Bacon and Aspargaus PastaWe can’t get enough of the gorgeous stalks of asparagus hitting the stores right now. The other night I had a blank space on our menu plan – and decided to have a “wing it” dinner. You know, one of those “clean out the fridge” kinda nights? This is what ensued, and it turned out to be superbly delicious!

And, it’s a quick one too – which is always a plus. Crisping up the bacon in the pan, then a quick cook of the asparagus in some of the rendered bacon fat (because really, why not?) and finally all tossed with some pasta and cream sauce. The healthiest? Surely not. But, it was probably better for us then the pizza or Chinese take-out we would have called in otherwise!

Bacon Stout Chocolate Cheesecake

Okay, okay – hear me out. I know what you must be thinking – bacon on a cheesecake? What the what? But just trust me, it works, especially since its beer-candied bacon. I first got this idea for a cheesecake at my favorite place for inspiration, Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats. In the spring months here on Delmarva, they have a restaurant week. If you are a restaurant in the area and would like to participate, you can offer a 3-course meal to your patrons for $30 a person.

We’ve been to a few places, as it’s always fun to try something new, but we always end up back at Dogfish. There’s the amazing beer, obviously. But, the food is always awesome – as well as the service. It’s a great place to go with the kids, with fun activity menus to keep them busy. They even make their own homemade birch beer! They source as many local ingredients as much as possible, displaying the farms proudly on a chalkboard. Sam and his wife Mariah (founders of Dogfish Head) are the nicest people in the world. We’ve seen them in there many evenings where their family was enjoying dinner with friends, or just hanging out – and Sam chatted with Jon about homebrew for a while. They also host our local homebrew chapter, Delmarva United Homebrewers, at the brewpub in the winter months. Which, is just another notch on their lipstick case of coolness in my book.  Okay, I digress…let’s just say that I love them, and everything that they stand for.

The cheesecake was on their prix fixe menu that night as a dessert choice. Of course I couldn’t resist, and I’m eternally grateful that I didn’t. They used their Chicory Stout in the batter, which led to a  denser cheesecake than I was accustomed to. It definitely stuck in my mind, and I always wanted to recreate it at home. Enter Jackie, who posted a chocolate stout cheesecake on her beer blog a while back. I knew it was  going to be the perfect base for this monster. And, it was. I added a bit of the beer-candied bacon to the batter, as well as to the top (along with some hot fudge sauce to make it easier to adhere). Just enough to make you think – Oh, bacon! And the pretzel crust? Insanely good, and seemed to retain a better crunch than your standard graham cracker variety.

Desserts are often overlooked at Super Bowl parties – but this is one that is most definitely notable. Make this, and you’re sure to be the talk of the party. Or with it in hand, will get you into any party you like! Who’s going to turn down a bacon stout chocolate cheesecake with a pretzel crust? #nobody

Beer-Candied Bacon

I had my first taste of beer-candied bacon on a burger at my other favorite local brewpub, Evolution’s Public House. While I don’t really remember anything remarkable about the burger itself, that beer-candied bacon really resonated with me. And, I tucked it away in the “make sure to try at home” file.

So, when I went into bacon-hoarding overdrive during the Holidays – and had about three pound in the fridge after Christmas, I decided to give the beer-candied bacon thing a go to have for New Year’s Eve munching. Takes less than 1 minute to throw the glaze together, then some cooking time in the oven. Which, by the way, if you haven’t been cooking bacon in your oven you’re missing out. No grease splatter, no bacon sticking to the pan, no more uneven cooking. Just perfectly crisp bacon, every time. If you line a baking pan with aluminum foil, it’s super-easy cleanup too!

With the playoff games ahead of us, as well as Super Bowl, these sweet and salty little bites of heaven would “drop the bomb” on anyone who tried them.  I served them in my favorite pint glass (yes, that’s a honey badger) which I thought was cute. It was almost like a bouquet of bacon; there’s an idea for Valentine’s Day, ladies! I used a stout for the glaze, but I think that most beers (maybe aside from an IPA) would work for this application. It’s a quick and easy appetizer that’s so fun and different – a great start to the new year in my book!

I first had this salad at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse several years ago, and was completely blown away. I’d never had a salad that was served with a warm dressing, much less one that had a bunch of bacon drippings added to the mix. It’s just enough to barely wilt the spinach, red onions, and thinly sliced mushrooms.

It couldn’t be any easier to make at home either, and makes for a wonderful lunch or dressier side salad for dinner. I served it with alongside the French onion soup I made last week, and it was great. This is Alton Brown’s recipe (because you can never go wrong with AB), and it uses red wine vinegar. But, I’ve also used balsamic as well – and just cut out the sugar from the recipe. Hands down, my favorite salad. Make it!