The combination of crunch, sweetness, salt, and meatiness is irresistible to most folks. Add the nuance of aromatic spices and seasonings and you get pleasing notes and accents that make this simple recipe complex on the palate. Glazing the nuts before combining them with the spice mix keeps them super-crunchy, never soft and soggy. Using bacon instead of butter produces a brawny flavor that stands up to a cold dark beer or a peaty single malt Scotch or fine old bourbon. We are partial to the combination of walnuts and cashews, but feel free to use whatever nuts you like, so long as they are raw and unsalted.
5 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 cup unsalted raw cashews
1 cup unsalted raw walnuts or pecans
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 packed teaspoons light or dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F
̊ 2. Cook the bacon in a medium-size skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and most of the fat is rendered, 5 to 8 minutes, stirring often and adjusting the heat as necessary. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, setting aside 1 tablespoon of bacon fat in the skillet.
3. Line a large shallow rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and scatter all of the nuts on it in a single layer. Bake the nuts until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes, then rotate the baking sheet 180 degrees so the back of the baking sheet faces the front of the oven and bake the nuts until fragrant and slightly darker in color, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the nuts cool.
4. While the nuts cool, combine the granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon of the brown sugar, and the salt, curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper in a medium-size mixing bowl. Set the spice mixture aside.
5. Add 2 tablespoons of water and the remaining 2 teaspoons of brown sugar to the skillet with the reserved bacon fat. Let come to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Stir in the nuts, setting aside the lined baking sheet. Add the drained bacon and cook, stirring constantly, until the nuts are glossy and the liquid has evaporated, about 1 1/2 minutes.
6. Add the glazed nut mixture to the bowl with the spice mixture and toss well to coat. Transfer the nut mixture back to the parchment paper-lined baking sheet to cool completely. When cool, the nut mixture can be stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days. BACON-WRAPPED SHRIMP W/ SCALLIONS & GINGER
Makes 12; serves 6 as an appetizer
There are oodles of recipes that call for wrapping whole shrimp in slices of bacon before broiling, baking, grilling, or microwaving them. Often these recipes never live up to the promise of the ingredients. The shrimp, especially farm-raised frozen shrimp, may be overpowered by the bacon. To perk up the shrimp we have added a traditional Asian marinade of scallions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and brown sugar. The bacon is crisp on the outside with moist, flavorful shrimp inside.
2 scallions, both white and green parts
thinly sliced 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 packed teaspoon light or dark brown sugar
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
12 jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), peeled (leaving the tail on) and deveined (see Notes)
4 slices bacon (see Notes)
1. Combine the scallions, soy sauce, ginger, brown sugar, garlic, and cayenne pepper in a medium-size mixing bowl. Taste for seasoning, adding more cayenne as necessary. Add the shrimp, toss to coat in the mixture, and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Cut each slice of bacon crosswise into 3 equal pieces.
3. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 450˚F. Cover the bottom of a large roasting pan completely with aluminum foil.
4. Remove a shrimp from the marinade. Working on a flat surface, press pieces of scallion, garlic, and ginger from the marinade onto the sides of the shrimp. Wrap a piece of bacon around the shrimp, securing it with a wooden toothpick. Repeat with the remaining shrimp.
5. Arrange the bacon-wrapped shrimp on the aluminum foil-lined roasting pan so that they are not touching and bake them until the shrimp begin to firm up and the bacon begins to brown and render its fat, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and, using long-handled tongs, carefully turn the shrimp over. Return the pan to the oven and bake the shrimp until they are cooked through and the bacon is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes longer. Serve the shrimp immediately. BACON JAM
Makes about ½ cup
If anyone were to rank recipes by how much flavor you get compared to how much time they take to make, we think this one would be in the running for Most Flavor Per Minute. Bacon Jam combines almost all the flavor giants into one dish: saltiness, meatiness, sweetness, peppery heat, bright acidity, and fruitiness. It makes a wonderful condiment for hamburgers or grilled steak. It’s great with cream cheese on a toasted bagel. And the next time you serve an appetizer platter of assorted cheeses, be sure to include a bowl of Bacon Jam. Your guests will love a spoonful of it atop a slice of goat cheese or Brie. The recipe is really no more than a road map that you should feel free to adjust according to your taste. We like it hot and spicy but it’s delicious without jalapeños. When serving the jam with spareribs or grilled chicken, try rosemary instead of ginger. Bourbon has just the right amount of sweet, smooth smokiness that complements bacon so well, although a really peaty Scotch is worth a try, too.
1/2 lb. (8 to 9 slices) applewood- or cherrywood-smoked bacon
sliced crosswise into 1/2-inchwide pieces
1 med.-size shallot, diced (about 1/4 c.)
1 t. seeded and chopped jalapeno pepper
1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
2 T. fresh orange juice
2 T. bourbon 3 pieces peeled fresh ginger, each about the size and thickness of a quarter
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. honey
Freshly ground black pepper
Crackers and assorted cheeses (optional), for serving
1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until browned and crisp and the fat is rendered, 7 to 10 minutes, stirring often and adjusting the heat as necessary. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, reserving 1 to 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat in the skillet.
2. Add the shallot and jalapeño to the skillet and cook over medium-low heat until the shallot is softened, about 2 minutes, stirring often and scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Return the bacon to the skillet and add the brown sugar, cider vinegar, orange juice, bourbon, ginger, and bay leaf. Cover the skillet and let come to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer gently, uncovered, until most of the liquid has evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Transfer the bacon mixture to a mini food processor and pulse until the bacon is finely diced but not pureed, 10 to 15 times, pausing several times to scrape down the side of the bowl.
4. Place the Bacon Jam in a small bowl and stir in the honey and a couple of grindings of black pepper. Serve with crackers and assorted cheeses, if desired. The jam can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 week. BACON SWIZZLE STICK
Makes 1 swizzle stick, can be multiplied as desired These swizzle sticks are great with Bloody Marys, dipped into melted chocolate, served with a bowl of ice cream and stacked on a plate for party appetizers. Keep experimenting; it’s fun!
1 slice medium-thick bacon for each swizzle stick
(Note: To make more than one bacon swizzle stick at a time, increase the microwave time by about 1 min. for each additional slice of bacon. The length of microwaving time will depend on the power of your microwave oven.) Arrange a slice of bacon diagonally on top of a piece of paper towel. Holding the slice of bacon at each end, twist the slice in opposite directions into a tight spiral. Fold the paper towel in half over the twisted bacon slice so that the towel’s opposite corners meet. Then, starting at the fold, roll the paper towel under the palms of your hands around the bacon into a tube. Microwave the bacon in its rolled paper towel on high power until it is firm and shaped like a swizzle stick, about 1 min. and 15 sec. Because microwave ovens vary in power, check for doneness after about 1 min. Unroll the paper towel and let the swizzle stick cool before using it as a garnish for your favorite Bloody Mary or non-alcoholic similar drink. (To view a video of how to do this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfJefpMLBZg)