My dad loved bacon. So on this Father’s Day I want to talk about my father’s intimate relationship with the prince of pork.
Growing up in the 1950s meant that mom did the cooking, even though she hated it, and dad tried immeasurably hard to appreciate the results. The only time my father was allowed in the kitchen was to roast the Thanksgiving turkey (we won’t even discuss the one and only time my mother tried to cook the bird and the inside was raw) and to make bacon. My father was very particular about how he cooked bacon. He started it off in a skillet over low/medium heat. That gentle heat helped the bacon to stay flat. He would nurse that pan along, gently flipping the bacon five or six times until it was uniformly golden.
When I was four my dad had a heart attack. Of course, the doctor told him no more bacon and for the rest of his life he never touched a slice. But on Saturday mornings, he would still cook it for my sister and me. Imagine the torture of being so close to porcine perfection, yet denied the indulgence.
Oscar Meyer was the only bacon available to my dad in the North. I am quite sure he would have broken the “no bacon” edict if he had gotten his hands on the bacon in the South. The preeminent bacon is Benton’s made in Madisonville, Tennessee. They smoke it using hickory wood in an old-fashioned wood stove. It is indescribably delicious. My other favorite is the bacon from West Wind Farms. If you live anywhere around Franklin, you can come to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning and meet my favorite meat boyfriend, Ralph. He makes the stuff and it’s succulent.
So, I know my dad would disapprove of this, but I do believe that the best way to make bacon is to bake it, not fry it. Here’s how.
You line a baking sheet with heavy duty tin foil. Then you lay out the strips. Make more than you’ll need. You can use the leftovers crumbled on salads or for an instant BLT sandwich. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and pop the baking sheet in. The baking time will depend on the thickness of the bacon. I usually cook mine for about 20 minutes and then flip it. Continue cooking it until it’s golden brown. You will end up with perfectly cooked flat bacon. It is a thing of beauty, is it not?
Now, DON’T throw the grease away! Get yourself a glass jar with a lid and carefully maneuver the foil so you can pour the grease in. I do this in the sink because I always spill a little. Refrigerate the grease and use it to fry eggs, potatoes or onions.