Most people I know love bacon, and most people I know have a strong affection for ice cream. Two years ago I was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner in Dubai – about 40 people were going to be attending. I was asked to bring something for dessert, because the turkeys and hams and gumbo were already taken care of. The hosts were from Texas, and I was happy to accept the invitation, because I had already been fortunate enough to taste D.B.’s slow-cooked pork and beef brisket.
I then got to thinking about what I would make; the year before, A.S. and I had put on a Thanksgiving dinner for about 15 friends and colleagues, and it was a great success. It would be good for a change to not have to brine and cook a turkey and make Scooter’s Southwestern Dressing and struggle to find room in the refrigerator for a 20-pound bird.
However, I knew I would miss working with poultry and pork and giblets and set out to come up with something both savory and sweet for my dessert. After a bit of thought I recalled a pine nut semifreddo recipe I had run across in The Silver Spoon; it is a great dish with which to end a meal – not too sweet, but sweet enough to satisfy, especially if served with a small chocolate cake. So, thinking of pork, and one of my favorite pork products, bacon, I decided to make Pine Nut and Bacon Semifreddo.
I do not want to mislead you into thinking that this dish sprung from my head with no precursor; by now, there is nothing original to do with bacon, and we have enjoyed it in brownies and cocktails and cheese and panna cotta, to name but a few. I also recall, with pleasure, a fine dish I had at a restaurant in Brooklyn that included avocado and bacon ice cream.
That said, my Bacon Semifreddo was a hit that Thanksgiving, so much so that the amount I made fell short of demand, the empty bowl in the middle of the dessert table looking bereft, yet satisfied, as the containers of strawberry and vanilla ice creams around it sat full and forlorn. More than several people asked me if there was more bacon “ice cream” and told me it was the best thing they had tasted that Thanksgiving evening. (I recall fondly, however, a giant pot of gumbo that included homemade andouille that had been brought over from Louisiana … it was as good as the semifreddo, and I am glad it was there.)
So, here’s how I make the semifreddo; I use the recipe found in The Silver Spoon (and if you don’t have this book, get it) as a foundation, and add the candied bacon:
Preheat oven to 400F; on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or a Silpat, arrange five slices of bacon. Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar evenly on the slices and cook for 15 minutes or so (until brown), turning the slices midway through the cooking time. Cool bacon on a wire rack. When cool, cut slices and put in food processor with blade inserted; pulse until the bacon is nearly pulverized. Set aside in a bowl.
Next, spread 1 1/4 cups of pine nuts on a baking sheet and roast at 350F for 8 minutes or so, until the nuts are golden; do not overcook. While the pine nuts are roasting, put 1 cup of sugar and 4 tablespoons of water in a heavy pan over medium-high heat. The mixture will bubble and then become a clear syrup. Stir, and wait until the syrup begins to turn a golden brown. Carefully add the roasted pine nuts to the syrup and stir carefully. Coat the nuts evenly, then spread on an oiled cookie sheet. Let cool, then break up the praline and put half in your food processor, reserving the other half. Pulse until very fine. Then, pulse the rest of the praline until crushed, but do not turn it to powder.
Now, you proceed to the semifreddo in earnest. You need 1 vanilla bean, 4 eggs, separated, 4 tablespoons of sugar, 1 1/4 cups of heavy cream, and a pinch of salt. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a bowl. Add the egg yolks and sugar and whisk until pale. In another bowl (use glass or other nonreactive bowls for this recipe) whisk the cream until you form peaks. (Always use a clean whisk; grease or fats interfere with the process; if you have only one, wash and dry it for each step.) In a third bowl, whisk the egg whites and pinch of salt until thick – I always do the whites last so as to have stiffer peaks.
Now, fold the cream into the yolk mixture, then fold the whites into that. Finally – and if all of this seems laborious, it isn’t – fold in your delicious bacon and the crushed praline. Pour the mixture into an airtight container and freeze until firm. You can make this the day before.
I like to serve the semifreddo with a flourless chocolate cake, but have been known to take the container from the freezer and, using my favorite silver spoon, enjoy as is.