Conceptual Bacon

I had two lovely friends over for dinner last week to cook for them (I mean really cook) for the first time. Of course I wanted to set the bar high: 4 courses and dessert, plus farmer’s market cocktails.*(See menu list below, lots of “favorites” from the past)* A minor challenge, one friend is pescetarian. I got this idea in my head for grilled shrimp with peach bbq sauce (waiting from last summer’s peaches), and the perfect garnish seemed to be brown sugar glazed bacon.

A pet peeve of mine is a vegetarian (or pescetarian in this case) dish that is made by just “leaving out the meat.” It seems so thoughtless – unless everyone is eating it that way. So, I set out to make conceptual vegetarian bacon. I am not a big fan of meatless bacon products, though they will do in some scenarios. They are definitely visually unappealing, with their processed, speckled, weirdly colored meat impersonation – no good for a garnish meant to add flourish and decoration (as well as tasting good).

I wanted the sweet-salty combo that I’d be getting with the candied bacon, so I took a mixture of shredded Irish cheddar, grana padano, brown sugar, and smoked paprika, spread it on a silpat and baked it in a 350 oven for about 5 minutes. The result was a lacy, crispy, sweet-salty-smokey addictive garnish for my pescetarian diner! I cut the doily into wide strips and leaned them up against each other on the plate over the shrimp. Although the bacon-eaters loved their meat, I would dare to say that they were jealous as well! I think that this could be used in any dish that would be garnished with crispy bacon – as long as it does not get wet, it will stay crispy, so tossing it on right before serving is important. It was actually amazing just dipped into the peach bbq sauce – a very fancy version of chips and dip for a cocktail party perhaps?

*Menu*
Blackberry-Proseco cocktails
Chard “Coleslaw” with Herb-Buttermilk dressing and Marinated Tomatoes
Asparagus-Pea-Ricotta “Pesto” Pizzette
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Brown-Butter and Chestnuts
Grilled Shrimp with Peach BBQ Sauce and Candied Bacon (or “Facon”)
Zucchini-Dill-Feta Pancakes with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
Pistachio Meringue – Rhubarb-Raspberry Ice Cream Sandwiches

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