honey, as needed for sweetness

⅓ cup pecan oil

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F and prepare two large rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper or foil prepared with cooking spray. 
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, shred the Brussels sprouts using the slicing attachment. If you do not have a food processor or slicing attachment, slice the Brussels sprouts by hand, very thin. 
  3. Divide and spread the sliced Brussels sprouts between the two baking sheets. Drizzle both sheet pans with olive oil, salt, and black pepper to taste. Toss to combine. 
  4. Place the pans in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes, or until the Brussels sprouts are browned and tender. 
  5. Remove from the oven and set aside. Let cool to room temperature. 
  6. While the Brussels sprouts are cooling, mix together the vinaigrette. 
  7. Add all ingredients to a blender, except for the oil, salt, and pepper. Blend to dissolve the honey. 
  8. Once the honey is dissolved, slowly pour in the pecan oil while the blender is mixing on low. 
  9. Add salt and black pepper to taste and adjust the sweetness level if needed. For the best flavor, allow the vinaigrette to rest for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors blend. 
  10. Once cool, place the Brussels sprouts in a large mixing bowl. Add in the pecans, dried cranberries, and bacon pieces. 
  11. Shake the vinaigrette to blend and add to the mixing bowl. Combine well and serve immediately. 
Bacon isn't just for breakfast in Vera Stewart's show this week.
Brussel sprout salad

Finally, could a fudge brownie get any better…well yes:  JUST ADD BACON and Caramel! This recipe is drop-dead delicious and with tailgating going on now and holidays right around the corner, this is going to be a great NEW treat.  

Bacon caramel brownie

Bacon Caramel Brownies

Ingredients

Bacon:

10 slices bacon (save 2 slices for garnish)

¼ cup light brown sugar

Brownies:

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder

11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

5 eggs, at room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup caramel sauce or dulce de leche 

Instructions

Bacon:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Add bacon brown sugar to a large Ziploc bag and toss until bacon is coated.
  2. Line a baking sheet with a wire rack and lay bacon on the rack. Put the baking sheet on the top rack of the oven and bake until crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let cool, and then chop into large chunks. 

Brownies:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper and grease again.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.
  3. Using the melt feature on the induction cooktop, melt the butter and chocolate, occasionally stirring until smooth. *Alternatively, put the chocolate and butter in a large microwavable bowl and microwave in 30 second increments, stirring each 30 seconds, until the chocolate and butter stirred together are completely smooth. 
  4. Add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined. The mixture should be room temperature.
  5. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir in. 
  6. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
  7. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out into an even layer. Drizzle half of the caramel sauce or dulce de leche around the brownie batter. Sprinkle half of the bacon bits evenly over the batter. Spread the remaining batter on top and repeat with remaining caramel and bacon.
  8. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve. 
  9. Store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrap with plastic wrap for up to 3 days. 

Now for preparing the bacon! This week, I will go over proper technique for cooking in a cast iron skillet, the grill, the oven and finally the microwave. Each method has a reason behind why you do it that way, and the show is so filled with fun and education this week that I hope you will record it on Thursday at 12:30 since football will preempt it on Saturday night. A good many of you watch on Thursday so make one of the recipes this weekend and let me know what you think.

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