Many years ago I dated a guy who was obsessed with his health. Every waking moment was focused on exercising and eating right to the point of eschewing any iota of enjoyment in food, viewing it solely as “fuel for the body.” I tried to respect his regimented point of view but when he started judging people who ate bacon (myself included) because it had no redeeming nutritional value, I knew we were definitely doomed!
For me, food is about much more than “fuel for the body” and enjoying it is all about balance. The majority of the time we should eat healthy in the interest of taking care of our bodies and managing our weight, but there are also times to splurge in the interest of satisfying our souls. We can probably all name those special dishes we’re nostalgic for having enjoyed them in our youth when lovingly prepared by a parent or grandparent; or those we associate with our own or another beloved culture; or dishes discovered during personal travels which have brought us much joy. Depriving ourselves of food we love seems to inevitably lead to binging, so why not allow ourselves to indulge that craving every so often so it doesn’t spiral out of control?
This recipe for Browned Butter & Bacon Ice Cream is just such an indulgence, combining two of my favorite things, butter and bacon, into one delicious confection. Will I make this recipe more than once this season? In the interest of fitting into my clothes and maintaining my cholesterol level, probably not but if you’re in a “comfort food” kind of mood, it sure hits the spot and also makes an excellent dessert choice paired with last week’s Fall-inspired recipe for Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions.
After my boyfriend and I broke up one of the first questions I would ask any date was, “Do you eat bacon?” and now I’m happily married to a man who shares my porcine passion. To me, bacon and other cherished dishes are one of life’s great pleasures that definitely aren’t worth missing but in doing so, balance is key.
“Browned Butter & Bacon Ice Cream”
5 strips of good bacon
7 1/2 teaspoons of light brown sugar
3 Tablespoons salted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 3/4 cups half-and-half, divided in half
5 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons dark rum
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the candied bacon: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay the strips of bacon on baking sheet lined with either aluminum foil or a Silpat.
Sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons of light brown sugar evenly over each strip of bacon.
Bake for 12-16 minutes. Halfway through baking, turn the bacon strips over and dredge them through the syrupy dark molten sugar on the baking sheet. Continue to bake until the bacon is the color of rich mahogany. Remove bacon from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Once bacon is cooled and crisp, finely chop into little pieces.
For the ice cream: melt the butter in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat and cook until lightly browned, careful not to let it burn (if the butter burns, definitely start over). Stir in the brown sugar and half of the half-and-half and cook until the sugar is dissolved, stirring frequently. Keep the rest of the half-and-half in the refrigerator until ready to use.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and then gradually whisk in 1/4 cup of the warm brown sugar mixture, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes to prevent the eggs from cooking (a process known as “tempering”). Then pour the egg and brown sugar mixture back into the saucepan and cook on medium-low heat until the custard thickens enough to coat a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, stirring constantly. Once desired consistency is reached, stir in rum and vanilla extract.
Put remaining chilled half-and-half into a large bowl, place a sieve or strainer over it and strain the custard mixture into it to remove any bits of cooked egg (even if you don’t see them they’re there so don’t eliminate this step!). Chill the mixture for at last 5 hours and then pour into an ice cream mixture and churn according to your machine’s directions. Add the chopped bacon during the last moments or fold in after you’ve removed the mixture from the machine. Reserve a few pieces of the bacon for garnish if you wish.