In the Kitchen with Vera: Bacon Drives Me Crazy

My mother-in-law gave me advice in the early 70’s that if you didn’t have a plan for dinner, just fry some bacon while you rummage through the pantry, fridge and freezer and the aroma will be great when your husband comes home! Guess I’m really dating myself at this point, not to mention how hectic our lives have become, but the smell of bacon will definitely bring people to the kitchen or the table!

Vera is cooking with bacon this week.

This week’s show features three bacon recipes, plus some great tips on cooking bacon four different ways. The first recipe is Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon. About the time we thought a macaroni and cheese recipe couldn’t get any better than the one in my cookbook, I now bring you this amazing version. I look forward to hearing your comments.

Baked Mac and Cheese with Bacon

Ingredients

  • 1 pound uncooked large elbow macaroni
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 ½ tsp kosher salt, divided
  • ¾ cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, grated or shredded (about ½ cup)
  • 12 thick slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, divided (use ½ bacon if less bacon desired)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup whole buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 12 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 cups)
  • 4 ounces Monterey Jack, provolone or mozzarella cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 2 large eggs, well beaten

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bring 3 liters of water to a boil over high heat in a large pot. Stir in the pasta and 1 tablespoon of salt and bring back to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender but still firm, about 6 minutes. Reserve and set aside 2 cups of cooking water, then drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the pan and remove from the heat. Cover to keep warm.
  2. Generously butter a 13 x 9 inch baking dish and set aside. Combine bread crumbs; Parmesan cheese; and half of the cooked and crumbled bacon in a bowl and set aside. Combine flour, pepper, mustard and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a small bowl. Heat milk and buttermilk in a medium saucepan over medium heat, undisturbed, until lightly smoking but not boiling, 4 to 5 minutes. Put aside.
  3. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour mixture. Cook, whisking often, until mixture is smooth and thick and has a delicate golden color and toasty aroma, about 2 minutes. Slowly stir in the hot milk mixture. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, stirring often, until thickened to cream texture, about 3 minutes.
  4. Stir the grated Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses into the milk mixture and remove from the heat. Stir in the beaten eggs until the mixture forms a smooth sauce.
  5. Uncover cooked pasta and stir. (If pasta sticks together, stir in reserved warm pasta water and drain again.) Stir cheese mixture and remaining bacon into drained pasta in pot.

Transfer pasta mixture to prepared baking dish and sprinkle evenly with breadcrumb mixture. Bake in preheated oven until firm, puffed and lightly browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve hot or lukewarm.

Mac and cheese and bacon

Next is a Brussels sprout salad with bacon as the secret ingredient and a fantastic flavor profile in this new recipe. This paired with a burger or your favorite grilled chicken or steak is a hit!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Shaved Brussels sprouts make a great salad with all the delicious sweet and savory ingredients mixed together. This is one of my new favorites that was featured on my show as an outstanding side dish.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Yield: Makes about 6 servings

Ingredients:

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed at the root end

Extra virgin olive oil, to taste

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

½ cup candied pecan halves, broken into pieces (about The VeryVera cookbook: recipes from my table)

¼ cup dried cranberries

6 ounces thickly sliced ​​bacon, very finely chopped

½ cup crumbled Feta cheese

Apple cider vinaigrette

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small shallot, sliced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons honey, as needed for sweetness

⅓ cup pecan oil

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F and prepare two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil prepared with cooking spray.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, grate the Brussels sprouts using the slicing attachment. If you don’t have a food processor or slicing attachment, slice the Brussels sprouts very thinly by hand.
  3. Divide and spread the sliced ​​Brussels sprouts between the two baking sheets. Drizzle both sheets with olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste. Mix to combine.
  4. Place the molds in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes, or until the Brussels sprouts are golden brown and tender.
  5. Remove from the oven and set aside. Let cool to room temperature.
  6. While the Brussels sprouts cool, mix the dressing.
  7. Put all the ingredients in a blender, except oil, salt and pepper. Mix to dissolve the honey.
  8. Once the honey has dissolved, slowly pour in the pecan oil while the blender mixes on low heat.
  9. Add salt and black pepper to taste and adjust the sweetness level if necessary. For best flavor, let the dressing sit for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to meld.
  10. Once cooled, place the Brussels sprouts in a large mixing bowl. Add pecans, dried cranberries and bacon bits.
  11. Shake dressing to combine and add to mixing bowl. Mix well and serve immediately.
Bacon isn't just for breakfast on Vera Stewart's show this week.
Brussels sprout salad

Finally, could a fudge brownie be better… well yes: JUST ADD BACON and caramel! This recipe is delicious to death and with the holiday season underway and the holidays fast approaching, this will be a great NEW treat.

Bacon and Caramel Brownie

Bacon and Caramel Brownies

Ingredients

Bacon:

10 slices bacon (keep 2 slices for garnish)

¼ cup light brown sugar

Brownies:

1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of salt

2 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder

11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

5 eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup caramel sauce or dulce de leche

Instructions

Bacon:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Add brown sugar to bacon in a large Ziploc bag and toss until bacon is coated.
  2. Line a baking sheet with a rack and place the bacon on the rack. Place the baking sheet on the top rack of the oven and bake until crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Leave to cool, then cut into large pieces.

Brownies:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Line the mold with parchment paper and grease again.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and cocoa powder.
  3. Using the melt function on the induction cooktop, melt the butter and chocolate, stirring occasionally until smooth. *Alternatively, place the chocolate and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30 second increments, stirring every 30 seconds, until the chocolate and butter are completely combined smooth.
  4. Add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined. The mixture should be at room temperature.
  5. Add 3 eggs to chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir.
  6. Sprinkle flour mixture over chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), stir the flour mixture into the chocolate until a little of the flour mixture is visible.
  7. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer. Drizzle half of the caramel sauce or dulce de leche around the brownie batter. Sprinkle half of the bacon bits evenly over the batter. Spread the rest of the batter on top and repeat with the rest of the caramel and bacon.
  8. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs stuck to them. Let the brownies cool completely, then remove them from the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve.
  9. Store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrap in plastic wrap for up to 3 days.

Now to prepare bacon! This week, I’m going to go over the proper techniques for cooking with a cast iron skillet, grill, oven, and finally microwave. Every method has a reason why you do it that way, and the show is so fun and educational this week that I hope you tape it Thursday at 12:30 p.m. since football beats it to Saturday night. Many of you are watching on Thursday so make one of the recipes this weekend and let me know what you think.

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