• Anne Petersen
  • Caramelized bacon with clams casino broth, Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse

This weekend marked the sixth annual Baconfest Chicago, and if sold-out attendance at three separate sessions featuring the work of over 160 chefs at the UIC Forum is any evidence, our oft-maligned baconmania has yet to be exhausted. I was a judge at the Friday night session, handing out the Golden Rasher Award for Most Creative Use of Bacon, and, like it is most years, “creative” was a loosely defined term. But at least my fellow judges, including Nueske’s Bacon boss Bob Nueske, Doug Sohn, LTHForum jefe Ron Kaplan, Plate magazine editor Chandra Ram, and Serious Eats’ Daniel Zemans quickly reached consensus on Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse chef James O’Donnell’s caramelized bacon with clams casino broth, Calabrian chiles, and bacon fat bread crumbs. Personally I thought the big chunk of swine in this bite was almost superfluous, so tasty was the briny, garlicky bivalve slurry it bathed in. In their insatiable quest for attention the Baconfest’s powers that be forwarded the recipe as well as some bacon porn featuring the dishes of the weekend’s other two winners: Farmhouse’s Pigs in Mud and Lillie’s Q’s Bacon Float.

Caramelized Bacon with Clams Casino Broth

Serves 4

1 pound slab smoked bacon
12ea littleneck clams
2 tsp garlic, minced
2 ea calabrian chiles, sliced into 1/8 inch rings
2 tsp fennel bulb-minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tsp Italian parsley-chopped
1 tsp butter
2 tsp bacon bread crumbs (recipe follows)
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

• Cut the bacon into four equal pieces, approximately one-inch wide by three-inches long by one-inch tall.
• Place the bacon in a saute pan and cook slowly over medium heat. Turn bacon and allow it to caramelize on all sides.
• Place cooked bacon in 200-degree oven to keep warm. Reserve 3 tsp of the rendered bacon fat.
• Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tsp of bacon fat to pan.
• Add fennel, garlic, clams, and chiles to pan and toast. Deglaze the pan with the wine, cover, and allow the clams to open.
• Reduce heat to low, remove clams from the shells. Slice the clams then return to the broth.
• Add parsley and butter to pan, and whisk to incorporate them into the broth.
• Divide clam broth between four shallow bowls,
• Place reserved bacon atop the broth. Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over each dish.

Bacon Bread Crumbs
• Heat reserved bacon fat over low heat. Add 2 tsp of panko bread crumbs and stir until toasted and dry.