Story last updated at 3/26/2014 - 1:36 pm
I love bacon. I admit it. It's one of my favorite foods. I love it fried, in salads, on baked potatoes and especially wrapped around things like dates, scallops or, say, a corn dog - a memorable treat from the Alaska State Fair, that Corn Hog.
Last week, Juneau celebrated what has become an annual event, Baconfest. This involves all things bacon. Needless to say I was thrilled to get my ticket. Sadly, Grant was out of town so I had to go to this carnivorous event solo, but once I arrived I met several friends and we all shared tips on what we liked and which booth to go to next.
For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of attending Baconfest, it is exactly what it sounds like - a festival of bacon. Restaurants from the area serve small bites of their bacon creations and attendees eat their fill of pork and subsequently vote on their favorite. There was even a model wearing a clever, steampunk-like dress designed and made by local artist Lauralye Miko. This remarkable dress was actually made from real bacon. I believe the bacon had been cooked and then varnished. Now that is commitment. Live music and a bacon-eating contest rounded out the event.
Fashion aside, I was there for the food. Bacon is the food of the gods. Comedian Jim Gaffigan does a hilarious bit on the virtues of bacon and informs the audience that bacon bits are the confetti of food. I couldn't agree more. Sprinkle some bacon bits on just about anything, and voila! You have an artistic culinary creation.
There's something about the saltiness of bacon that pairs so well with well ... just about anything. Baconfest took this concept to a whole new level. There was bacon cheesecake, bacon dipped in chocolate, bacon-wrapped short ribs, bacon baklava, bacon cheese soup, bacon with rosemary and the popular Kevin Bacon Sandwich, the official winner of Baconfest. Congratulations to Chef Beau and The Rookery for making such a delicious sandwich.
After consuming a pound of bacon and drinking an ice-cold soda (I was driving) I took my gluttonous self home and starting thinking about recipes. I am honor bound to celebrate this occasion and to share my newfound knowledge with my fellow bacon addic - um, lovers.
I ate a lot of bacon that night. All of the dishes were interesting and fun to try. It was hard to decide what to do. I opted for the Kevin Bacon Sandwich with a twist. The Breeze-In also had a pretty ingenious recipe with bacon. They had baked bacon with rosemary on it. It was like eating classy bacon. What if I combined the two recipes and "Midgied" it?
I confess, I love it that my friend made me a verb.
The thing I liked best about the Kevin Bacon Sandwich - excluding the bacon of course - was the caramelized onions. The sweetness of the onions paired absolutely perfectly with the saltiness of the bacon. Throw in the Gruyère cheese and we're talking perfection between two slices of bread. I believe Chef Beau also had bacon jam, which in itself is a remarkable condiment.
Not having the time or inclination to make bacon jam on a Wednesday evening, I opted to leave that out, but I did add the rosemary bacon to my recipe. I also used Fontina cheese for the extra gooey factor and a nice French bread to hold it all together. I also threw in some fresh basil on top to see if I liked it -I definitely did.
After all the bacon consumption this week, I am sure it'll be salads and high-fiber diets for me next week. But it was well worth it. I eagerly await Baconfest 2015 and applaud each of the restaurants, their chefs and staff for presenting such a tasty and fun event for Juneau. I'd also like to give a special thank you to the Rotary Club because it was their fundraiser event and without them I wouldn't have had an event of bacon to relish so decadently.
This week I present a recipe that is a combination of two of my favorite dishes from Baconfest: Rosemary Bacon Grilled Cheese.
Until next time...
Eat and enjoy,
Rosemary Bacon Grilled Cheese
8 slices thick cut bacon
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 small loaf French bread (or other favorite bread)
6 ounces fontina cheese, sliced
Fresh basil leaves (optional)
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ tablespoon butter
Pinch of salt
Pinch of sugar
1 - 2 Tablespoons water (optional)
Softened butter for basting bread
Preheat oven to 325¿. Place bacon on a baking rack on top of a foil-lined baking sheet. Lightly sprinkle rosemary on bacon and bake for 25-30 minutes until done to desired texture. (Some folks like it super crispy. I don't, so be sure to check it often.)
Meanwhile, melt butter and olive oil together over medium heat in large heavy-duty skillet such as cast iron or stainless steel. Add onion and slowly cook to reduce the sugars. Reduce heat to low. After 10 minutes, add salt and cook another 10 minutes. The onions should begin to soften and turn dark. You're looking for an all over brown, not a fried color. Watch your heat closely; you may have to reduce it, depending on your stove.
At the 20-minute interval, add the sugar and stir well. There should be little to no liquid in the pan. This is OK, the natural sugars of the onion will continue to cook it down. Slow and steady is the plan. You may need to add a tablespoon or so of water to ensure nothing burns and to get the delicious brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Once the onions are completely soft and a dark, caramelized brown, remove from stove.
Slice the bread into sandwich portions. Spread the softened butter on the outside of each bread slice. Place the bacon slices, then the cheese, then the onions atop the bottom slice. Top with basil if desired. Preheat non-stick skillet to medium-high heat. Place each sandwich in the skillet and cook until cheese is melted and gooey. Turn once to get toasted on the other side. You may want to cover the skillet for a minute to aid in melting the cheese.