4.11.2011

BACONFEST!!

This weekend I officially had my mind blown by Chicago. They have a festival called Baconfest, yes, BACONFEST! How could I not love my new city when it has a festival devoted entirely to bacon?! To say I love bacon would be an understatement. And while I try not to eat it too often, Baconfest was definitely a great reason to splurge! 


Funny story about bacon... when I was about 8 years old I ate an entire package of bacon with breakfast. My mom joked with me that I was going to die an early death from clogged arteries. Me being stubborn as I am replied "Fine, I'm never eating bacon again!". And I didn't, for about 8 years. I don't know what I was thinking... bacon is too delicious to not eat and life is too short to live without bacon! 


On to the main event, Baconfest details! TONS of famous chefs and restaurants from around Chicago came to share their hog inspired dishes. The most innovative and my personal favorite from the event was the bacon cannoli. It BLEW my mind! Some other highlights were the crispy polenta cake with cheese fondue and bacon ragu, creole bacon sauce over cheesy grits with jalapeno bacon cornbread, maple bourbon ice cream root beer float with bacon jimmies, and bacon soup. I even got to meet Girl and the Goat's Stephanie Izard, Top Chef Season 4 winner - she ROCKS! Her bacon soup for the event was complex and bursting with flavor! Nom nom nom!
In honor of Baconfest, I thought I'd share one of my favorite but simple bacon dishes, enjoy!


Arugula, Bacon + Date Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

ingredients:
for the dressing:
3 T. olive oil 
1 T. dijon mustard
½ T. aged balsamic vinegar 
½ lemon - about 1 T. juice
1 small clove garlic minced
salt + pepper


for the salad:
3 c. arugula
6 slices of crispy bacon
6 dates diced
¼ c. shaved parmesan


For the dressing mix ingredients together with a whisk until it emulsifies. That's a fancy way to say it becomes thick like a salad dressing. I use a 25 year aged balsamic vinegar because i find the flavor to be less harsh and the thickness adds great texture. If you don't have an aged balsamic you can make a reduction of regular balsamic vinegar to achieve similar flavor/consistency.


Throw your greens, bacon, and dates into a bowl and toss with the dressing. Be careful not to add too much dressing, you can always add more. Toss and top with shaved parmesan. Simple, quick, and so tasty! 


improv style:
if you don't have dates, candied pecans would be great as a substitution or in addition. you can do a reduction of regular balsamic vinegar if you don't have aged balsamic. try it with turkey bacon if you're trying to be healthy or leave it out to make it vegetarian. if you're not a fan of arugula i really encourage you to try it in this dish. I don't usually love it either but there's something about the pepperiness that works really well with the salty bacon and sweet dates. If you still aren't buying it, this salad would be great with mixed greens or an italian blend. 

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