What to bring home
It’s the smell that brings vegetarians back to the Meat Side; that, and the promise of a crispy yet succulent strip of pork, hardly begun and yet devoured already. Bacon is pork belly that is cured, smoked and usually sliced for easy peeling, although it is possible to purchase slab bacon and slice it yourself. It can be smoked over hickory wood, fruit wood (apple being the most prevalent) and even maple wood for the “dipped in syrup” effect.
Voted Best Dish in the 2009 Best of C-VILLE reader poll, Mas’ “Datil con Tocino” (or “Dates with Bacon”) made bacon a star of restaurant dining several years ago; since then the dish has appeared on scores of menus around town. Once you have mastered the recipe and preparation, challenge yourself by changing up the fruit, and stuffing it with cheese or a nut. How about figs and bleu cheese wrapped in bacon? Apricots and almonds? Prunes and Parmigiano? For the true bacon lover, the Blue Moon Diner features a different artisan bacon each month, and usually offers a bacon-centric menu for Valentine’s Day. Bacon martini, anyone?—Lisa Reeder
MAS’ BACON-WRAPPED DATES
Tomas Rahal, the force behind Mas, gave us the recipe for one of his restaurant’s signature dishes—and a beautifully simple one it is. He uses Wisconsin-made Neuske’s Applewood Smoked Bacon. “The smokiness definitely helps” the flavor, says Rahal.
Thick-cut smoked bacon
Whole pitted dates
Cut bacon in half and wrap around each date. “It’s as simple as rolling it up,” says Rahal, adding that you can use a skewer to hold it together while baking. Brown about 10 minutes in a 375- to 400-degree oven. As Rahal explains, “The goal is not so much to cook the dates as to brown the bacon.”
Professional chefs and cooks tie on a freshly laundered white apron each day; by the end of the job, it is spattered and soiled and ready for the laundry bin. In every 1950s-era cookbook, the authors recommend a printed, starched apron that will protect and complement your party dress (along with a fresh application of lipstick before your guests arrive).
Nowadays, it can be fun and functional to tie on an apron at home or away, especially when cooking something that spits (like bacon) or stains (like beets, or any cooking fat). Save your shirt! Protect your pants!
If you’re visiting family for Thanksgiving, ask to borrow an apron and get involved in the meal—most cooks have a drawer full of aprons that rarely see the light of day, and will accept your earnest offer of help if you are properly protected. If you’re lucky you might even unearth an heirloom apron from the days of ruffles and lipstick.—L.R.