A VIP Blogger’s Bacon Heritage
September 11, 2012
International Bacon Day was such a hit, we at Grilling.com decided to keep the party going. Here, VIP Blogger Larry Gaian of TheBBQGrail.com, celebrates bacon and his family heritage. Here’s the full story along with Larry’s attempt at a bacon packed dinner menu!
When people see my surname I am often confused for someone who subscribes to a particular Neopagan religion that worships Gaia or Mother Earth. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. My last name GAIAN is only two generations old. If my great grandmother had not gotten mad at my great grandfather many years ago I would still have my Irish ancestors surname of GAHAN.
My Irish ancestors came to this country through Nova Scotia, Canada just after the turn of the 20th Century. They eventually found themselves living in and around Lowell, Massachusetts. They left their homeland in the hope of a better life during the potato famines.
My English ancestors came to this country much earlier as part of the Puritan movement that settled here shortly after the Mayflower first landed. These ancestors eventually found themselves throughout what became “The South.” Settling in the Carolinas and Georgia as farmers these people eventually helped to develop the southern cuisine that I love today.
Finding a menu that encompassed these three cultures and still enable me to incorporate bacon in each course proved to be much easier than I had anticipated. It appears bacon has been a staple of my ancestors for centuries. Maybe that’s why some people think I might have bacon grease flowing through my veins instead of blood.
It wasn’t hard to find people to share my visionary meal. I quickly found four other couples to join my wife and I with my theme meal. With the assistance of two of my favorite cookbooks: The Bacon Cookbook: More than 150 Recipes from Around the World for Everyone’s Favorite Food and Seduced by Bacon: Recipes & Lore about America’s Favorite Indulgence I was able to come up with a menu that I could adapt to my love of BBQ and keep within the theme of my blog.
The menu consisted of:
MOINK Balls Appetizers (More on MOINK later on)
Southern Shrimp & Pea Salad w/cracklings
English Bacon & Cheddar Bread
Southern Style Smothered Chicken w/bacon and lemon slices
Southern Style Sauteed Green Beans w/bacon and shallots
Southern Red Velvet Cake w/bacon cream cheese frosting
Pecan, Brown Sugar, Bacon Ice Cream
Utilizing several types of bacon was critical to trying to get the authenticity of each dish. The English Bacon & Cheddar Bread and the Irish Colcannon required English/Irish bacon. Slab bacon was used on the Southern Shrimp & Salad and Bacon Ice Cream. And your normal everyday sliced bacon was used on the others.
English/Irish bacon differs from traditional bacons found in the U.S. because it’s made from the meat of the back of the pig instead of the belly meat. English/Irish bacon closely resembles “Canadian bacon.” But as you can see from this picture it has a layer of fat surrounding it, while Canadian bacon is made from the leaner loin of the pig. The highlight dish of the evening was the Colcannon. This traditional Irish potato dish utilizes cabbage to make the potatoes go further. The English/Irish bacon along with the cabbage gave the dish a great flavor profile.
Instead of tying the whole chickens I decided to spatchcock (removing the backbone so the bird can lay flat on the grill and cook evenly) and smoke them for an hour with cherry wood. The smoked but still raw chickens were then transferred to the Dutch oven on the stove to finish cooking them. The smoke flavor along with the bacon and lemon gave the chickens a nice country taste.
The course that generated the most conversation amongst our guests was dessert. The Red Velvet Cake only had bacon as a garnish on the top of the frosting. The original idea was to substitute finely chopped crisp bacon for the pecans in the frosting. After making the ice cream we decided to only sprinkle crumbled bacon on the top of the cake. The Pecan Brown Sugar Bacon ice cream was good, but the texture of the bacon after being in the ice cream mixture turned a little soft and chewy. If I were to do this again I’d cook the bacon crispier and use half the amount.
Last but not least were MOINK Balls. I came up with MOINK Balls last summer for a wedding I was asked to cater. I needed a different type of finger food. I wrapped a pre-made meatball with bacon, seasoned with one of my bbq rubs and smoked it for about 90 minutes. They were a hit. After posting them on the BBQ Brethren Forum you can now find MOINK Balls made all over the world.
The name MOINK comes from a visit I had to a Kansas City BBQ restaurant last June, with Ron L. and Neil T., where our waitress proclaimed their baby back ribs came from a cow. Anyone with any bbq knowledge knows that baby backs are pork ribs and not beef ribs. And with that little mistake MOINK was born. Beef = MOO, Pork = OINK…MOINK.
Here’s a few other images from that bacon packed evening: