As the old saw goes, when the world hands you candied bacon, make buttermilk waffles.
At least that's what I told myself this evening, after an intense but wonderful three-hour performance of Death of a Salesman, when somehow, a midst the pudding-like fog of a chilly December night, suddenly no food on earth could be possibly more appealing than a bout of what Felix once, so adroitly, dubbed "Brinner."
Last night, in contrast, was the height of festivity around here when Jeff and I held our annual shindig for his colleagues on the politics beat at the newspaper. As has now become our ritual, in addition to all sorts of other delicacies, I inevitably make them candied bacon. Why? Because it's easy as can be, and more importantly, they adore it. Being as I'm all about rituals, and, as it was a celebration of Olympia's impending nuptials, not to mention Wes' promotion to the editor's desk, candied bacon in hitherto unheard of quantities was my goal. So, in short, I made more than they could conceivably, possibly, polish off, try though they valiantly might. Into the fridge went the crunchy remains.
By the way, the bacon is the easiest thing in the world to make, though a tiny bit messy. First preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a couple of rimmed baking sheets (no, I said baking sheets, not bacon sheets) with parchment paper. Then lay out thick-cut bacon flat in one layer on each sheet. Cover the bacon with a thick layer of Turbinado sugar, trying not to get it on the paper between the slices, as it will burn. Turn them over and sugar the other side, again trying to avoid as much sugar on the bare paper as possible, although don't drive yourself mad, as a little bit of burn is kind of good too, just not too much.
Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until it is really quite brown, but not burned. Take it out and place it on a rack balanced on top of another baking sheet or paper towels to drain. That, as you will learn in no time, is the messy part. Anyway, do NOT be tempted to sidestep the cooling on the rack because it is the most important step! Without cooling it properly it will be limp, soggy and really kind of yucky. WITH the cooling process, it will become hard and crunchy and you can stand it up vertically in a glass which makes a fun presentation, and everyone feels like they're eating a bacon candy bar which is festive in its own way. I mean, you wouldn't want to do it every day, but once a year won't kill you--at least that's my theory-- but if the entire Times Dispatch political team is wiped out as of tomorrow, you'll know what happened.
Anyway, I am the proud owner of an ancient waffle iron. So ancient, in fact, that I remember purchasing it at the downtown Thalhimer's department store where it was an exciting purchase for me replacing one that I'd found at a yard sale in the early 80's and that, while functional, was minus one of its all important legs. Since dear old Thalhimer's has been gone since 1992, my waffle iron is no longer, how shall I say, as sprightly as one you may well have in your cupboard. Ah well, it works just fine in my book, and I still get a thrill as I'm getting a hot, moist face full of vanillay, steamy waffle merely because it isn't lopsided like my old one.
So I made these wonderful waffles, and I zapped the bacon for a minute and it was reborn. It was a most splendid brinner and seemed to make everything in the world come back into sharp, happy focus. Poor old Willy Loman...I can't help think if he'd just had a couple of brinners of waffles and candied bacon instead of that old cheese sandwich, things might have really looked up for him.
makes 6 large waffles
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Butter and warm real maple syrup for serving
Whisk eggs, sugar and melted butter in a medium bowl until blended. Add flour, baking powder and salt and mix gently. Add buttermilk and vanilla and mix well.
Bake in a waffle iron until cooked, according to directions. Keep warm in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.
Serve with butter and maple syrup and candied bacon.