BaconFest

I am about to change your life.

 

I actually said this to someone recently. Not in reference to love, death or any of the other weighty topics you’d think would warrant this kind of line. I put down my fork, looked my friend in the eye and said it in reference to bacon.

 

Now look: I’m the first to say that the bacon bandwagon has ridden right off the rails. Bacon socks. Bacon Band-Aids. Bacon candles that fill your house with the salty smell of fried pork. But I have loved bacon since I was a kid, watching it pop, sizzle and create a holy hell mess in my mother’s microwave. She made eight pieces of Oscar Mayer once a weekend—two for each of us—and I took my sweet time selecting the ones with the biggest crispy curls of fat on the end.

 

Little known fact about me: I stopped eating beef after watching the slaughterhouse scene in Faces of Death when I was a teenager and never went back (except for short ribs because, come on, they’re delicious). A few years later, I gave up turkey, then chicken. Not for health reasons and not because animals have feelings—I just don’t like the way they taste. But bacon has stayed with me through thick and thicker.

 

Since I’ve been cooking and/or consuming bacon for more than three decades, I consider myself somewhat of an expert. So I felt justified pulling out the big guns when my friend Shaila said her boys loved bacon but she hated the mess it made on her stovetop.

 

“Change my life,” she said excitedly. “I’m ready!”

 

I shared the secret that Catherine Mayhew, my friend and former City Paper editor, shared with me years ago: Bacon is best when baked. Line a cookie sheet with foil, slap those strips down, shove it in the oven and don’t come back till it’s done. When it’s all over, wad up the foil and say, “Goodbye nasty gobs of grease! Hell and no way are you seeing the inside of my sink.”

 

After I dropped that bomb, we moved on to other important topics, like bacon recipes. Catherine’s blog is a porkapalooza of them, including my favorite, a bacon-and-brown-sugar recipe called pig candy. Then Shaila countered with her own revolutionary comment: Let’s have a bacon party.

 

Yes! Shaila is a relatively new friend and I’d been hoping to meet her friends and family. It took a lot of flips of the calendar, but we set a date and I spent the next few months obsessing over recipes. As I do not have a close relationship with restraint, I planned to make a six-course bacon meal. Shaila sent a group email asking everyone to bring one dish. So I made two.

 

Shortly after proposing, Conor called me “mainstream” for only knowing Sublime’s most popular songs. Love is fleeting.

For God’s sake, I come from Tennessee—a place where they make bacon-wrapped bacon—and felt compelled to represent the Southerners among the Southern Californians. I went with bacon-topped homemade macaroni and cheese and my mother-in-law Lucy’s Swiss bacon dip. She says she got it from Rachael Ray, but it will always be Lucy’s Dip to me because that’s what it says on the oil-splattered sheet of paper in my recipe file.

 

This is the kind of dip that people hover around at parties, making sure they’re never out of chip-dipping distance. The gooey kind that bakes up bubbly and brown, which unfortunately makes it very hard to swipe your finger along the top as soon as it comes out of the oven, for fear of being found out. It is so good that Shaila’s son, 17 year old Conor, spread a big spoonful on some grilled bread, shoved it in his mouth and asked me to marry him while he chewed.

 

I met a lot of great people that night. The kind who laugh easily, ask great questions and listen during the answers. Would they have liked me as much without the bacon dip? Probably. But it never hurts to give the wheels of friendship a little grease.

 

 

DSC_0508Lucy’s Swiss Bacon Dip

8 sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

½ cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 ½ cups Swiss cheese, grated

2 scallions, chopped

 

Preheat the oven to 400.

Mix all ingredients and place in a shallow casserole dish. Bake 15-18 minutes.

 

Comments

  1. Marcia Albert says:

    Of course I read this while we are on the Paleo train. Endless bacon is somehow Paleo friendly, but sadly the dip is not. Once the good ol’ cholesterol and sodium numbers rocket through the roof, I will say, “What the hell?” and make that dip with the forbidden dairy products. And maybe even the Mac and cheese.

  2. Brenda Walsh says:

    I adore you AND your writing, Danny.
    Having friends over for drinks tomorrow and plan to serve…you got it…Lucy’s Swiss Bacon Dip!
    Gotta go. Kroger awaits!!!

  3. Shawna Brown says:

    It sounds SO amazing!! Too bad Charlie would NEVER let this be part of any menu in the Brown house 🙂

  4. As it so happens … my boyfriend and I put your famous bacon-baking tip to the test last night. Allow me to say: I am reformed; my bacon-loving life will never be the same.

  5. The only change I can see making to Lucy’s dip, would be to serve in a bacon bowl….with bacon chips for dipping!!

  6. I read this just after staring at my fridge and deciding it would have to be bacon for dinner tonight. Now I will be counting down the minutes until I can start crunching!!

  7. Our friend from Alessa would be very disappointed that you’re not using parchment paper. Don’t tell him, but neither am I. Foil is just easier. I wish I’d known sooner that this dip elicits proposals. I’m going to start taking it EVERYWHERE.

  8. Janis Weems says:

    My only regret in reading this was that it was 4 a.m. and I couldn’t go to the grocery store in my nightgown to get the ingredients we didn’t have on hand. I’ve talked myself into believing that this won’t be bad for my heart and weight, right? 🙂

    I adore your writing! A fellow baconite

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