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COOKING

Bacon Improvement

A simple glaze of brown sugar and orange juice can take this breakfast favorite to sublime heights.


(Photo by Jim Scherer)
By Adam Ried
September 23, 2007

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Bacon may just be as good as it gets. It's rich, meaty, fatty, smoky, and faintly sweet - in short, right on the doorstep of decadence. With a profile like that, is there room for improvement? Surprisingly, yes. All it takes is a bit of brown sugar, a few drops of orange juice, and a turn in the oven. This magical combination yields lacquered bacon, a.k.a. glazed or candied or sugared bacon, an unexpected case of gilding the lily. This simple glaze gives bacon a luxurious, irresistible sheen. And it treats the taste buds to new dimensions of flavor while accentuating the qualities that are already there, elevating bacon from decadent to sublime.

Better yet, you can customize the formula. Like hot and spicy? Break out the chili powder, cayenne, or black pepper. More inclined toward milder cinnamon and cloves, or tangy, fruity chutneys? No sweat - your versions of lacquered bacon await. Whichever variation you choose, a big platter of lacquered bacon is sure to be the belle of your next brunch.

BROWN SUGAR LACQUERED BACON
SERVES 8 (2 OR 3 STRIPS PER PERSON)

1 pound bacon
3 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons orange juice

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set a large wire rack in the pan. Arrange the bacon slices on the rack and roast until the bacon renders some of its fat and the slices shrink significantly, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the brown sugar and orange juice. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven. Using a pastry brush, lightly swab the slices with about half of the brown sugar mixture, return to the oven, and continue roasting until the sugar mixture adheres to the bacon and appears glossy, about 8 minutes. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven and use tongs to turn over the slices. Lightly brush the slices with the remaining sugar mixture, return to the oven, and continue roasting until the sugar mixture adheres to the bacon and appears glossy, about 8 minutes longer. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven, transfer the bacon slices to a serving plate, and serve hot.

VARIATIONS

Spicy Chili Lacquered Bacon Add 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, and a pinch of cayenne to the brown sugar and orange juice mixture.

Scorching Spicy Lacquered Bacon Add 3/4 teaspoon cayenne or to taste) to the brown sugar and orange juice mixture.

Cinnamon Sugar Lacquered Bacon Substitute granulated white sugar for brown sugar and add 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves to the sugar and orange juice mixture.

Black Pepper Lacquered Bacon Add 1 tablespoon very finely ground black pepper to the brown sugar and orange juice mixture.

HONEY MUSTARD LACQUERED BACON
SERVES 8 (2 OR 3 STRIPS PER PERSON)

1 pound bacon
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons spicy brown or yellow mustard
1 tablespoon orange juice

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set a large wire rack into the pan. Arrange the bacon slices on the rack and roast until the bacon renders some of its fat and the slices shrink significantly, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the honey, mustard, and orange juice. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven. Using a pastry brush, lightly swab the slices with about half of the honey mustard mixture, return to the oven, and continue roasting until the honey mustard mixture adheres to the bacon and appears glossy, about 8 minutes. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven and use tongs to turn over the slices. Lightly brush the slices with the remaining honey mustard mixture, return to the oven, and continue roasting until the honey mustard mixture adheres to the bacon and appears glossy, about 8 minutes longer. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven, transfer the bacon slices to a serving plate, and serve hot.

MANGO LACQUERED BACON
SERVES 8 (2 OR 3 STRIPS PER PERSON)

1 pound bacon
1/3, cup mango chutney, large chunks chopped very fine
2 teaspoons light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set large wire rack in the pan. Arrange the bacon slices on the rack and roast until the bacon renders some of its fat and the slices shrink significantly, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the chutney, brown sugar, and vinegar. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven. Using a pastry brush, lightly swab the slices with about half of the chutney mixture, return to the oven, and continue roasting until the chutney mixture adheres to the bacon and appears glossy, about 8 minutes. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven and use tongs to turn over the slices. Lightly brush the slices with the remaining chutney mixture, return to the oven, and continue roasting until the chutney mixture adheres to the bacon and appears glossy, about 8 minutes longer. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven, transfer the bacon slices to a serving plate, and serve hot.

CORRECTION Due to an editing error, the recipe for Grand Aioli in the September 2 "Cooking" column incorrectly called for 2 cups of extra-virgin olive oil. It should have listed 1 cup extravirgin olive oil and 3/4 cup of vegetable, corn, or canola oil.