Monday, June 01, 2009

Praline Bacon

For the last few months I have been hearing about a dish called “Praline Bacon.”

It was popping up in conversations, in emails, on websites, and inmagazines. I had never heard of Praline Bacon, so I took these randomoccurrences as a Celestine suggestion, and made a decision to lookinto this strange new food product.

Of course, it didn’t take to much inner dialogue to convince myself,as “Bacon” is in the title. Had I kept hearing about PralineCauliflower or Candied Brussels Sprouts, I might have just pushed therandomly occurring hints aside.

After researching Praline Bacon on the Internet, a restaurant in NewOrleans named Elizabeth’s appeared to be ground zero.

Around the time I was looking into this strange foodstuff, my friend,Bill Kirby invited me to breakfast. He, too, had been hearing aboutPraline Bacon and wanted to check it out.
I am blessed to have a lot of friends with diverse interests andtastes. Kirby, is a kindred spirit of the culinary variety. He, likeme, has no problem driving five hours with the sole purpose of eatinga perfectly fried piece of chicken, only to turn around and drive fivehours home.
Our culinary field trip was set.

Elizabeth’s is located at the foot of a levee in the Bywater sectionof the Upper Ninth Ward in a house that looks and feels each of it’s100 years. We arrived around 8:30 a.m. and were only one of threetables.

Kirby has a lot of rules about diners and breakfast joints. He oncetold me, “If you get a mean waitress, that usually means it’s going tobe a good meal.” Sitting in Elizabeth’s he said, “You see all of themismatched chairs and tablecloths? That’s a good sign. This is goingto be good.” Coming from a man who woke up at 6 a.m. and rode twohours to eat bacon, I’ll take him at his word.
Our waitress wasn’t mean, but efficient. Kirby ordered the EggsFlorentine (poached eggs, creamed spinach, fried oysters, andhollandaise). I ordered Eggs Elizabeth (poached eggs, ham,hollandaise, and toasted French bread croutons). I told Kirby that, “Ihave always believed that if a dish is good enough to use either theowner’s name or the restaurant’s name, it’s a safe bet.” As I spoke, Ifelt he was mentally filing my assumption away to add to hismismatched-chairs and mean-waitress theories.

I ordered an entrée of Strawberry and Cream Cheese French Toast forthe table and we each ordered a rasher of Praline Bacon. “Do you wantthe bacon first?” the waitress asked. It was a strange question. I hadnever ordered an appetizer course for breakfast, but the query caughtme off guard, and I figured that the bacon must be so good that peoplecan’t wait to eat it, or they have to eat it immediately. Or maybe therestaurant wants people to order it first because they know they’llorder more later, beefing up the check average. Either way, all of thesigns pointed towards good bacon, so I said, “Yes.”

Through research, and a little help from our waitress, I learned thatPraline Bacon is everyday, run-of-the-mill bacon that is partiallycooked on a sheet pan in the oven, and a sprinkling of brown sugar andfinely chopped pecans is added halfway through the cooking process.
The Praline Bacon arrived to the table a few minutes later. I begantaking photos to upload to my Facebook page and blog. The bacon lookednice— a little greasy— with a crust that came from a light dusting ofbrown sugar. I took a few photos, blotted a few grease spots, took afew more photos, and then looked over to Kirby. His bacon was gone—all four pieces.

“Where’s your bacon?” I asked.

He smiled and said, “I ate it.”

Indeed he had— four pieces in 90 seconds— an average of 22.5 seconds per slice.
I took a bite. It was good, but I’m not sure if it lived up to itspre-billing. The brown-sugar crusted bacon was certainly much betterwhen paired with the slightly sweet Strawberry French Toast than thesavory egg dishes.

Sharing breakfast with a friend is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Aculinary field trip with a fellow food lover makes it even better.

So was Praline Bacon worth the trip? It depends on whom you ask. Icould take it or leave it. Kirby might be able to add anothersupposition to his stable of mismatched chairs and mean waitresstheories: If bacon is good, it can only become better with theaddition of brown sugar and pecans.

Stuffed French Toast
2 lbs Cream cheese, softened
1 Tbl Orange zest
3 /4 cup Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla
1 1 /2 tsp Cinnamon

2 cups Half and half
2 cups Milk
8 Eggs + 4 yolks
1 tsp Vanilla
3 /4 cup Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 /2 tsp. Nutmeg
French Bread, cut into 8 five-inch-long pieces

To make the filling, mix all ingredients together using an electricmixer until light and fluffy. Hollow out a one-inch tunnel through thecenter of the French bread pieces. Fill a pastry bag with the creamcheese filling and stuff the French bread.

Make the batter mixture and pour it over the stuffed French toast. Letsoak for two hours or longer. Rotate the bread often so that all sidesbecome equally saturated.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place French toast on a well-buttered sheet pan and place in oven.Bake 12 minutes. Remove and turn bread over. Return to oven and bakeeight more minutes. Serve with warm maple syrup and fresh slicedstrawberries. Yield: eight servings

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