I was sitting at one of the many new gastropubs that seem to pop up in Los Angeles every week, having lunch with my friend and sometime Skinny Girls sidekick, Greg. We browsed the brews and burgers, trying to narrow our choices, when we noticed “Pig Candy” on the menu.
“What do you suppose that is?” I pondered.
“Something sweet and salty and fatty and crunchy,” Greg replied.
A short while later while we were sipping our $11 beers and waiting for our house burger with wagyu and ketchup leather and the daily special burger with pork belly, I noticed one of the kitchen guys with a sheet of bacon. I nudged Greg and pointed, and we watched the guy dredging each piece of bacon in what looked like a brown sugar mixture, then placing it on another sheet for baking. If you want to maintain the mystique of your restaurant, you should be more careful to keep your secrets hidden from watchful eyes.
In a recent review, I read of a restaurant that served you a bowl of salty larded popcorn and nuts when you sat down — the way a Japanese restaurant might present a bowl of edamame. Bar snacks for the gastropub set.
I was known to occasionally combine sweet and swine before it was trendy — most famously with my bacon salted caramels, as well as the sweet onion bacon marmalade I make to put on hamburgers. So these particular developments in the contemporary food world were not unwelcome to this cook. Who could resist the seductive confluence of sweet and salty and fatty and crunchy?
Not especially a popcorn lover but feeling inspired, I decided to try and make my own bacon-infused kettle corn — “porkcorn,” I would christen it. The result was, as my pal Nat put it, “The best popcorn I’ve ever had.” Try some and see if you don’t agree. And I’ve also included the pig candy recipe if you’re got burgers on your horizon. Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, friends — set the beer to chilling and enjoy.
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Skinny Girls porkcorn
serves 6-8 as a bar snack
3/4 cup popcorn
2 slices bacon
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
2 tbsp. canola oil
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 tbsp.
2 tbsp. kosher salt
Heat the canola oil in a skillet, and cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove from heat and reserve oil. Mince the bacon slices as finely as possible.
In a large pot, heat the reserved canola oil and bacon fat over medium high heat until smoking. Turn off heat, add popcorn kernels, cover, and let sit for 30 seconds. Return pot to medium high heat and pop the popcorn, shaking pan slightly every so often, until the popping slows to several seconds between pops. Remove from heat, sprinkle with salt and 1 tbsp. of sugar, toss and leave uncovered.
In the pan you cooked the bacon in, heat the sugar over medium high heat. When it begins to liquify, stir with a wooden spoon, incorporating the unliquified sugar into the liquified, until it is all liquid. Stir in bacon bits and chopped peanuts, and remove from heat. Working quickly, drizzle liquid sugar and bacon/peanut mixture slowly into the popcorn, tossing constantly with a wooden spoon. Continue tossing for another minute or two after your sugar pan is empty, coating as many popcorn kernels as possible.
Let cool and serve.
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serves 4 as condiment for hamburger, hot dot, sandwich, etc.
8 slices bacon
1/2 cup brown sugar
Dredge bacon in brown sugar and lay out on foil on a baking sheet with raised edges (so the grease doesn’t run off). Preheat oven to 425. Bake the bacon until brown and crispy, turning once during cooking (total cooking time should be 20-30 minutes). Remove to a plate and let cool.