Candied Smoked Chipotle Bacon (And a Giveaway!)

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I think it’s no secret that I’m a bacon aficionado. I love to create new and interesting recipes that involve bacon, so I was really thrilled when Jim from Des Moines Bacon Company offered to send me their products to try! I tested a few recipes with them and was quite pleased with the results, especially in this candied bacon recipe I am about to share with you. And there’s more information about a giveaway you can enter to win a free box of bacon (like the one below)!

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Des Moines Bacon Company specializes in thick-cut artisanal bacon made from fresh, locally procured pork belly using a traditional dry curing process.  Dry curing is a method that uses only dry ingredients instead of water.  By omitting the water, there is hardly any shriveling or splattering when the bacon strips are cooked.  Therefore, you can be rest assured that what you are paying is actually for meat and not water weight.  In the past, I’ve encountered problems with bacon shriveling up as I’m frying them in the skillet, leaving very little meat after cooking.  But definitely not so with this bacon!

post1-9Des Moines Bacon Company uses salt, sugar, and a variety of seasonings to produce four varieties of bacon that are available: Maple, Smoked Chipotle, Italian Herb, and Hardwood Smoked Uncured Bacon.  Maple Cured is a great all-purpose bacon perfect for breakfast, on a sandwich, or on a hamburger.  Smoked Chipotle (the one I used in the recipe below) is peppery, with a hint of spice (not spicy though), and goes well on a hamburger or with a steak.  Italian Herb contains a blend of Italian seasonings, and will surely enhance the flavors of a BLT sandwich or Cobb salad.  Hardwood Smoked Uncured Bacon is an alternative to the traditional cured bacon, as it is made with celery juice powder instead of curing salt.  The uncured bacon slices are nitrite- and nitrate-free, which is particularly good for you to enjoy if you are health conscious and mindful about added chemicals.

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I found it difficult to choose a favorite because they are all delicious in their own ways!  When cooked, each of them delivers a unique aroma and taste.  I love how little I have to do to give my dishes an additional layer of flavors.

Now that I’ve whet your appetite, here are the details about where you can pick up some of Des Moines Bacon Company’s products if you’re in Iowa.  And don’t fret if you’re not near any of those locations, because they can be shipped to you.  While you’re on their website, I’d definitely recommend checking out the page on making your bacon at home!  I’d love to give it a try if I can get my hands on a smoker.

Now about that giveaway…

**Giveaway is now closed. Congrats to Lori and thanks to all who entered!**

Des Moines Bacon Company has kindly offered a variety pack of bacon to one reader!  There are five ways to enter and each entry must be a separate comment (you can have up to five entries).  This giveaway ends on 11:59 pm EST on Saturday, January 19, 2013:

1.  Leave a comment below answering the questions: which of the four types of bacon from Des Moines Bacon Company would you most like to try?

2.  Like Des Moines Bacon Company on Facebook (and leave a comment below telling me you’ve done so)

3.  Follow @the_tasty_bite on Twitter (and leave a comment below with your twitter name)

4.  Tweet the following: Win Des Moines Bacon Company products from @the_tasty_bite #giveaway http://wp.me/p2wTWx-AC  (and leave a comment below with your twitter name or link to the tweet)

5.  Subscribe to my blog by email on the right hand side (don’t forget to confirm your subscription via the emailed link and leave a comment below telling me you’ve done so)

*Giveaway is open to US residents only (sorry international readers!)  Winner will be randomly selected on January 20, 2013 via http://www.random.org and contacted directly via the email you provided in the comment section.

And here’s the recipe I promised you…

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Candied Smoked Chipotle Bacon
(makes 12 pieces)

½ cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp black pepper
12 thick-cut chipotle smoked bacon slices

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set a cooling rack on top (I just used a disposable aluminum foil tray with ridges for easy clean up).

In a shallow dish, mix sugar, cinnamon, and black pepper.  Dip bacon slices in the sugar mixture, coating both sides, and thread each strip of bacon onto a wooden skewer.  Place the bacon skewers on the rack.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the bacon appears to be caramelized and crispy.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Fluffy Italian Meringue Frosting

Also known as the “7 Minute Frosting”.  It is white and fluffy (like marshmallow fluff!), which makes it a great alternative if you prefer something lighter than the traditional buttercream frosting.  Because of its airiness, it definitely works best as a frosting or topping and not as a filling.  I used it in between the layers of a coconut cake, but didn’t like how the frosting was deflated by the weight of the top layers.

For the bronze swirl effect, cover the cake with a thin crumb coat and spread a thick layer of frosting over the crumb coat with an offset spatula.  Next, draw decorative swirls with a toothpick.  Using a kitchen blow torch, lightly toast the meringue (keep moving the torch and don’t hold the flame steadily in one spot), darkening the peaks and swirls.

And then smile and wipe your brow as everyone oohs and aahs over the beautiful presentation that must have taken forever to prepare.  The frosting part probably took less than ten minutes.  But you don’t need to tell them that.

Fluffy Italian Meringue Frosting
(makes about 3 cups)

2/3 cup sugar
¼ cup water
3 egg whites, at room temperature
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cook sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil until a candy thermometer registers 248°F, about 5 minutes.

While the syrup boils, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl at high speed until stiff peaks form.  Gradually add the syrup in a small stream into egg whites, while continuing to beat the mixture with the electric mixer, until the mixing bowl is cooled to the touch, about 7 minutes.  The mixture should be thick and glossy.  Stir in vanilla.  Frost the cake immediately.

*The frosting can keep for about three days in the fridge in an airtight container.  Re-whip the frosting right before you’re ready to use it.

*Use a different flavor extract for a different frosting flavor.  And feel free to add food coloring.  Personally, I just love the white glossy look.


Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Warm Bacon Balsamic Vinaigrette

Allow me to introduce you to my latest obsession: warm bacon vinaigrette!  On a chilly day, I decided to put together a nice warm salad with some sweet potatoes and bacon.  I love sweet potatoes and I always have some on hand to round out a meal or add to a salad.  Obviously they are delicious and satisfying,  but they also pack a nutritional punch.  They are full of fiber, vitamins B6, C, and E, and beta-carotene.

Now let’s talk about this dressing!  With the leftover bacon grease, I made a warm vinaigrette to turn it into a robust, syrupy dressing with a hint of bacon in every bite.  Instead of using onions, I opted for shallots because of the sweeter, milder taste which would not distract from the bacon flavor.  It’s the real star of the show here!

But wait until you sprinkle some bacon bits on top.  If you love them as much as I do, it wouldn’t hurt to double that part of the recipe.  They say you only live once.

Kenshin, my designated K9 taste tester, got very excited as I was frying up the bacon.  He waited patiently knowing that I’d save some for him (of course!)  Smart pup :-)

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Warm Bacon Balsamic Vinaigrette
(serves 4)

3 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 thick-cut bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 large shallot, minced
2 tbsp brown sugar
6 cups mixed salad greens
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Toss sweet potato cubes with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and transfer to a baking sheet.  Roast the sweet potato for about 45 minutes, or until soft and slightly caramelized.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, fry bacon until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon pieces to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in skillet. Add shallots to the pan and cook under low heat, stirring occasionally, until shallots are softened. Add balsamic vinegar and sugar, and let the vinaigrette reduce by half. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle warm dressing over salad greens, roasted sweet potatoes, and bacon, and toss gently.  Serve immediately.

*This dressing must be served warm, because the bacon fat would coagulate when cold.