Tuesday, January 22, 2013

It's my birthday, I'll eat bacon if I want to


For anyone who knows me, or for those of you I've never met but whom have read posts from this blog, you know that I have no shame in admitting how much I love bacon. I get bacon gifts from friends, e-mails about bacon from co-workers, even my parents like to tease me about my obsession with bacon. It's my love of bacon that stopped me dead in my tracks in the middle of a Sur la Table while Christmas shopping with my parents this year.

There it was in what seemed like big, bold letters: "Better with Bacon" on the store's cooking class schedule slated for none other than my birthday. It was at that moment that the heavens opened and the angels told me this was destiny. Ok, well maybe that was not exactly how it went, but it sure felt like it. I mean, come on: "Better with Bacon" on the day of my birth?! I immediately snapped a picture of the calendar and sent it out to my friends, saying "Too bad I have to work, this would be an awesome way to spend my birthday!"

Fast forward to the week before my birthday. I hadn't really thought about the cooking class much after that fateful holiday shopping day, when I get a text from my beau asking what time I had to work until on my birthday. "8p.m." I replied. To which the return text said, "Hmmm...looks like I'll be cooking bacon alone." Apparently I picked a good guy who actually listened to my plight of going to bacon cooking class, just one that forgot my work hours.

After much pleading with coworkers and my boss to help me get to cooking class, I finally found someone willing to change days off, giving me my whole birthday off of work. The persuasive powers of bacon worked as I promised to bring in something I learned how to cook in exchange.

Now that this is already a long blog post, I'll get to the goods: The actual "Better with Bacon" cooking class. I'm not actually going to post the recipes they gave us because I feel like that would be stealing from Sur la Table, but here's how the night went. And maybe if I cook the recipe at a later date I will post it.


There were about 13 people in our cooking class. We were split into small groups of 3-4 people and each group was given its own cooking station. Chef Justin was leading the class and made it abundantly clear that he LOVED bacon and, like me, made sure he got out of his other job so he could teach this class.

Chef Justin with his bacon jazz hands.
First on the menu, preparing dessert. Yes, bacon belongs in dessert, too. We sauteed up some apples with brown sugar in the fat from cooking our bacon. Then we added some Bourbon and cooked some of it off. An ooey, gooey mix to make our apple, Bourbon, bacon rustic pie. Since our dough had to chill, this mixture was whisked away to the refrigerator to be used later in class. (I liked the fact that we had our own little cleaning elves who came and picked up after us while we were cooking.)

Preparing dessert. Can't we just eat now?!
Next we started on a side dish of baked beans with bacon. Normally, I'm not a big fan of baked beans (because I don't particularly enjoy red or pinto beans), but what the heck, there's bacon in here, so it can't be too terrible.
Baked beans simmering on the stove.


Then came our green chile, apple and bacon chutney. This was by far the most fragrant thing we cooked in class. The mixture seemed a bit bizarre and probably wasn't the prettiest of the food we cooked, but if it was as good as it smelled, I was game to try it.

Chutney mise en place.

Finally we did a little molecular gastronomy by using bacon fat and maltodextrin to create bacon powder. Yes, an actual bacon powder that we later sprinkled onto a starter salad.

After a break where we took a stroll through the store, drooling at all the wonderful kitchen gadgets we couldn't afford, we returned to class to put everything together for the main meal.

Here's where I got the biggest whammy of the class. In the only other cooking class I have taken (it was not at Sur la Table), we just got little bite-sized samples of what the teacher prepared in front of us while we all sat and took notes. In this class, however, we ate a full-on dinner. It started with the salad and bacon powder, which yes, the powder tasted like bacon, but at first had a bizarre texture that took me by surprise. The baked beans were our side dish; delightful, yes, but I couldn't get past the red beans, so this was probably my least favorite part of the meal. The main dish was a grilled pork chop (of course more pig) topped with our chutney. The flavors here were incredible. Just the right amount of sweet and spicy to go with the chop. Finally, and my favorite part of the meal, the pie. The dough had just the right amount of flakiness, the apples had the right amount of sweetness and when both were topped off with a hit of bacon it was the perfect dessert combination to end the night.

Pork chop with bacon, chile, apple chutney with baked beans in the background. I forgot to take a picture of the salad with the bacon powder.
Overall, this was an amazing night. I got to cook my favorite food with my incredibly sweet boyfriend, added a few more recipes to my repertoire and got out of work for the day. Chef Justin was a fun teacher, keeping things light yet educational, making sure we weren't going to mess up our bacon dishes. I highly recommend taking a cooking class such as this if you haven't done so before. It was great for people of all skill levels. I had a very swine birthday that will not soon be forgotten.

Happy after a successful night of cooking (and eating) a lot bacon.
PS: I have to add the fact that we learned a new word (this may have been the highlight of the boyfriend's night) in class, in case you were wondering what it was in the chutney photo caption.  
Mise en place: a French phrase which means "everything in place", as in set up. This is the act of pre-measuring or cutting ingredients before you start cooking, so that all you have to do is add them to a pot or pan.

PPS: This is my 100th post! It only took me five years to get here, but I'm happy to say this milestone occurred hit when the topic was bacon.