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July 13, 2006

Ideas I Wish Were Mine

Dominic Armato
Bacon fat and mayonnaise are two foodstuffs that I'd categorize as dangerous. Marrying them is borderline catastrophic. But some boundaries are meant to be crossed.

The hot topics of the week over at LTH end up dictating my meal choices all too often. There's been quite a bit of BLT talk over the past week, I adore a good BLT and I haven't had one in quite some time. So I was already one nudge away from a BLT binge. And then, in the course of discussing how to pump up the intensity of the bacon flavor, Louisa Chu had to go and suggest this:

"Try using bacon fat to make your mayo."

These are not words that should ever be uttered in the company of somebody who has an unhealthy affinity for pig lipid. So simple, so elegant and, in retrospect, so obvious. If only I'd thought of that one for Iron Chef Bacon, I'm fairly confident I could have turned the tables on my challenger (who I'm sure will shortly be simultaneously thanking and cursing me for bringing this idea to him).

Oh, man, is it good. Where a traditional fresh mayonnaise is kind of light and fluffy, the bacon mayo is some potent, smoky and rich stuff. And I fear its potentially addictive qualities. To some degree, BLTs have always been a mayonnaise vehicle for me, and this doesn't help matters. I don't know that I've ever felt guilty about posting a recipe before, but for whoever makes this one... I'm sorry. You've been warned.

Dominic Armato
1/2 Lb. thick cut fatty bacon
1 large egg yolk
3/4 tsp. sherry vinegar
1/4 C. light, fruity olive oil
lemon juice
salt & pepper
sandwich bread
1 tomato

BLT with Bacon Mayo
Makes doctors angry (and 2 sandwiches)

First off, a note on the bacon. Though I have always considered "lean" bacon to be my mortal enemy and advocated embracing the fat, this is one recipe where a good fatty bacon is not only a better choice, but a necessity. Don't choose a lean bacon for this dish. That's like taking the cherry off your banana split to cut calories. Just enjoy your sandwich and then go hop on an exercise bike for an hour. Or five.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat -- cast iron, if you have it -- fry the bacon until it's at a level of crispiness that makes you happy. However, if you're somebody who likes your bacon lightly cooked, try to cook off no less than 1/3 C. of bacon fat as you'll need at least that much for the mayo. Move your crispy bacon to some paper towels to drain. Pour all of the bacon fat into a large, shallow dish (one that can handle heat!) and pop it in the fridge for a few minutes so it cools as quickly as possible. It can still be warm, but you don't want it to be hot.

For the bacon mayo, it's probably worth noting that the olive oil kind of positions it somewhere between a mayo and an aioli. If you want to push it more in the aioli direction, add some minced garlic. If you want to push it more in the mayo direction, use vegetable oil in place of the olive oil. It's going to be tasty no matter what, it's just a question of what's floating your boat at the moment. To make the bacon mayo, let an egg come to room temperature (or close), crack it and separate out the yolk. In a mixing bowl, combine the egg yolk and sherry vinegar, and whisk vigorously until the yolk gets slightly frothy. At this point, start adding the olive oil a drop at a time, while whisking continuously. It may seem a little silly, but that's the only way to get a good emulsion. Your arm will hate you, but you're about to consume a BLT with bacon mayo... you could probably use the exercise. If, as you're whisking, the emulsion starts to separate, stop adding oil and beat it like crazy until it comes together, at which point you can continue adding oil. Once you've added a tablespoon or two, you can add the oil a little more quickly. When all of the olive oil has been added, switch to the reserved bacon fat. Continue slowly adding and whipping until it reaches a nice mayo consistency. If you run out of bacon fat, you can finish it with some more olive oil, but hopefully that won't be necessary. Mix in a little salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste, and the mayo is done.

As for the assembly... you don't need a receipe to assemble a BLT. Toast a little bread, slice a little tomato, leaf a little lettuce, throw on a bunch of bacon and slather generously with the bacon mayo. I'm sorry. I truly am. But it's really good.



The best thing about Louisa that you probably don't know: She was Tony Bourdain's fixer in the Paris episode of No Reservations.

If you have a copy of it somewhere, watch when they go to Rungis, the market that replaced Les Halles.

I know nothing about Louisa Chu except that she's the one who proffered the suggestion of using bacon fat to make mayonnaise, and that's all I need to know to nominate her for culinary sainthood.

But knowing that she was Bourdain's fixer is the icing on the cake :-)

This makes me want to cry for so many different reasons. It's beautiful. I don't know that it's quite Iron Chef-worthy in this incarnation, but the bacon fat mayo would have been a potent weapon indeed. Team that up with the Dairy Ninja and you're good to go.

Oh, no, this is just an ultradecadent BLT... but bacon mayo in the right context? That totally could've turned the tables :-)

It would definitely fall under the heading of Giving the People What They Want, in a Kickass Way (which is the secret key to IC success).

I just made it. It is amazing. I modified it slightly by adding tomato pulp. I love it so much I'm going to marry it.

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