Christmas brings a lot of opportunities to socialize and throw parties. Whether throwing a party of just going to one, I like to have a few things that I can cook pretty easily in case I need to host people or just take something along with me to a party.
(obligatory Christmas/Rudolph photo)
I made something the other day that’s nothing new, but I hadn’t made it in a while. It’s not a good item for the Hanukkah events that friends may be throwing, but it’s good for just about any Christmas party. I have tasted pork heaven, and its name is Pig Candy. So what is Pig Candy? It’s actually one of the easiest things to make, but oh-so-addictive and tasty. The ingredients are simple:
- Bacon. Not thick sliced or peppered
- Dark brown sugar. If only light is available, adding a bit of molasses helps
- Ground chiles. I like cayenne, chipotle and/or ancho. Ancho isn’t as hot, but is helped with a touch of cayenne.
For amounts, I start with about 2 cups of brown sugar for a pound of bacon. I mix in the chiles with the brown sugar; if I use cayenne, I use maybe 1/8 teaspoon. If I use ancho, I go with more like 1/2 of a tablespoon to a tablespoon. This is one of those things that you have to play with to see how much or little you prefer.
The oven doesn’t get preheated, so don’t worry about that. Start with a cooling rack that fits inside a cookie sheet/half sheet pan, and lay on the bacon in a single layer as tightly as you can. It will shrink up a lot, so just make sure it’s not overlapped. Then place the pan in the oven and turn it to 400 degrees F. I can’t remember why this is done in a non-preheated oven, but Alton Brown told me to do it that way, so I do!
The one change I make to AB’s method is that I turn down the oven once it reaches 400 degrees. I take the pan out of the oven, turn it down to 350 degrees F, and somewhat carefully layer the sugar/chile onto the bacon.
Once it’s on the bacon, I just smooth it out a bit. I like to put a good amount on each slice of bacon as it will melt off quite a bit, and I want to be sure to have plenty left on the bacon. Once the sugar is on the bacon, I put it back in the oven, turned 180 degrees from how it started. I then start my timing; every 4 minutes, I turn the bacon again, checking doneness. I like my bacon crisp, but even if you prefer yours less crisp, it needs to be crispy for this. I also turn on my overhead vent, as things start to smoke after a while.
I cooked this in the oven, but it can also be done on a grill or hot smoker. Once the bacon is crispy, I remove the pan from the oven and turn off the oven. Even if I’m doing another pan, I turn it off to let it cool somewhat before the next batch.
I immediately remove the bacon from the cooling rack onto paper towels so that it doesn’t stick to the cooling rack. If I’m doing more, I wipe off all the grease and melted sugar and start all over.
The end result is just ridiculous . I’ve had people at my office offer to buy more, and one person suggested I sell it as a gourmet item locally. Little do they know that it was a bunch of barbecuers that told me how to do this stuff!
Total time for this is approximately 25 minutes, though your oven could cause things to cook a bit faster or slower. The 350 degree setting is used so that the sugar doesn’t burn.
How does this become an appetizer? Pig Candy is great all on its own, but put it on a festive platter with sliced pears and brie, or figs and cheddar, or all of the above, and you’ll have a high-class appetizer that’s a bit different than anything other people may be bringing to the party.
So any of you out there trying this, if you do a variation of any sort, let me know what it was, and how it turned out.