Craving comfort? Bring home the bacon

However you fry it, pork belly pleases
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal Features Editor
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A humorous photo making its way around the Internet shows a plateful of sizzling bacon with the caption, “You can’t buy happiness. But you can buy bacon, which is about the same thing.”

True words, say many bacon-lovers in Auburn. These days, bacon is used in a multitude of creative ways, from standard BLTs and breakfast to experimental dishes like chocolate-dipped bacon and bacon milkshakes. Jim Bril, owner of The Monkey Cat in Auburn, said he once tried a bloody Mary made with bacon-flavored vodka.

“It was really good,” Bril said. “It was smoky-flavored.”

The beloved meat is making its way into even non-edible items, like bacon-shaped bandages, and household items like bacon-scented soap and toothpaste.

The best bacon for your buck
Phil Kattenhorn, owner of Auburn’s Longhorn Meat Company, offers some tips for choosing bacon.

“Consistency in bacon changes quite a bit from animal to animal,” he said.
Regardless of the thickness of the cut of meat, Kattenhorn said, shoppers should look for a pinkish color in the bacon, and bacon that has been smoked will be darker on the edges. He said bacon tastes especially savory with the rind on, because it adds flavor.

“Bacon is made out of the belly, and if you have the skin left on and you cook it, you get the crunchier texture on the edge of the bacon, and it also gives it some good flavor,” he said.

Kattenhorn said he prefers lean bacon, and that Longhorn offers a cut, Longhorn Lean, made from shoulder instead of belly. The shoulder butt is de-boned and cured the same way as a belly cut, and then smoked. The result is a leaner piece of meat that is wide enough for use on a sandwich, and can also be used the same way as “normal” bacon, such as cutting it into chunks and making it with beans. The shoulder butt can also be cut into steaks.
Kattenhorn said bacon is a great way to add flavor to other meats, such as wrapping it around a steak or laying it over chicken to keep it moist and add flavor.

Cooking tips
Laura Kenny, co-author with Joanne Neft of the “Placer County Real Food” cookbook, said she cooks bacon in a cast-iron pan over medium-low heat until crispy.

“When I need cooked, diced bacon for a recipe, I dice it first, then cook it using the same method,” Kenny said. “When it is crispy, remove it from the pan and drain in a sieve or on paper towels.”

For easy cleanup, Kenny recommends cooking strips of bacon on a sheet tray, lined with parchment paper, in a 350-degree oven.

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at