Side Dish: Pig Candy (January 18, 2010)

Last night I took my future Baby Mama Michelle (Barack and I have things in common, you know) out for a celebratory dinner at a fantastically unpretentious little restaurant tucked away in the corner of a strip mall. Their menu features a uniquely thoughtful wine list (no booze for Michelle though!) and dishes that have probably been described by adjective-loving food critics as New Southern, artisanal and sustainably-minded fare. Although here’s what I think: This place simply rocks! I’m not sure I want to tell you all the name of it for fear of losing my little gem, but for careful readers I promise to pepper this post with subtle hints.

So the thing that hooked me on this place and made me want to write about it here in the first place — was a little something they call Pig Candy. If you’ve never heard of it (and I hadn’t), Pig Candy is thick strips of smoky bacon covered in brown sugar and broken into bits.

That sounds strange I know, but believe me: this stuff is better than a backstage stage pass to Wicked. (Don’t tell Kevin I said that, he would divorce me immediately.) As I enjoyed the Pig Candy with Kevin and Michelle, it started me thinking about all of the other unexpected food combinations I’ve tried over the years. Some popular, some not so much. Have you ever tried:

– Pumpkin pie filling seasoned with bay leaves
– Watermelon and feta cheese
– Tomato and peanut butter
– Melon and Prosciutto (Of course! Yummmmm.)
– Cantaloupe with chili powder
– Oysters and Raisins
– Apple pie cooked with duck meat
– Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar
– Nectarines and Basil
– And Justin’s favorite: French Fries dipped in a vanilla milkshake

As Kevin and Michelle raced to see who could eat more of the Pig Candy (Michelle won) I couldn’t help but thinking that our lives are full of these seemingly random pairings. Who would have thought a handsome lawyer would end up marrying an unemployed and homeless cater waiter? Or that the biggest party girl I knew would end up not just as our surrogate, but laughing and joking with my husband. My own grandparents probably would have never thought they would see the day when guys could have a kid.

SCOTTY’S PIG CANDY
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, 8 slices

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Mix brown sugar, cayenne, and black pepper together in a medium bowl. Add bacon and toss. Line a baking sheet with a wire rack and lay bacon on the rack. Pat any remanding spice mixture on the bacon. Put the baking sheet on the top rack of the oven and bake until crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven to a serving dish and let cool slightly before serving.

If using thick cut peppered bacon, omit the pepper in this recipe.