Its almost - no - its very cliché now, to exalt the properties of the pig. There are many restaurants that should simply be called pig bars. And chefs like Kevin have replaced dragons, skulls, and Japanese body art with charts of the animals anatomy.
For the most part, of course, its flavor. The smokiness. The salt. But, mainly, its the fat. Where other animals fat can take on an unpleasant texture, especially cold, the pig yields melting lusciousness, almost all the time.
For that reason, its irreplaceable.
Emeril was right (even if I cringe while typing it). Pork fat rules!
Bacon however... is overrated.
This declaration has already landed me on a few blogs hit lists, but I feel rather adamant about it.
First, Im not crazy, and second, I love bacon. As a young cook, with not a lot of spending money, I would purchase shingled bacon and cook it in a pan to create a crispy yet also wiggly sandwich. Prepared with one of my other loves, mayonnaise (not overrated BTW), on white bread with a splash of vinegar. Its a great quick sandwich.
And at my restaurant, we use Alan Bentons craftsmanship almost exclusively.
Often, however bacon becomes a crutch.
Its an ingredient that we can jump on and ride for its trendiness. It's fatty, salty, and smokey. Slutty. Sporting great, sexy accessories for sure. Glossy lipstick, push up bra, leather panties. Great for one night, or one dish. Dirty if over worn. A pig in high heels. But a pig nonetheless.
And aesthetically I get it. The beautiful striation of a slice of bacon is indeed gallery worthy. Like a slice of a tree. Maybe maple? And maybe that observation is natures way of letting us know that smoked wood, and even syrup, might be good flavors to go with it.
Just like Kevin finding inspiration in the hazelnut trees that speckle the Sokol Blosser vineyards, being smart sometimes just means opening your eyes. And in capable hands, like his, bacon can be magical.
(Photo from Wikimedia commons)
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