Do you love bacon? Even if you're just a casual fan, it's hard to deny that bacon makes almost any dish better. Whether crumbled over salads, lovingly folded into sandwiches, or sauteed with everything from vegetables to stews, bacon is a great team player.
White bean soup: Ham and beans are a classic combination, and this soup doesn't disappoint in the slightest. Great Northern beans are gently cooked with aromatic vegetables and herbs to creamy tenderness, with chopped bacon and ham folded in toward the end. While this recipe does take a little longer to come together, most of this is inactive time as the beans slowly simmer (and the beans do not have to be pre-soaked, though they will take a little longer to become tender); this recipe is great for leftovers, and the flavors only improve over time.
Savory stuffed French toast: Who said French toast was just for breakfast? This savory take on the comfort food -- stuffed with bacon, Gruyere cheese and dandelion greens and pan-fried to ooey-gooey perfection -- works well served any time of the day. And dinner is served in less than an hour.
Butter lettuce with nuts, bacon, cheese and egg: If salad is your thing, look no further than Nancy Silverton for some great dinner ideas. In this layered creation, she combines the lettuce with toasted hazelnuts, crisp bacon, hard-cooked eggs and Gorgonzola cheese tossed with a bright sherry vinaigrette. You can find the recipe below.
BUTTER LETTUCE WITH NUTS, BACON, CHEESE, EGG AND SHERRY VINAIGRETTE
1 hour / Serves 4 to 6
Note: Gorgonzola dolce is a sweeter type of Gorgonzola; it is available at cheese stores as well as select gourmet stores and well-stocked markets.
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons Spanish sherry vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Combine the shallots, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add the oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper or lemon juice if desired. This makes about one-third cup vinaigrette, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. Use the vinaigrette or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Bring it to room temperature before serving.
SALAD AND ASSEMBLY
6 slices thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1 tablespoon hazelnut oil
2 heads butter lettuce
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
5 hard-cooked eggs
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives
4 ounces Gorgonzola dolce
1. Adjust the oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Lay the bacon on a baking sheet and cook it until it's done but still chewy, not crisp, 17 to 22 minutes, depending on the thickness of the slices. Remove the bacon from the oven and cut each strip into four pieces.
3. At the same time, scatter the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and place them in the oven to toast until they are golden brown and fragrant, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the hazelnuts and set them aside until they are cool enough to touch. Gather the hazelnuts into a clean dish towel and rub them together inside the towel to remove the skins. Place the hazelnuts in a small bowl, drizzle with the hazelnut oil, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and toss to coat the nuts with the seasoning.
4. Remove and discard any bruised or unappealing outer leaves from the lettuce heads. Break the remaining leaves off from the cores, putting them into a large, wide-mouthed bowl, and discard the cores. Season the lettuce with salt, drizzle with one-fourth cup of the vinaigrette and the lemon juice, and toss the lettuce with your hands to coat it with the dressing, gently massaging the seasonings into the leaves.
5. Slice the eggs with an egg slicer or a large sharp knife and lay the slices out on a cutting board. Sprinkle the egg slices with salt, grind a turn of pepper over each slice, and sprinkle with the chives.
6. To build 4 individual salads, place 2 of the largest leaves on the bottom of each of 4 plates, cupping one inside the other to create a bowl. Place 2 egg slices, 2 crumbled bits of the Gorgonzola and 2 pieces of bacon inside each "bowl." Place 2 lettuce leaves on top of the first layer and repeat, building 2 more layers just like the first, using medium-size leaves for the second layer and reserving the smallest leaves for the top. Alternatively, build the salad in the same style on one large platter and serve it family style.
Each of 6 servings: 347 calories; 16 grams protein; 5 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 30 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 179 mg. cholesterol; 1 gram sugar; 743 mg. sodium.