Is it possible to O.D. on bacon? Not according to the United States of Bacon host, chef Todd Fisher, whose job is to taste the pork product in all its magnificent incarnations, from one end of the country to the other. We're willing to bet most of this weekend's BaconFest attendees would agree with such a sentiment.
The festival, kicking off this weekend at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, will serve up all things bacon, from bacon milk shakes and bacon popcorn to Kevin Bacon himself. It's sold out, but for those who've already scored tickets to the pork-a-palooza, we spoke to Fisher for a little taste of what's to come.
Clean Plate Charlie: How did you get into the bacon business?
Chef Todd Fisher: The show itself, the idea first started as a man's carnivore show looking for the best meats out there, with our high-protein diet and all the artisan craftwork of salamis and different charcuteries and bacon and prosciutto and all those cured meats. That was the original kind of concept; then it morphed more into bacon. It's like the father of all these other great cured meats, so we might as well just focus on the origin, the best of the best.
So Sharp Entertainment, my production company, called me up. They were like, we know your background, we like what you do, we've seen some of your simple internet stuff, so why don't you come back to NY and we'll try it out? We hit it off great right in the beginning and decided to move forward. It took some time to get the show from conception to actually filming, with changes in the networks, and Destination America wasn't even born yet. They liked the idea, but they were green. Eventually we all came together. Bacon is the thing that brings the world together. It really transcends all demographics.
What's your favorite way to eat bacon?
Usually it's whatever bacon happens to be in front of me at the time. I really like what I call medium-rare bacon. I don't want it really crispy, just a little chewy and fatty. But there are certain times when I like it really crispy, like exploding shards of bacon in every single bite. All kidding aside, it does matter what I'm eating at the time. A really good, soft scramble with crispy bacon studded all over it might be one of my absolutely all-time favorite combinations.
Do you have a favorite bacon dish at any specific restaurant?
My still ultimate quintessential best singular bite of bacon -- I'm not talking about bacon wrapped on anything -- just the singular bite of good old fashioned bacon was in San Francisco at this restaurant Sweet Maple. We first featured them in our first one hour special. What we call bacon's weight is measured buy the amount of slices per pound. So this was five slices per pound, very thick, almost like you were slicing off a piece of prime rib. It's coated with brown sugar, chili flakes, black pepper and a little bit of cayenne pepper, then baked for 10 minutes at exactly 360 degrees. That's the temperature at which brown sugar liquefies. The liquid stays on top, the oven drops off so the sugar doesn't run off it stays liquefied on the bacon as it cooks for another four hours. It's just the most succulent, salty, sweet, spicy, crunchy but supple bite of bacon I've ever experienced. It's amazing.
The next thing wasn't just bacon, it was bacon wrapped ends. In Oakland, California, a barbecue guy takes what a lot of barbecue people call barbecue candy, burnt ends, and it's double smoked. It gives it this really intense flavor, they usually can be a little dried out or on the overly smoked side. But he intentionally creates burned ends and wraps them in bacon and smokes them for a third time. I tell you, if I weren't a happily married hetero male this guy would be in trouble, I would be his new GF.
Any ways you haven't yet seen bacon utilized but you'd like to?
Something we didn't feature was, there's an old technique called larding where you would take something like fat, like pieces of pork belly fat, and you could lard that into drier pieces of meet when you cooked it, it would melt inside there.
You basically poke holes into roast and lard in these strips of fat. I haven't yet seen anybody larding bacon into anything, probably because it's not as easy as it sounds. I just don't think we haven't got there yet but I think its definitely coming
Have you ever had a bad bacon dish?
There is nothing I've seen that hasn't been good. We were at a place in Baltimore called Bad Decisions and we were sitting around brainstorming as the owner of the bar was kind of coming out of his drunken hangover stupor. We were like, I guess we can't set up just yet, so we brainstormed what would be fun, what would be a bad decision we could make with bacon. Could we make something bad? We could not find a single thing that was bad, we even tried wrapping those disgusting maraschino cherries in bacon. We thought, this is gonna be horrible. We deep fried them to get the bacon crispy. It was spectacular. They use in them in bacon Manhattans. It was so good, we thought it was gonna be disgusting but it made the cherries delicious.
Do you ever get tired of bacon?
I have yet to find myself tired of it. I get palate fatigued at times to where I can't tell the difference anymore, all tastes like salty, crispy. But have I ever been bored or sick of it? No, even to the point for Valentine's Day we got up and we were making the kid's breakfast and I was sizzling bacon. I went outside and came back in and oh, that just amazing kind of sexy, smoky, salty aroma in the air. Nope, it's still good.
Have you ever attended a Baconfest before?
I've been to one bacon festival before but I went as a guest, an attendee. I had no responsibilities other than to eat my own fair share of bacon. It was outstanding. And the Bacon Brothers playing, it can't get any better. He and I happened to be on Rachel Ray the day she was doing a big bacon day. I got a chance to meet him we were alking about the festival, we're both excited.
His nephew and I have become ... I love how you use the terms "friends" on Facebook now. His nephew might fly down for the festival as well. I'm excited we get to hang out. Maybe they'll invite me on stage and let me do one song! To sing, I am not gifting when it comes to an instrument, although I can bang the hell out of some drums.
I plan to have a really good time which generally means the 10 or 15 people standing around me are gonna have a fantastic time.
Have you tried the bacon infused liquors?
The only kind you can buy in the grocery store is bacon vodka which was ok. It was like a lot of the artificial bacon kind of gag gifts. They don't taste great. But when I was at Please Don't Tell in NYC we had a bacon old fashioned. They did it with Benton's bacon and a hot fat rendering. They heat the fat up so it's all the smoky drippings of the bacon and then while it's molten hot they put the alcohol through it, it collects and flavors the bourbon with an intense smoky flavor. That was a dynamite find for a cocktail that was off the charts.
The ones made by people have been really good but the bacon vodka is kind of a gimmicky thing. It works, I've had worse. It has that smokiness to it, that liquid amino acid vibe so it's not bacon. It's kind of like when you buy Bacon Bits, which are fake bacon anyway, and make coffee out of it. It would taste like bacon, kind, of but not the best thing you've ever had.
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