By Marie Rama
Everything tastes better with bacon. One of those flavor-packed, umami-rich, secret-weapon ingredients, it has the power to elevate just about any dish, from soups to souffle´s, braises to bread pudding.
Peter Kaminsky and Marie Rama know just how to employ it. Peter is the author of both Pig Perfect—a paean to the noble swine—and, most recently, Culinary Intelligence, which argues that the healthiest way to eat is to eat less but really well. He and Marie know that adding irresistible bacon transforms an ordinary dish into an extraordinary one.
Bacon Nation is a bacon-lover’s dream, a collection of 125 smoky, savory, crispy, meaty, salty, and sweetly sensuous recipes that go right through the menu. Starters like Spiced Nuts with Bacon; Bacon and Butternut Squash Galette; Bacon, Pear, and Humboldt Fog Salad. Main courses featuring meats—Brawny Bacon Beef Bourguignon, Saltimbacon; poultry—Paella with Chicken and Bacon; fish—Flaky Cod Fillets with Bacon and Wine-Braised Fennel; and pasta, including an update of the classic Roman dish Bucatini all’Amatriciana. Even dessert: Rum Ice Cream with Candied Bacon Chips and Chocolate-Peanut-Bacon Toffee. Or, as Homer Simpson would say, Mmmm, bacon.
BACON NATION by Peter Kaminsky and Marie Rama, can be read as a cookbook or a manifesto, the culinary version of Robert Bly’s “Iron John.” Bacon is the double-down option for meat lovers. It is fatty. It is salty. It is wrong in every way, but it feels so right. It is, the authors argue, a national treasure: “To our way of thinking, bacon is the equal of pricey Périgord truffles, sybaritic Spanish saffron and conspicuously consumed Caspian caviar.” They go on to make a persuasive case in recipes that respect their prime ingredient and use it inventively. Their opening bid — bacon slices twisted and cooked into crisp spirals, so they can be used as savory swizzle sticks for bloody marys. This is brilliant. The only question is, why did it take so long?
Kaminsky and Rama don’t just throw bacon at the wall to see if it sticks. They proceed judiciously, deploying it as flavor punctuation here, a condiment there and sometimes as a powerful equal partner, its role in their recipe for tournedos of beef wrapped in bacon and sage leaves. Bacon isn’t subtle, but it can be used discreetly. The bacon broth in their poached halibut recipe, for example, is an enveloping flavor atmosphere. Sometimes, in fact, the authors show too much delicacy. Their bacon, brisket and beer chili, a-hoppin’ and a-poppin’ with herbs and spices, is superior chili but a little shy in one department. It needs — can it be? — more bacon.
-The New York Times Book Review