There's a lot going on in Tasting Table's Test Kitchen & Dining Room these days. And during our testing and cooking, we're constantly learning new tricks and techniques. To share them with you, we're debuting From the Tasting Table Test Kitchen. Once a week, you'll receive a recipe that highlights one of our delicious discoveries. And what better way to begin than with an inspired take on bacon? Savory brittle is a staple in our chef Brendan McHale's kitchen. So he and our senior food editor, Raquel Pelzel, blasted a crackling caramel with Aleppo pepper, salt and a wallop of diced bacon. The result is the best bacon bits you've ever tried. It's a wildly versatile ingredient that shines even when mixed with chocolate. But our favorite use is as a smoky-sweet revelation in a kale salad with cheddar and apples.
Bacon Brittle and Kale Salad
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: Serves 4
Cook Time: 15 minutes
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
6 bacon strips, finely diced (about ½ cup)
1 cup granulated sugar
15 turns freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 head lacinato kale--tough ribs removed, leaves stacked and thinly sliced crosswise into ribbons
1 medium red apple, sliced into ¼-inch thick matchsticks
1 cup crumbled aged white cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup bacon brittle
1. Make the brittle: Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and brown in the hot oil, stirring often, until very crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to transfer the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate.
2. Melt the sugar over medium heat in a medium saucepan. After about 6 minutes, it will start to turn mahogany brown around the edges; at this point, gently tilt the pan back and forth to move the sugar around. Use a heat-safe rubber spatula to slowly push the melted sugar toward the center of the pan; do this only two or three times (do not stir the sugar). Once there are only two or three patches of unmelted sugar left, turn off the heat and stir in the black pepper, Aleppo pepper, salt, baking soda and crisp bacon.
3. Pour the sugar mixture out onto a Silpat-lined baking sheet; moving quickly, use a spatula to spread it as thinly as possible, about ¼- to 1/8-inch thick, before the sugar cools. Set aside to cool completely, then chop into small bits. Set ¼ cup aside for the salad and place the rest in an airtight container for another use (it will last a few days).
4. Make the salad: Toss the kale, apple and cheddar together in a large salad bowl. Whisk the oil and vinegar together, add salt and pepper to taste and pour over the kale, mixing to combine. Add the bacon brittle, toss again and serve.