Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"The King's Bacon"

With a name like "The King's Bacon" you can't help but imagine a host of elephants made from diamonds, bearing platinum swans between them on a pillow of angel feathers, holding aloft a glowing golden object d'art...

The King's Bacon

But wait! What if this is simply peasant food dressed up and given a name as a joke rather than as homage to an outdated political figure? Much like all the pubs named "The Queen's Legs" or "The Queen and Beaver"?

As with most of the best things in life, this dish is both. Something fancy to make the room fall quiet and have glares of jealousy from your friends, and a jovial dish nestled amongst other gloriously over the top creations like bacon fatties and Turduckens. Great dishes! But are they really worth it?
In the end, you and your guests will decide.

Here is the recipe, God Save The Bacon. I mean Queen. Er, King, sorry.

Let's start with the GOLD:                                                                      Gold leaf: (pic)
Does it have taste? No.
Is it good or bad for you? No.
Is it expensive? No.
Do you need  a special kind? YES!!!

The gold is just here for looks. Nothing fancy about it apart from the shine, and the price.

Call around to local cooking and art stores and ask for 24K edible gold. 24K is pretty much pure gold. Gold is inert and will not affect you; however, if you start to go into lower carats of gold you will encounter more impurities and that's where the problems can occur. Stick to 22-24K and you shall be fine.
(But what about all those South Asian candies covered in silver? Google "Vark" for more info.)

Next: The BELLY!
The following recipe is done per pound. The lovely chunk of bacon in the photos is just under 5 pounds.
1 lb of beautiful pork belly
1.5 tsp of salt (Kosher is a great choice)
.5 tsp of Prague salt (aka pink salt, salt #1) [What's Prague salt?]
3 Tbsp of honey (Brown sugar or maple syrup work great too)
1/3 cup of water, or apple juice, or cider, or get creative

Combine the above with your pork, throw it in a ziplock bag and flip it everyday for a week.

Next: FOIE GRAS PÂTÉ! (You could use calf liver or duck if you prefer)
With your foie gras at room temp, remove the veins in the centre, season with some salt and pepper, add a little Grand Marnier and cover in the fridge for 24hrs.
24hrs later, bring out your little gem and let it warm to room temp over an hour, then put it in your
terrine and place that in a water bath at 130F until the internal temp is 130F.

Pour off the beautiful fat that will have appeared and add it to 2 Tbsp of butter in a frying pan. Add a thinly sliced red onion (or shallots) as well as 2 thinly sliced cloves of garlic and a selection of herbs. Allow the garlic and onion to sauté until perfectly cooked. Drain the fat and save for later.

Put half the foie gras and the veg into a food processor with a bit of the fat (3 Tbsp) and puree until smooth. Add the rest of the foie gras and allow it to purée until you have a consistency that is almost smooth but with very small pieces in it (add fat as needed).

Pour back into the terrine, now lined with parchment paper, and throw into the fridge until completely cool. Back out and between two large pieces of parchment paper, use a rolling pin until it is flat. Then again in the fridge to get cold again.

Time to grab that Pork Belly again.
Rinse it off and pat it dry, then with a VERY sharp knife, cut a pocket the length of the bacon as close to the edges as you can without breaking the skin. (Tough step, take your time.)

Use a knife to pull your cold pâté from the fridge and slowly get it inside the belly in a nice even layer. If it heats up and you end up spreading it like butter, this is just fine.

Next is sewing it up. This can be a little tricky but here's an easy method:
Take a bamboo meat skewer and wrap your cooking twine around once, then wrap it around again above the first wrap. Do this on the tapered part at the end. When you push it through the string should tighten onto itself and hold on as it goes through the meat. Use this technique to sew it up nice and tight.

Ready to smoke some bacon?
I decided to spend a little extra and bought some JD cask that had been chipped and gave a wonderful smell when smoked. I like to smoke at about 220-230F for about 45mins per pound but this is again up to you and you should smoke to taste. Flip the bacon halfway through and don't forget to make sure there's some water in the tray to keep things moist.

Then, back into the fridge for 24 hours! (Don't skip or skimp on this step!!)

Time to play with GOLD.
Your gold will probably come in a small book with the actual leaves of gold on individual sheets. Take out a sheet, align it with a corner and then press it down and push it into the natural bumps of the bacon. Do this gently as rubbing will cause the gold to become wrinkled and will leave gaps. If you have left over gold on a sheet you can add it to any gaps.

Touching up is very tough, the best thing to do is apply new gold rather than to try and move gold or press a flake down. After you're done, use a fine brush to
push down any flakes blowing in the wind.

At this point you're more or less done. All that's left is slicing, but how do you slice it if you can't touch it?
1. Use a VERY sharp knife. Anything else will make life tough.
2.  Make sure your bacon is as cold as possible (no, not frozen).
3. Still moving around? Stick a metal BBQ skewer into it and you will have a little more leverage.
You're done!

Now you can sit back and bask in the golden glow of your own royal bacon, The King's Bacon.

Hope you enjoy!
(Smoke Salt And Fire)

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