Recipe – Grilled Bacon Kebabs

Grilled Bacon Kebabs imageFunny, this – “Living high on the hog” used to mean one could afford the prime cuts of meat farthest away from the pig’s belly – the luxurious loin.  But today you can’t walk down a block at lunchtime without running into an urban hipster biting into some form of pork belly.  Eating low on the hog is decidedly trendy.  

This recipe feeds that craze, featuring bacon in a rather unusual but delicious preparation – skewered and grilled. The recipe originated with Chris Morocco  over at Bon Appetit (photo by Ted Cavanaugh), but I’ve simplified it a bit so more people can prepare it using ingredients already in their pantry – unless the back corner of your condiment shelf is hiding a jar of the spicy Asian concoction known as sambal oelek, in which case add a couple TBSPs of it to the relish, by all means. 

When planning your meal you may find it easiest to purchase the bacon by the number of slices you’d like to serve each guest instead of by weight. If this is your main protein, you’ll want a good five or six slices per person.  If serving as an appetizer or side dish, perhaps just two or three.  I prepared this recipe with a thick-cut pepper bacon and can’t imagine how it would work with anything thinner.  

There are three sections to the recipe – the glaze, the relish and the meat.

The Glaze – used during the last two minutes of cooking. Can be prepared in advance and refrigerated. This recipe is sufficient for 8 slices of bacon.  Increase the recipe accordingly as your party gets larger.  And when you’re serving these, it’s bound to do so.

  • 2 Tbsp honey or agave
  • 2 Tbsp sambal oelek or Sriracha
  • 1-2 Tbsp unseasoned Rice Vinegar

Combine all ingredients and set aside.  Told you this was easy.

The Relish – liberally disperse over the dish immediately after removing from the grill.  Let sit at room temperature while preparing the grill so the flavors infuse.

  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced (just up to the green part)
  • 1 Serrano chile, seeded and diced
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1+ tsp ginger, peeled and grated, to taste (substitute powdered ginger, if you must)
  • 1/2 tsp light brown sugar or squeeze of honey or agave syrup

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

The Meat

Indirect bbq heatAt this point, prepare your grill – you want a medium fire on just one side of the grill – you’ll need to use indirect heat to prevent charring.  Using metal (preferably) skewers, weave them through the meat (not the fat) every few inches, then stretch the bacon out flat, as shown in the photo above.  

Place the skewers over the indirect heat side of the grill and turn every minute or so for about 8 minutes.  Don’t leave the grill, these do require a bit of constant attention.  You don’t want the bacon to burn, but it should sizzle as it renders its fat and crisps up.  While still slightly limp but almost ready, brush the bacon with the glaze and turn every 30 seconds for another 2-3 minutes or until you can’t wait to bite into one.  The glaze burns easily, so don’t leave the grill, put your wine glass down, and focus.

Wine Pairing

The heat in this dish can prove tricky for most wines, and it is really best with a low-alcohol, off-dry white (think Riesling) or Rose. However, the “Red Only” crowd prefers to pair hot dishes with fruity, high-alcohol wines such as a CA Zinfandel.  To each his/her own, but if I were forced down the red-only lane I’d opt for a Russian River Pinot. Shop for wines here.

Enjoy!

Dave the Wine Merchant

Hamburger Wine – What to drink?

The common mantra for choosing a wine for burgers is “just use the cheap red stuff!”  I have a couple dozen reasons you don’t want that rock-gut wine for a good burger at home.  But before we begin to consider which wine to serve with your burger, let’s first define your burger!  What is it, exactly?  (click image at left for some great recipes)

First, let’s wade into the debate over how to best cook a burger at home – grilled vs. griddled.  As you can see here at Chowhound, the debate is not without proponents on both sides.  The topic arose again in this month’s issue of Food & Wine magazine, proving that the final word has yet to be established or that it’s been established but is worth re-hashing every year as grilling season flares upon us (pun intended though weak).

In sorting through all the opinions on how to cook the best burger, grilling is ahead by a length, with a cast iron skillet a distant second, and your basic frying pan and George Foreman grill getting pooh-poohed by foodies.  Just a few tips I’ve picked up along the way for grilling the perfect burger:

  • Bring your burger up to room temperature before grilling.  This helps assure an even doneness without drying out the meat.
  • Coat your grill with a high-temperature cooking oil just before setting your burger down.  Peanut oil works well.  This helps keep your burger from sticking, obviously, but also allows you to begin with thinner burgers, which shorten cooking time and helps assure the meat doesn’t dry out before it’s done!
  • Cook over direct heat for a long minute, flip for one more long minute.  Then move your burger to indirect heat for a couple minutes per side.  That’s all you’ll need if your patties are no more than 3/4 inch thick.
  • Adding cheese?  If you want it melted, be sure to add it during the cooking time or the meat will dry out.  To help melt your cheese, cover your grill or top your burger with an inverted pot.

BURGER TOPPINGS

Whether you grill or griddle, how you top your burger makes a big difference in the wine you’ll want to drink.

What Meat? The first consideration, when pairing a wine with your burger, is the meat used to create the burger.  Beef is most common, of course, but I’m quite partial to the LAMBurger, and that link will take you to a wonderful recipe from Bistro Ralph that may just put you off cowburgers for life.  The gamier taste of lamb argues for earthy wines such as Pinot and Chianti.  Even grilled portobellos provide a tasty, low-fat alternative (which also begs for Pinot, in my book!)

Grilled onions? The caramelized sweetness of grilled onions (particularly red onions, or the naturally sweet ones such as Walla Walla) works well with many new world reds (Finally!  A meal you can have with some of those California Cabs!)  Other pairing suggestions include Zinfandel, Syrah and Bordeaux blends.  Afraid to  pull the cork on your high-scoring wines?  Get over it!  You just KNOW they’re going to sit there, waiting for the perfect moment until, years from now, you discover they’re over the hill.  Do it now, the world ends on the May 21st anyway.  ;-)

Mushrooms? I like to grill the mushrooms right on the grill, wrapped in foil with some vent holes, and a simple dash of soy sauce, a quick grind or two of fresh nutmeg (trust me), and a bit of pepper and thyme for seasoning.  Whether cooked on the grill or on the stove-top, mushrooms pull your burger’s wine pairing in the direction of earthy red wines like Pinot Noir or Chianti or Spanish reds.  Go for it!

Cheese? Man, this ads another layer of complexity as far as what wine to choose with your burger. From the vast sea of cheesy options, which do you choose?  Is your burger topped with melted Kraft Singles or Swiss?  Blue cheese or goat cheese?  Cheddar?  Limburger??  It’s impossible to recommend a single wine that will be a home run with each cheese option, but as a general rule of thumb the added complexity cheese brings to a simple burger argues for a more complex, earthy wine. There you go again, getting all spendy on me.

Sauce? The most common, of course, is ketchup.  And the sweet/acid nature of the beast makes me think of blush wines.  A dry Rosé works with so many foods, it should be one of your go-to utility players.  Get over the pink color, Mr. Macho!  These wines also offer a bit of cool refreshment for those used to chilled drinks with their meal (and who among us didn’t grow up drinking iced Cokes with our Burgers?)  Plus, they generally have good acidity, which helps refresh our palate for the next bite of fatty meat/cheese/onion…

For those opting to top their burger with a bit of BBQ sauce, compatible wine pairings move towards the sweeter or fruitier side – a high-alcohol Zin might be just the ticket, as the fruit extraction is a metaphor for sweetness, a taste experience enhanced by the alcohol.  Just remember my first rule of thumb for food and wine pairing?  Match sweet with sweet, acidic with acidic.

Wait, that was rule number two.  But who’s counting?  Just go enjoy your burger.

Cheers!

Dave “the Wine Merchant” Chambers