Saturday, January 12, 2013

Would the Real (Pork) Bacon Please Stand Up?

Since the dawn of time, man has asked the simple questions….Why is the sky blue?  What came first, the chicken or the egg? Bacon or Turkey Bacon?  Ok, so maybe not that last question, but for bacon connoisseurs, it’s been a hot topic.  Maybe health issues or vegetarianism keeps you from enjoying your precious pork, and you can’t simply run amuck on the whole Bacon Bandwagon, rest assured, you do have options.   Turkey Bacon, Beef Bacon, Soy and Tofu all have different variations on the breakfast favorite. 

Being a Bacon Traditionalist, I tend to believe that by definition Bacon is Pork.  In fact, defines Bacon as the following:
ba·con - Spelled [bey-kuhn]
1.       the back and sides of the hog, salted and dried or smoked, usually sliced thin and fried for food.

But, I live in a free country, and the word “Bacon” has been borrowed and expanded….Here’s some information on all the “Fakon” (Fake Bacon) that’s out there…

Beef Bacon: Apparently the cow was jealous of all the attention the pig was getting and jumped into the game.  Beef Bacon.  It just sounds weird to say. It's advertised as a healthier alternative to pork bacon with grass-fed beef bacon being almost 90% lean. But like most things that are super healthy, it can also be lacking in flavor.  I tried this marvel a couple of months ago,  (I’m kind of easy though, if it says Bacon on it, I’m gonna try it) and I’m not that impressed.  While it did have the smoky flavor I was craving, it lacked in the texture/consistency department.  It doesn’t get crisp like the pork counterpart.  It left me thinking that Cows should stick to what they are good at, milk and steak.
Turkey Bacon: A lot of people love Turkey Bacon.  To me, Turkey Bacon is a slippery slope to Vegetarianism.  Next thing you know, you’re out there whipping up a Tofurkeyducken for the Thanksgiving Holidays.   Now, maybe they’ve improved this since I last tried it, but I found the whole Turkey Bacon fad to leave me wanting.  It reminded me of Turkey Jerky, not Bacon.  Pork Bacon, when cooked right, is delicate and fragile, chewy and crispy.  In comparison thou, there are some health benefits to Turkey Bacon.  Real pork bacon has 251 calories per serving with 28g fat, 8mg sodium, and 27mg cholesterol.  Turkey bacon has less fat and less cholesterol. Some brands of Turkey Bacon has 35 calories per serving with 2.8g fat, 170mg sodium, and 13mg cholesterol.   But watch out, Turkey bacon has a higher sodium content.  They are adding a salt lick to the package, just to make up for the flavor.  Also, you have to be careful when you shop for Turkey Bacon, as it can contain a lot of nitrates.  Look for “nitrate” free brands, since nitrates can turn into dangerous carcinogens when grilled or when it comes in contact with high heat.

Soy Bacon: If you need to cut out more fat, or even go one step farther and cut out meat products, there is Soy Bacon out there.  LightLife makes a 45 calorie soy fakon which has 2g fat, 340mg sodium, and no cholesterol, It should be noted that extra sodium for taste is added, presumably to make up for the lack of taste from fat.  McCormick Seasonings makes Bac'n Pieces Bacon Flavored Bits that are artificially flavored textured soy flour to imitate bacon pieces.  (Sounds….delicious?)
Vegan Bacon:...really?  why bother.  I mean, if you are craving bacon and you’re a vegan, #1 you shouldn’t be reading my blog, and #2 nothing is going to satisfy that hankering for crispy animal belly. You should be reconsidering your Vegan ways.  Or maybe cheat a little.  Shhhhh, I won’t tell.
Bottom line… if due to health reasons you must switch to turkey bacon, or even soy bacon, you have to weigh the health risks against the momentary pleasure. Only you can  decide if the savory goodness of the real bacon is worth your health, if you are prone to heart disease or cholesterol problems.  I myself watch my salt intake.  But, I’m not putting down the pig anytime soon.  It’s about balance.  I don’t use salt when I can manage without, I work out to help keep the bacon fat off, and I drink a ton of water to help flush out the excess salt.
I like REAL BACON. I like the crumbly crunch of the first bite right down to the last of the greasy goodness licked from my fingers. . . and I’m sorry, but no Turkey can pull of Bacon better than the pig in my eyes.
While I might not be impressed with the idea of Turkey Bacon, I am not opposed to getting Real Bacon and Fowl together for a little party…Bacon loves chicken so much, it wanted to give it a hug…

Bacon-Lovin'-Chicken with Bacon-Infused Chicken Gravy
1 Roasting Chicken
Salt/Pepper, any seasoning you  like (I used Emeril's Original Seasoning)
1 lb of Bacon
3 tbsp Butter
2 tbsp flour
2-3 cups Chicken Broth
2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsb Black Pepper

For the Chicken: Preheat the oven to 400 Degrees F. And use a Roasting Pan.  Pat dry the whole Chicken.  Salt/Pepper and add whatever seasonings you'd like to the Chicken.  Meanwhile, on a cutting board, weave a pound of bacon together to make a "Bacon Blanket", using rows of ( 6 x 6 ) or ( 7 x 7 ).  I like using a flexible cutting board, so when I've completed the weave, I can simply flip it over and wrap the chicken in the yummy blanket of Love, err, bacon.  Put the Chicken in the Roasting Pan, and cover for the first hour and a half with foil.  You can remove the foil for the last half hour.  I've found that a 5 lb chicken will take almost 2 hrs, if not a little longer.  2 hours 15 minutes.  Chicken should be cooked through to 165 Degrees F. 

I made this little gem of a chicken with some Bacon-Infused Chicken Gravy.  
For the Gravy: Start 3 tbsp of Butter in a small saucepan.  Once melted over medium-high heat stir or whisk in 2 tbsp flour.  You have a Rue.  Let the rue come together, and start to thicken.  Once is starts to thicken and bubble, you can add in the Chicken Broth, and the Garlic Powder, Salt and Pepper.  I let this come up to a bubbly boil then reduce the heat.  Now, for me, the key to a good gravy is a special ingredient, and a little time.  I added (or stole) a slice of bacon off the bird, and some of the drippings out of the pan, and added them to the gravy in the pan.  Then I let that slow to simmer for 15 minutes.  If you find it gets too thick, then add more Broth.
Try not to drink the gravy right out of the pan...

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