Few foods inspire the intense passion, the unadulterated devotion, that bacon does. A couple strips of bacon can transform a mediocre breakfast spread into an indulgent feast fit for a king. Used as a topping for burgers, pasta, or – dare we say it – a green salad, this cured piece of pork boosts flavor and enhances the overall dining experience. The following men know better than most the true beauty and potential of this crisp culinary delight. Here, they generously share their favorite recipes with bacon as the star of the show.
By Mary Beth Wallace | Photography by Emily Long
Smitty’s Bacon-Wrapped Cheese and Jalapeño Stuffed Shrimp
3 strips bacon
Sequatchie Cove’s Cumberland cheese, sliced into thin strips
1 jalapeño, seeded and julienned
6 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
For the cocktail sauce:
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup chili sauce
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
Cajun seasoning, to taste
Mix together ingredients for the cocktail sauce. Adjust seasoning to taste and set aside.
Cut bacon in half and lay flat. Place cheese strips and jalapeño into the back of the shrimp and roll tightly in bacon, securing with a toothpick. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 375° for 12 minutes, or until cheese melts and bacon crisps.
Grill lemon until charred, then slice and squeeze on finished shrimp. (Grilling gives the lemon a sweeter flavor and balances the fat and saltiness of the bacon.)
Serve shrimp with grilled asparagus and cocktail sauce.
“I first had this dish on vacation with friends from Texas. Bacon always pairs well with shellfish, and our two boys can eat an entire platter! It’s a quick and easy dish to put together too.”
– Scotty Smith, Lookout Mountain, TN
Dan’s Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes approximately 36 cookies
1 Ib. thick-cut smoked/cured Main Street Meats bacon
Fry bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels. Chop bacon into approximately 1/4-inch pieces and set aside.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
In a separate mixing bowl, use a flat wooden spoon to beat together butter, both sugars, and vanilla until smooth. If you have a mixer, use the paddle attachment. Add eggs one at a time until thoroughly mixed. Stir in flour mixture, followed by bacon and chopped chocolate, and continue to mix until all thoroughly incorporated.
Pour mixture onto a lightly floured work surface and divide dough into quarters. Shape each portion into a log 9-10 inches long. Wrap logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours, but preferably 24 hours. The firmer they are when you cut them, the thicker the cookie.
Preheat oven to 350° and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice logs into disks 3/4-inch thick and place disks on the baking sheets about 3 inches apart on all sides.
Bake until cookies are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. For more even baking, give the baking sheets a 180-degree turn halfway through the cooking time. Remove cookies from the oven and allow to cool. Enjoy!
“The credit for this recipe actually goes to Main Street Meats, where I learned from one of the cooks, Milton White. Everyone loves the bacon at MSM, so much so that they begged us to create a dessert with it! Hey, if it’s bacon and chocolate, what could be better?”
– Dan Key, Chickamauga, GA
Ben’s Bacon-Wrapped Dates on Tennessee Guacamole
1 Ib. Benton’s Hickory Smoked Bacon
4 cups balsamic vinegar
3 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
1/4 cup red onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup Grainger County tomatoes, finely chopped
1/4 cup Litehouse Guacamole
Herb Blend seasoning
1 whole lime
8 oz. pitted dates
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
Sea salt and fine pepper, to taste
Place the Benton’s bacon, still in its vacuum-sealed wrap, in a water bath set to 147°. Sous vide bacon for 48 hours.
In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of balsamic vinegar to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until vinegar has reduced to 1/2 cup.
Place avocados in a medium mixing bowl. Add red onions, tomatoes, and half of the guacamole seasoning. Squeeze lime over the bowl and mix well, then set aside.
Stuff pitted dates with blue cheese crumbles.
Remove bacon from the sous vide water bath and cut down the middle.
Gently toss six strips of bacon in the remaining guacamole seasoning, covering liberally. Sauté the strips in a cast-iron skillet until crispy. Set aside to cool before chopping finely. Add to avocado mix with salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly.
Wrap all dates in the remaining bacon half strips. Place bacon-wrapped dates on a medium baking sheet. Broil dates in a 500° oven for 3-5 minutes, until desired crispness is reached.
To serve: Place a heaping Tbsp. of Tennessee Guacamole on a plate. Rest a bacon-wrapped date on the edge of the mix. Drizzle balsamic reduction on the date. Enjoy!
“Using the Sous Vide method to prepare bacon locks in the natural moisture of the meat, which makes such a difference, preserving all that smoky Benton’s flavor to be wrapped around the dates. But if you prefer crispy bacon, I have you covered – traditional cast-iron fried bacon is mixed into the Tennessee Guacamole!”
– Ben Connor, North Chattanooga
Tracy’s Bacon Weaved Stuffed Chicken Breasts
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
22 oz. pack of bacon (thin sliced preferred)
Smokey Boys’ Smokey Dust Hen & Fin Rub
For the stuffing:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. parsley flakes
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Slice chicken breasts horizontally, about 3/4 of the way through, creating a pocket for the stuffing. Season liberally with Smokey Dust Hen & Fin Rub.
Combine stuffing ingredients in a mixing bowl until incorporated and divide the mixture by 4. Lay open the chicken breasts and spread stuffing inside each one. Fold the chicken breasts back over.
On a cutting board, lay 4 strips of bacon side by side (width ways). Create a lattice by weaving in 4 strips of bacon lengthways – this becomes the bacon weave that will cover the chicken breast.
Lay each chicken breast, top side down, diagonally on one of the bacon weaves. Wrap all sides of the chicken until it’s completely covered in bacon. Apply another coating of the rub.
Set a grill or smoker to 300°. Cook chicken using indirect heat until an internal temperature of 165° is reached. Depending on the size of your chicken breasts, this could take 45 minutes to 1 hour. For additional color, add cherry wood to the lump coal.
Transfer chicken to a serving platter and allow to rest for several minutes before enjoying.
“This recipe is a family favorite because it combines chicken with a great cheese stuffing. Incorporating the bacon weaves, along with the Smokey Boys’ rub, gives it a nice salty-sweet flavor, and the bacon seals in all the juices of the chicken.”