- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I’m not opposed to convenience foods, but I draw the line at pre-cooked bacon. Why would anyone want to forego the aroma of bacon, which is distinctive for the type of wood used in the smoking process?

Why would anyone trade the crisp texture of straight-from-the-skillet bacon in order to save a little time? If you want the taste of bacon, I recommend going for the full experience. Buy the best quality you can afford.

Avoid products that get their taste from smoke flavorings. Look at the bacon strips. Is the proportion of meat to fat high? You’re going to eat the lean, so the more meat the better.

Choosing thick or thin slices is a matter of personal preference. Thin bacon cooks crisp but is quicker to burn. Thick-sliced bacon holds up better in cooked dishes, such as soups or stews.

You can cook bacon by several methods, including baking, broiling, microwave cooking and pan frying. I usually pan-fry because I want the drippings as a fat in whatever recipe I’m making.

To pan-fry bacon, arrange the slices in a single layer, not crowding, in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Fry for two to five minutes per side, depending on thickness. You may also fry on one side for 2 minutes, turn the bacon over and repeat the steps for even doneness.

When you’re making bacon as part of a recipe and not for immediate eating, do that step first. Bacon cooking demands your attention, and you won’t be distracted. You can always reheat the bacon in a preheated 300-degree oven, if necessary.

Bacon and hash, a dish in which shredded potatoes are imbued with the smoky taste of bacon, is a delicious excuse to fry up some bacon. Serve the hash with cranberry and pear compote. Or, if you like, make the compote to go with your Thanksgiving turkey breast for two. It’s well worth the effort, including the bacon cooking.

Cranberry and pear compote

1 large ripe pear, cored and cut into ½-inch pieces (don’t peel)

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup fresh cranberries

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup orange juice

Combine pear, ginger root, cinnamon, cranberries, sugar and orange juice in a small saucepan. Stir well. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until pear and cranberries are tender. Remove lid. Cook over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until most of liquid evaporates and sauce is thickened. Makes 2 servings.

Two potato hash

4 thick center-cut slices pepper-covered or other bacon

1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled

1 small sweet potato, peeled

1 small onion

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place bacon in a large heavy-bottomed skillet. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side over medium heat, or until bacon is crisp and fat is rendered. Remove bacon and cut into small pieces. Set aside. Discard all but 1 tablespoon bacon drippings from skillet.

Shred Yukon Gold, sweet potato and onion, one at a time, into a large bowl. Toss together. Using your hands, squeeze out any excess moisture but don’t make mixture bone dry.

Reheat bacon drippings in skillet. Spread potato mixture in skillet and flatten down with spatula. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Turn hash over with a spatula. Cook for 5 more minutes. Turn over and cook for 2 minutes or until potatoes are turning brown and crisp. Turn over and sprinkle with reserved bacon. Cook for a final 2 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.


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