As some of my readers already know, when we lived in Chicago we would occasionally throw bacon parties. That's right. Social gatherings entirely devoted to that gluttony of all gluttonies: bacon. And because our friends were adventurous little foodies, we would always challenge friends to come up with the most delicious and creative dish they could. After a few parties, this started to take on the air of those fryer parties where people dare each other to try to find something that isn't delicious fried...because everything is better with bacon.
Well I recently was invited to enter a Chicago area, no holds barred "Bacon Take-down." As I now live in Nashville, I had to sadly decline. But I thought I would pass the information on for any of my Chicago-area readers who might be interested in attending or even participating. Participants get several pounds of gratis bacon to make their bacon dreams come true. The take-down is going on tomorrow so if you are interested, act fast!
And for those of you not fortunate enough to join in the Chicago area revelry, I thought I would pass on the idea of a bacon party so you can get the fun started wherever you live (except probably strongly Jewish or Islamic communities, where bacon is verbotten). Bacon parties came to us because of my husbands good college friend Justin Bell, author of Bellview Movies, who compulsively reviews movies and writes often sardonic, usually side-splitting essays on life. "Life" includes everything from "When cheap food turns ritzy" to rants about sports, love, even reviews of his friends' wedding. If you are so inclined, you can also read his review of our wedding. With hat duly doffed to Mr. Bell, we begin.
Start your bacon party out by inviting a few good friends with hearty appetites and ask them each to bring about a pound of their favorite high quality bacon, or to make some kind of a bacon dish. How much guidance you give on the dish is up to you and your knowledge of your friends. Too little direction and you can wind up with six pans of quiche, or six trays of bacon wrapped dates. You'll probably want to get some of the classics yourself: eggs, orange juice, maybe some biscuits. And as the host, pick up a few pounds of bacon as well, because nothing is sadder than a bacon shortage.
Now here are the top ten lessons I've learned about the fine art of hosting a bacon party, complete with mouthwatering photos...
1. Never buy the cheap stuff. Life is way to short to eat mediocre bacon. Bacon is one of those foods that is bad for you and so you might be tempted to engage in some moderation. If moderating, you may as well make the stuff the best you can get.
2. Speaking of the best you can get, if you live in Chicago: Always buy your bacon at the Paulina meat market. Always.
3. Get several different varieties of bacon and do a side by side taste test. Unless you are consuming embarrassing quantities (and you should be doing this at a bacon party), you rarely get a chance to taste different brands and types next to each other to really discover what you like.
4. When serving pounds and pounds of bacon, orange juice is a necessary palate cleanser. or some kind of alcohol. But never try to make bacon-infused vodka. It sounds like a good idea, but mostly all you get is cloudy nasty bacon fat and a good joke.
5. Bacon is delicious with sea food, especially wrapped around scallops and served with brussels sprouts.
6. Bacon is extremely delicious with sweets. We have yet to find a category of sweets or desserts that is not improved by bacon. We have challenged friends to mix it into conventional desserts with delightful outcomes. Favorites include: candied bacon, bacon ice cream, bacon cupcakes with bacon frosting, bacon cheesecake, and bacon whiskey pecan pie.
7. Cast iron is the natural element for cooking bacon. Other pans will work, and sure you can also bake it. If you are feel sacreligious and impatient, the microwave also works (sorta). But cast iron skillet is where it belongs.
8. Napkins napkins napkins. Bacon is greasy by definition, and if you don't provide ample napkins stashed on every surface of your house some idiot will accidentally wipe his hand on your couch.
9. Save that bacon grease! You'll have lots if you and your guests have done well and consumed pounds of bacon. I like to freeze it in smaller portions so it is easily on hand when I want to add some extra flavoring to classics, like corn bread.
10. Abandon all hope of getting the bacon smell out of your house for at least three days, no matter how hard you run that industrial strength fume hood above the stove. Oh, and don't expect leftovers.