It’s the end of the football season.
A little more than a week from now and it’s nothing but stale popcorn and basketball games; sunflower seeds, salads and baseball; hockey and arena nachos that never give you enough cheese. Soon people are going to insist you spend time outdoors and thinking about swimsuits and all the locally produced organic blueberries you can eat and strawberries so sweet you could cry. You’re going to go on a hike and eat low-fat granola and drink some sort of clear, tasteless beverage that doesn’t get you drunk called water. It’s going to be so hot out during that hike you’re actually going to want — no, love! — a clear, tasteless beverage that doesn’t get you drunk called water. These are our last moments of football food, we may as well go out with the least healthiest but most delicious thing you’re going to make all season.
May as well get a slab of bacon, slice it, fry it, dip it in sausage gravy and eat it while the final rays of football’s shining light falls upon our faces.
Our faces filled with chicken fried bacon.
Chicken Fried Bacon
You can either make this recipe with slab bacon you slice yourself or regular thick cut bacon. Both have their merits. Fried slab bacon gives you a much more meaty bite, more bacon taste. Regular bacon is easier to find and is easier to dip in your sausage gravy and raspberry preserves. Why the raspberry preserves? The sweetness cuts through the fat nicely, sort of like you were having a Monte Cristo, possibly the only snack less healthy than this one.
We’re also not going to cook the bacon entirely in the hot oil. If you’ve followed my recipes for enough years, you’d already know I am very fond of the technique of mostly frying whatever it is your making — peanut butter honey chicken tenders, sriracha fried pickles — and then transferring the food to the oven to finish cooking. It gives you the crispiest coating while still making sure your snack doesn’t get too oily in the pan and is the most evenly cooked.
You will need:
12-16 ounces of bacon, either slab bacon to cut yourself or thick cut bacon
1-1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 – 2 cups flour
1-2 teaspoons cracked pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Sausage gravy and raspberry preserves for serving (Recipe for sausage gravy below.)
Not sure what slab bacon is? Go to your local butcher and ask for it, like this:
This is unusually thick slab bacon, as one of my go to butchers doesn’t slice the slab in half like many other butchers do. But me oh my, that beautiful cured pork belly is beautiful to look at. Again, ask for slab bacon — bacon that has has not been sliced, not pork belly. If you get pork belly that hasn’t been cured you’re going to miss out on the smokiness that makes this treat so great. (The desserts in the background have nothing to do with anything, other than I love their budino and chocolate mousse and couldn’t resist buying them since I was already there. The breakfast sausage I used in the sausage gravy.) Packaged bacon also works, just be sure to use thick cut bacon.
Slice the slab bacon into 1/4 inch thick pieces. If using regular sliced bacon, cut each piece in half for easier coating and frying as long pieces of bacon tend to double over on themselves and are harder to fry evenly. Place the bacon in a bowl and marinate in buttermilk for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator. Be sure to separate the sliced regular bacon — or as they say in Great Britain, “streaky bacon” — as much as you can so it gets well coated by the buttermilk.
Once your ready to start the first part of the frying process, preheat the oven to 400º.
Mix together in a large bowl the flour and spices. Piece by piece, remove the bacon from the marinade and give it a good shake to get rid of the excess buttermilk and then dredge in the flour and spice mixture. Set on a rack or another lightly floured surface while repeating the process with the rest of the bacon. Let set for a a few minutes so the flour and spices really get a chance to adhere to the meat and even dredge through the flour a second time if needed to get the right amount of coating on your bacon.
Fill a large open pan or cast iron skillet with about an inch of cooking oil and heat to 375º. The top of the oil should be shimmering and a pinch of oil should sizzle if put in the pan. Working a few pieces at a time as not to crowd the pan or to reduce the temperature of the oil too much, add the bacon to the pan.
Cook the thicker slab bacon for about 3-4 minutes on each side; the skinny bacon 2-3 minutes on each side. The pieces should be golden. Put on a baking sheet lined with a rack to let the excess oil drain off and let rest while frying the remaining pieces.
Once you have fried all the bacon, place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, turning the fried bacon slices over once to reach maximum crispiness.
Remove from the oven and serve with raspberry preserves and sausage gravy.
Chef’s tip: Eat a piece in the kitchen before serving to your family and friends to ensure you actually get some as it will disappear quickly.
I made this particular batch during the Patriots-Broncos halftime. I’m not saying that melt in your mouth pork belly in a spicy crispy shell is distracting, but remember very little of the second half. Something about New England being terrible on the outside coverage.
There is nothing special to this recipe, it’s the same way grandmas have been making sausage gravy since the beginning of time and comes together quickly while your bacon is in the oven.
You will need:
1/2 pound breakfast sausage or herbed pork sausage of your choice
1/4-1/2 cup flour
1-2 cups whole milk (or 2% if you must), depending on how thick or thing you want your gravy
Bacon drippings or butter if your sausage does not have enough fat for the roux
In a large skillet, break apart and brown the sausage over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and add a small amount of flour to the pan, until all of the sausage has been covered and all the fat has been absorbed. Does it feel like your sausage is a little too dry and you’re going to need more fat? Add a tablespoon or so of bacon drippings (please tell me you are saving your bacon drippings) or butter (if you are a heathen who doesn’t save their bacon drippings are are most likely a San Diego Chargers fan), and stir until melted. Slowly add the milk a quarter cup at a time until you get a nice gravy, a little on the thinner side since it will tighten up the more that you cook it, and season with ground pepper. Simmer until you have the consistency you desire and remove from heat.