Bacon's near-ubiquity has only occasionally extended to the dessert tray, but maybe it's not a bad idea. I've been offered candied bacon a couple of times in the past year, and it got me thinking of a trail of ingredients. Bacon is, after all, a close cousin to lard, and lard makes a significant contribution to the best pie crusts. (You may not know it, but if you find most pie crusts disappointing, it's a lack of lard, or butter, or both.)
And anyone who has "accidentally" or intentionally drizzled maple syrup over bacon knows about the affinity it has for sweetness. All of which led me here: candied bacon and cooked apples, a la mode. No crusts to make, an unusually meaty and chewy element, an oddly wonderful combo.
Needless to say, you're going to want to start with the best bacon you can get your hands on. You cook small chunks of it until the outside browns and the bacon renders some of its fat. At that point, you add some sugar, which further caramelizes the exterior while the inside retains some of its meaty integrity. Remember that sugar goes from caramel to burnt very quickly, so you have to pay attention. What you want is for the sugar to melt and coat the bacon; it'll become more crunchy as it cools.
Use the fat from the bacon to cook the apple slices, along with a bit more sugar. How long you cook these is up to you; I like them quite tender, but you can shorten the cooking time if you prefer them with a bit of crunch, or you can let them go longer if you like more of an apple sauce consistency. Again, to prevent the sugar from burning, keep the apples moving; they should color nicely.
I'm partial to vanilla ice cream here, but something nutty with a little crunch - pistachio, pralines, pecan - would be equally fine. Top a scoop or two with the apples and any of the juices left in the pan, sprinkle some of the candied bacon on top and dig in. I don't see this as a trend, but it's pretty great as a one-shot deal.
4 ounces really good bacon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup sugar
3 to 4 tart apples, like Granny Smith, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch slices
Vanilla ice cream
1. Put the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat and cook until some of the fat has been rendered and it begins to brown on the edges, 6 to 8 minutes. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan and sprinkle the bacon with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Turn the heat to low and cook, turning the bacon pieces occasionally, until the sugar begins to melt and coat the bacon, about 5 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary to prevent the sugar from burning. When the bacon is dark, remove it with a slotted spoon and let it cool on paper towels.
2. Add the apples to the remaining bacon fat in the skillet, and cook until just beginning to soften on the edges, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the remaining sugar and continue cooking until the sugar melts and the apples are very tender, 5 to 10 minutes more. Serve the apples over ice cream along with any pan juices and a sprinkle of the candied bacon.
Yield: 4 servings.