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Mar 15, 2009 02:32 PM

Bacon overload. What should be next?

Don't get me wrong, I love bacon and I do think it can work in both savory and sweet applications, but I'm getting bored with bacon/pork fat as object of worship. Do you have any other ingredients you absolutely love? Ones you think can use their unique qualities to elevate lots of different types of food?

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  1. You mean that there are other kinds food...other than bacon....OH!!! I think you're refering to pancetta and lardons and the like.

      1. Guancale will be a great bacon sub in many dishes.

        1 Reply
        1. re: GodfatherofLunch

          Ha, I think I get the point, everyone: It all comes back to pork!

        2. balsamic reduction.

          It's my new obsession. I make it myself, and use it as a marinade for lamb, a sauce for fresh strawberries, a dipping sauce, a glaze... hell... I've even reduced it further, to almost toffee and drizzled it over bacon!!

          It's my secret ingredient in curries, too.. gives them a colour and a lift, and no=one can guess what it is!

          21 Replies
          1. re: purple goddess

            I've been thinking about experimenting with balsamic reduction. I've heard you can use inexpensive balsamic and I'd love to do that, but I can't get out of my head what I've always been told about wine, that if you reduce cheap stuff you'll just concentrate the badness. What's your experience with it? And any brand recommendations?

            1. re: pickledginger

              I use a low-mid range aceto moderna (about $10AUD a 500ml bottle). I slow boil it with raw sugar and star anise. But I have also tried it with honey and cinnamon. I find I get great results. I experimented with a cheap brand, and I found the smell as it was cooking to be breathtakingly overwhelming. Even using a so-so brand, be prepare to air your house out and have the neighbours peek over the fence with a WTF? look.

              At up to $100AUD for the good stuff, I can't afford to even try and experiment with the good stuff. And part of me would balk at adding sugar and peppercorns and the like to something that expensive and precious.

              So I use the pretty el cheapo for my reduction, and save up for the good stuff and use it au naturel and sparingly.

              At least that way, I can slater it all over my lamb chops and not feel guilty.

              Another tip, if you're going to try it, make sure you use a pot bigger than you think you'll need, and use a wooden spoon for stirrage... once that sucker comes to the boil, and you put the spoon in to stir, it can bubble up like nobody's business!

              1. re: purple goddess

                Aussie Lamb, Merikan too. Chops, kabobs, roast, ribs, gyro, taco al pastor, schwarma, curry. Lamb fat for cooking and pie crusts. "Poor little lamb who has gone astray," Yuum, Yuum, Yuum.

                Black Sheep

                1. re: purple goddess

                  Have you tried making the reduction without added sugar? I find that the balsamic reduction, even when using the common lower-cost brands available in the grocery is quite syrupy and sweet enough on its own without adding any other sweetener.

                  1. re: janniecooks

                    I use balsamic reduction in the restaurant all the time and never add sugar.

                      1. re: purple goddess

                        It depends on the temp and the amount of balsamic used. But be careful as it thickens as it cools. A common mistake is to reduce it too much. Then you get a very thick reduction and you have to heat it until it can flow at all.

                        1. re: purple goddess

                          Time is variable, depends on the original quantity and the size of the pan. I try to reduce the balsamic by no more than 2/3 the original volume. To determine the final volume, check it before it comes to a boil. I poke the handle of a wooden spoon into the vinegar to the bottom of the pan to measure the depth. Then I make a pencil mark on the spoon end, marking 1/3 the depth from the end. Bring to a boil, the reduce the heat and let it simmer vigorously until the volume is reduce by 2/3. In order to check you need to remove the pan from the heat to allow the bubbles to calm, then poke the wooden spoon handle in. As bigfellow says, be careful not to let it reduce too much. Once it's reduced by half, don't leave it unattended - keep checking every minute or two.

                      2. re: purple goddess

                        Hm, I have a bottle of cheap stuff in the pantry that I haven't used in a while. I think I'll try this right now!

                        1. re: pickledginger

                          let us know how it goes.

                          What are you planning to add to it??

                          1. re: purple goddess

                            For my first try I decided not to add anything, so I could figure out what the "base" flavor is. It's really tasty and sweet, and I just bought an ice cream maker so I'm going to play around with balsamic ice cream. I'm very curious to see how that'll turn out. And unlike bacon (see how I brought that all circular-like?), it won't leave cold fat in my dessert...

                            1. re: pickledginger

                              Noice circu-location thar!

                              So, did you add sugar or go au naturel?. I am curious about the ice cream, too. I have used my reduction as a drizzle on fresh strawberris, but never thought of this!!

                              Do let us know how it turns out!

                              1. re: purple goddess

                                Done, and for the most part I like it.

                                I've been trying not to use too much sugar, so my taste has changed and balsamic, especially reduction, is mostly sweet enough for me. I made the ice cream with a few tablespoons of very reduced balsamic and some of the uncooked for tang. I think I put in too much of the latter; both the flavor and the tang are a bit too strong; the ice cream is still tasty, but I wouldn't want too much. The balsamic ice cream recipes I found had a bit of vanilla, so I tried a drop, and I liked it so I added some of that too.

                                I'm not sure how others would feel about my recipe because I like vinegar and want things less sweet, so if I were making it to share I'd probably add more sugar and little or no uncooked balsamic. But the whole cold/creamy/balsamic thing works. Since you're into balsamic reduction I think this would be well worth your time.

                                1. re: pickledginger

                                  i'm curious if there is too much tang to use your balsamic ice cream with fresh strawberries.

                                2. re: purple goddess

                                  I love balsamic reduction on Stilton ice-cream, myself...

                          2. re: purple goddess

                            I've been playing with balsamic reductions lately, too. One tip I read somewhere was that you shouldn't let it come to a boil because it can cause bitterness. I can't say whether or not that's true because I have never boiled mine. I get mine to the high simmer stage and keep an eye on it. I try to plan ahead and start early. The good news is that it will keep for a while in the refrigerator.

                            Although I like it plain (just reduced), I've had some great success with adding other ingredients. Brown sugar, honey, sage, cinnamon, maple syrup, and agave nectar have all been used at one time or another. Based on this thread, I'm trying star anise next. That sounds really fantastic.

                            1. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

                              My last one was star anise and schezhuan pepper.

                              Went a treat over the last of Summer's strawberries.

                              I am so making ice cream soon. Will report back.

                              1. re: purple goddess

                                Please do report back! I thought I'd been too heavy-handed with the balsamic, but I've found myself eating it off and on all day...

                                Up next is sweet pea ice cream.

                        2. re: purple goddess

                          PG: I had my eye on this thread during the week and decided today to give it a whirl. I reduced pomegranate vinegar...just the vinegar, no additions. It wasn't quite right, so I added about a teaspoon of butter and a teaspoon of brown sugar. Holy mother of god, was this something else! Thank you for sharing your new obsession. It may become mine as well! ;) Am finishing the last bites of strawberries swimming in pomegranate balsamic reduction as I type. Guess this is gonna be a dessert-first kinda night.

                          janniecooks: Thanks for the wooden spoon measuring tip. The stuff boils away faster than I realized, so it was a handy guide.

                          I love (virtually) cooking with you guys! Thanks!

                          P.S. Am reconnecting with an old friend for lunch next week. Some more strawberries and reduction will be joining us for sure!

                          1. re: kattyeyes

                            I am playing around with wine reductions this weekend past. A friend paid mucho $$$ for a tiny pot of Cabernet paste, and me being me went "I reckon I could make that".

                            I did a Shiraz reduction, and got it down to a molasses-type thickness, but I think I added too much sugar, as the sweetness overpowered the fruit notes.

                            I am going to try it again next weekend, with a more robust red, less sugar and maybe some pectin.

                            1. re: purple goddess

                              Ooooooooh, you truly ARE a purple goddess. :) Please tell me more about this Shiraz reduction when you play again.

                              I was so excited about yesterday's success, I tried another one today with raspberry balsamic. It wasn't the same brand name, but both were from Modena. It didn't thicken and get syrupy the way my pomegranate one did last night once I added a little butter and some brown sugar. I added even more brown sugar, eventually burned it up entirely (THAT was a fun pan to clean!) and tried again. I added 3x the amount of sugar I did last night and it wasn't syrupy or as sweet as yesterday's batch. I was expecting the raspberry batch to be sweeter than pomegranate, all things equal, nevermind at 3x the sugar. HMPH! And my clothes reek of vinegar to boot! Other than that, it was a great weekend of fun and food overall, so I'm not complaining...just confused!

                        3. If you're tired of pork fat, switch to duck fat.

                          : )

                          2 Replies