Sunday, April 02, 2006

I Heart Bacon

We all like bacon. It's hard not to. Crispy, salty, fatty, it's perfect as a snack, as a start to start a lazy Sunday, sandwiched with lettuce and tomato, or as a boost of flavor in a dinner dish. I have even come across a ginger cookie recipe that takes advantage of bacon's mass appeal by calling for 3/4 cup of drippings instead of butter.

My general "like" of bacon became a big fat "heart" recently. I was given a parting gift after visiting my friend Gabe's cooking school in west Seattle in the form of bacon. About 6 inches square, this gift sat for weeks in my fridge, looking unassuming in it's cryovac coat. I knew it was going to be good, and I wanted it's final resting place to be appropriate.

But saving food quickly becomes hoarding it. And to hoard food denies said food it's destiny. To be eaten. I broke down one night with no plans in mind and sliced, cooked, and devoured the bacon helping it reach a glorious final resting place in my stomach. (stop picturing me alone with a pound of bacon, I had a little help from my better half.)

It was better than I thought possible. The meaty part became delicate and crisp, breaking and crumbling between my teeth. The white fatty part was nothing like commercial bacon which is stringy, often chewy. The structure within the fatty tissue was strong enough to hold much of the fat in place, but gave way to my teeth immediately, releasing a flood of flavor onto my tongue. Waves of endorphins were immediately released into my brain causing my eyes to flutter just a little, while a slightly audible "mmmmmm" was emitted from my upturned mouth.

This compares to only one other experience I have had, Pino Rogano's cured Lardon, just the belly fat, no trace of muscle tissue. It was used at Lampreia, scored and seared. It held the same texture, the same wave of salty fat rushing strait to my brain, the same flood of joy marked indelibly on my sensory memory. Like the joy of 5000 potato chips packed into one bite.

The bacon is made from organic Kurubuta pigs who's flavor is greatly improved from a pastured diet. The fresh pork bellies are rubbed in a cure of brown sugar, salt, and nitrates, 40 grams per kilo of pig. The curing process, held under refrigeration for 8 days, involves daily turning and basting. After the curing process is complete, the bellies are rinsed and hung to dry overnight in a cool room. Come morning, the bellies are held in smoker at 185 degrees, absorbing the mild applewood smoke until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees. They are then cooled, cut, and packaged in cryovac to send home with the students and a lucky guest or two.

Unfortunately, at this time, the only way to taste this bacon is to take the class. Gabe has talked of one day starting to produce this bacon in a commercial setting for resale to restaurants and individuals. One can only hope this day comes soon.

The bacon began as a class project. While Culinary Communion, a small immersive cooking school run by Gabriel Claycamp in West Seattle started classes in December 2001, the charcuterie class wasn't introduced until the following summer. It has since become one of the most popular classes offered from their broad scope of education. The class spans 10 weeks and includes duck prosciutto, chorizo, saucisson sec, blood sausage, coppa cured tenderloin, comprising a curriculum of 26 items.

Students have fallen so hard for this class that they have been known to repeat it, in one case 3 times. This led to the creation of the preserving class starting up this summer.

This is a great class for the avid foodie, home enthusiast, and continuing education for professionals. The class size is small, the enthusiasm is large, as is the student participation and one on one time with the instructor. The dinner served after the class provides a forum for like minded people to share in discussion and camaraderie, often lasting hours after the class has ended.

I am adding Culinary Communion to my list of websites. Not only does it offer great classes taught by the resident chef's, but offers a guest chef roster with some of seattle's top chef's including Ethan Stowell of Union, Sue McCowen of Earth and Ocean, and Becky Selengut of Seasonal Cornucopia. Somehow I got thrown into the mix too, and am starting my first class tomorow, a 3 part series on plating desserts.


Anonymous Rocky Yeh said...

Bacon, wonderful bacon. Thanks Dana!

April 04, 2006 3:59 PM  
Blogger lee said...

Wow! I'm jealous. I would love to take the charcuterie class. I just got Michael Ruhlman's book out of the library so I guess I'll just have to teach myself! Good luck in your class.

April 04, 2006 4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand what "bacon" has got to do with "pastry" and the theme of this blog, not that I am a vegetarian.

Laurence Perrier

April 07, 2006 12:06 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

Rocky, I aggree... yeah for bacon!

Lee... thanks for the luck

Laurence... This blog is about my experience with food. I work in a pastry department, therefore most of the writings are going to be about pastry. But I include as much or as little about food in general as I see fit.

April 07, 2006 4:54 PM  

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