Plenty of foods play a role in romance-oysters, strawberries, and chocolate come to mind-but rare is the delicacy that acts as seducer in its own right. Take bacon, for example.
Ah, bacon (or to quote Homer Simpson, "Mmm... bacon"). So powerful is its allure that "even vegetarians...think lusty thoughts about it," writes Joanna Pruess in Seduced by Bacon: Recipes and Lore About American's Favorite Indulgence (Lyons Press, October 2006), a new cookbook as irresistibly luscious as its subject. "The moment I hear that sizzle in the pan or even read about bacon on a menu, my senses are aroused ... and I am not alone." Indeed she is not: Pruess, a food writer and author of numerous cookbooks, is enraptured by this porky delicacy, and she writes with a passionate flair that will have you haqnkering for a few rashers--and that's just the introduction. The book is further enlivened with anecdotes and bacon lore contributed by Bob Lape, Pruess's husband, fellow bacon aficionado, and a longtime food writer and restaurant critic.
Bacon's enticing amalgam of "salty, smoky, and ever-so-slightly bitter tastes," as well as its tantalizing crispy-chewy texture, is showcased here to mouthwatering effect. Recipes such as Sweet Potato Rosti with Hazelnuts, Apricots and Bacon on Watercress; Open-Faced Cheddar & Turkey Bacon Sandwiches with Beer-Glazed Onions; and Risotto with Shrimp, Asparagus & Pancetta take full advantage of the ingredient's marvelous affinities with everything from avocado to cheese to chicken livers. Nutmeg-Scented Cantaloupe Sherbert with Bacon Tuiles may raise a few eyebrows at first glance, but it's really a playful (and very tasty) riff on the classic combo of prosciutto and melon. And in Liesa Cole's sumptuous, photos, the dishes truly come to life, from the crumbly, bacon studded glory of Mexican Cornbread to the comforting heartiness of Sauerkraut, Kiebasa & Bacon.
But Oscar Mayer has a place in Pruess's bacon-loving heart, too, and her recipes range from humble favorites like the Egg McEnglish Muffin, The Perfect BLT (variations include Wonder Bread with iceberg as well as sourbough with herbed mayo), Blazin' Baked Beans, and Spaghetti Carbonara to the more refined Warm Dandelion & Bacon Salad, Lobster Bisque, Crispy Oven-Roasted Chicken with Sage & Bacon, and French Apple Tart with Cheddar Cheese Crust & Sweet Brittle Topping.
Bacon for dessert?! You bet--while 71 percent of bacon is still consumed at breakfast or brunch (one of the faxcinating facts scattered throughout texts as "Bacon Bits"), this porky pleasure is as versatile as it is appetizing. Seduced by Bacon is larded with useful tips for buying, storing, and cooking bacon, including a terrific oven-bacon method, entertaining stories about Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher, and other bacon lovers; a glossary of "Baconology" from guanciale to speck; and a list of artisanal suppliers.
"Bacon is far more than food," states Pruess. "It is a happy state of mind." Seduced by Bacon is the perfect vehicle to reach that happy place--and this is one love affair that is evn better the morning after.