Red Cup Cooks: Bacon

Another year of sports has come and (luckily) gone. That means it's time for everyone's least favorite summertime RCR series: Red Cup Cooks! Only two cup writers are in the same city now, but we've gotten together with a couple of other faithful readers to bring back the series. One of them has a fancy camera. Perhaps some of your fears from last year will be relieved.

In the first installment, we decided to go with an Iron-Chef-style common ingredient of bacon. Hope you enjoy.

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Bacon-wrapped Durkee Green Beans, Bacon Pimento Cheese, Candied Bacon Old Fashioned, and Bacon-wrapped Pork Medallions.

 First up was Whiskey Wednesday's Pimento Cheese dip

 

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Ingredients:
16oz sharp cheddar cheese (block, not pre-grated, you heathen)
1 jar pimentos
3-4 oz cream cheese
3-4 oz mayo
1 hot pepper (jalepeno, anaheim, whatever)
2-3 strips of bacon, grease included
black pepper, ancho powder, cumin, celery salt

Mix all of this crap together, however you feel like, until it's got a thick, creamy texture. Let it sit in the fridge for a while. When you take it back out, it will be a bit hard and congealed; you can add some hot bacon grease or even heat it in a pot on low heat to get that texture back. WW served this with some thin baguette slices that he toasted with olive oil in the oven. You can eat it with crackers if you're too damn lazy to cut some decent bread and brown it for five minutes, see if we care.

But yeah. It was delicious. I personally think that pimento cheese is something that can be easily messed up. Often, the cheese is too large, or the concoction is too dry. This was wonderfully creamy and had a solid amount of kick. The underlying bacon from the bacon pieces and grease really flavored the mixture well.

Next, there was Smeargle's bacon-wrapped pork medallions.

 

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Ingredients
2.5 lbs pork tenderloin (usually two ~1 lb. tenderloins)
15 slices bacon
1 tbs basil
1 tbs oregano
1 tbs seasoned salt
1 tbs garlic powder
pinch of brown sugar
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs butter

1. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). [EDIT: Smeargle..... seriously?]
2. Fry bacon in oven safe skillet on med-high heat (I used a cast iron skillet, something which any good American already owns). Fry bacon long enough to brown both sides but keep bacon flexible without crunching/breaking, about 2-3 minutes each side. Pat dry on paper towels. Remove bacon grease as you go.
3. Combine basil, oregano, salt, garlic powder, brown sugar in bowl/shaker and mix well. Put aside.
4. Wrap bacon around tenderloin and use 1-2 toothpicks to keep in place. Cut medallions at the same width of bacon slice wrapped around it (about 1"-1.5")
5. Sprinkle herb mixture on each side of pork medallion or dip each side of pork medallion into bowl of herb mixture.
6. Melt butter and olive oil in skillet. Brown each medallion on both sides for about 4-5 minutes.
7. Place entire skillet with all medallions into oven and bake about 15 more minutes (DISCLAIMER: monitor your medallions carefully to 140-160, no more than 170 degrees...otherwise, you are gonna have some tough medallions like we did [18 min])

As Smeargle mentions in his recipe, we accidentally let the pork cook a little too long. It was still tasty, but with new USDA guidelines suggesting that pork is safe as low as 145 degrees, I wished the medallions had come out a full 4 or 5 minutes earlier. The fatty bacon wrapped around it helped keep the meat juicy, but it wasn't quite as good as it looked. The seasoning was perfect, and (cooked properly) I have a lot of faith in this dish. It just didn't exactly work this time.

Grave Situation, an uncommon cup commenter, joined us and contributed bacon-wrapped green beans (not reviewed here) and some delicious candied bacon old fashioneds.Baconoldfashioned_medium

Those of you unfamiliar with the bacon bourbon infusion don't know what you're missing. This was the first time I'd actually had any, but I had been considering it for a few weeks after seeing the drink on Parlor Market's menu. I was somewhat skeptical that it would make a difference, but you can definitely taste the bacon in the drink.

Bacon Infused Bourbon (We used Elijah Craig)
3 or 4 slices bacon, or enough to render 1 ounce of fat
1 750-ml. bottle of bourbon

Pour bourbon into a jug. Add bacon fat. Allow to sit at room temperature for 4 hours to 1 day. Place bourbon mixture in freezer overnight. Spoon out frozen bacon fat.

Old Fashioned
2 ounces bacon-infused bourbon
1/4 ounce Grade B maple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Twist of orange

Substituting maple syrup for the more common simple syrup is obviously optional. We thought it brought a lot to the drink, but it is a bit more syrupy than normal. This Old Fashioned is really all about smoky maple flavor, and it worked really well.

Lastly, I made bacon beignets.

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Ingredients
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda 


1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons bacon fat or melted butter
3 strips applewood-smoked bacon, cooked and chopped (fat reserved for batter)
Canola oil, for frying
 

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, buttermilk, and fat (bacon or butter). Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir in the toasted bacon until well incorporated. Allow the batter to rest for 30 minutes.

Pour 3 to 4 inches of oil into a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven and heat to 340°F on a deep-frying or candy thermometer. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Roll batter into a single 1/4 inch thick sheet. Cut batter into rectangles. Working in batches, drop the batter into the hot oil and fry, turning once, until golden on all sides, a minute or two. Remove the beignets with a slotted spoon and drain on the paper towels. Toss the beignetss in the coating mixture and set aside.


Beignet coating
1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
Pinch salt
 Self explanatory. Coat soon after you remove from oil. We didn't use the ginger, and it tasted fine.
For Chocolate Sauce
1/3 cup water
4 ounces 58 percent–cacao bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon corn syrup
In a saucepan, bring the water to boil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped chocolate and corn syrup and whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside. When ready to serve the beignets, add the chocolate sauce (obviously).
The beignets were quite good, but we were so full by then that it was difficult to eat many.
Overall, I thought it was a good meal that pushed each of us to try things we hadn't done before. Bacon is, of course, incredible in any form, but I like to think that some things we did impressed even the bacon gods. It was a solid first showing for the summer series, and I look forward to next week's dish.
We haven't agreed on a second theme. Any suggestions?
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