Several weeks ago, when it was announced that Lou Amdur was selling his wine bar, LOU, we offered a parting culinary keepsake for Squid Ink readers -- the recipe for LOU's famous pig candy. Want to know the origin story of this sweet, bacon-y side dish? If so, forget about the chocolate-dipped pork morsel you read about on Slashfood as well as that anecdote about Lou Amdur roaming through the hills of Kentucky and running into a mystical sugarpig and... (OK, we made that one up). The real birth of Pig Candy involves a cold night, a roaring bonfire, high school stoners (implied) and an enterprising teenager. To read about it -- and for the recipe -- turn the page.
Lou Amdur tells the story of how Pig Candy came to be on the menu at LOU:
When I was growing up in Minneapolis, we would often find a place where the cops wouldn't find us, get a keg of beer and, if it was wintertime, build a fire. This was the '70s and there were parts of the subdivision that I grew up in that were undeveloped. Once when I was about 15 or 16, I was at a kegger and somebody took out some aluminum foil, some Hormel bacon and brown sugar, put it next to the bonfire and made [Pig Candy]. Being of Jewish extraction, I didn't eat a lot of bacon when I was growing up. Clearly, this kid had made this before. He'd brought the fixings in his car. Minnesota is heavy-duty ice fishing. It may very well have been something his dad did.
When we were opening LOU, I was reading Michael Ruhlman's book on charcuterie. That's how we started making bacon -- we were inspired by that. I thought, "What else can we do with this?" It was a kind of a process. I thought, "We're making our own bacon. I wonder if [pig candy] would be good?" And it was.
We cure our own bacon, made from Niman Ranch pork belly, and we do not smoke it for this application, but you could use store-bought Niman Ranch bacon (or any good brand of bacon) and achieve similar results.
From: Lou Amdur
Makes: About 1 pound of pig candy
1 lb. thick cut bacon
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Pinch cayenne pepper
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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment paper on a sheet pan. Mix the brown sugar and cayenne together in a small bowl. Lay the bacon on the parchment paper.
2. Sprinkle the bacon with the sugar-cayenne mixture, and press the mixture into the bacon with your fingers. Flip each piece over and repeat.
3. Place the bacon-loaded sheet pan into the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the bacon is cooked to your liking (we used to flip the bacon midway, but there's no need to do this, we discovered). Keep your eye on it, as it's easy to burn the bacon.
4. When the bacon is done lift the molten mass on to a fresh, cool sheet pan and place in the freezer until it's cold. This causes the sugar to crystallize.