In a season marked by overindulgence, I figured I’d do my part to make bacon its king.
Over recent years, America’s ever-growing obsession with bacon has been delicious and, at times, downright dastardly. Wikipedia calls our recent obsessions as “bacon mania” — a “passionate bacon enthusiasm … for bacon-related items that have been popularized rapidly via the Internet.”
But who really needs such absurd and convoluted bits as bacon-flavored dental floss?
I say skip the gimmicks and go for a truly blissful holiday condiment known as bacon marmalade, a melange of crisp bacon, caramelized onions, tart Granny Smith apples, brown sugar and cider vinegar.
I first tasted the gooey, chunky jamlike gem at Genessee Royale Bistro, where chef/owner Todd Schulte was spreading it on toast. When I asked him for a recipe for The Star’s Thanksgiving section in 2012, Schulte (who also owns the to-go soup company Uncommon Stock) shared his Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. I am certainly fond of this silken slurry, but it’s understandably hard for mellow squash to compete with the razzamatazz of bacon.
Since my friends insisted the soup was really just a delivery vehicle for the bacon, I decided to skip right to the heart of the matter. I made a couple batches and spooned the sticky, smoky sweetness into mason jars as gifts. The marmalade was a hit, and the raves so effusive — it was as if I’d figured out how to make pigs fly — that I almost felt sheepish for the ease with which it comes together.
Over Thanksgiving dinner I rolled out my first batch of the season — we have become fond of adding the condiment to mashed potatoes — and the requests started rolling in for dibs on this year’s batch.
Of course, there are those in my own family who insist on eating it with a spoon, straight from the jar.
Maybe I should leave the Big Guy a jar of bacon marmalade instead of a plate of cookies. Or would my bowlful of jelly finally bust the strained seams on his Santa suit?
Follow Jill Wendholt Silva, The Star’s food editor, restaurant critic and Chow Town blog curator, on Instagram @chowtownkc and @jillwsilva and on Twitter at @chowtownkc and @kcstarfood.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup With Apple-Bacon Marmalade
Bacon marmalade is not canned, so keep it in the fridge. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks. To serve, reheat gently in a saucepan.
Makes 24 (8-ounce) servings
2 pounds diced nice-quality, thick-cut bacon, cooked and drained of fat (Schulte prefers bacon from Bichelmeyer’s in Kansas City, Kan.)
2 Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled and chopped into small dice
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and chopped into small dice
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
Freshly cracked black pepper
5 pounds butternut squash, peeled and quartered with seeds removed
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with a knife
4 medium-sized yellow onions, peeled and quartered
6 medium-sized carrots, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup olive oil
10 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed
10 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade), plus more as needed
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Freshly cracked black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg to garnish
For the marmalade: Over medium heat, combine all ingredients in a pot and cook slowly until liquid becomes syrup-like, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally to be sure the mixture does not begin to scorch. Season marmalade with salt and pepper, remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks. To serve, reheat gently in a saucepan.
For the soup: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all of the cut vegetables (squash, garlic, onions, carrots) with olive oil and thyme in a large bowl. Toss all ingredients together and give it a nice amount of seasoning with salt and pepper. Place all vegetables in a heavy-bottomed roasting pan in a single layer. Roast for about 1 1/2 hours or so, stirring vegetables occasionally, allowing them to get all brown and delicious-looking, golden brown or caramelized.
Remove roasted vegetables from the oven and place them in a heavy-bottomed 6-quart soup pot. Simmer vegetables on medium heat for 20 minutes; allow to cool slightly. Working in batches, puree soup using an immersion blender until smooth, adding chicken broth until desired consistency is achieved. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Finish by stirring in the heavy cream.
Ladle soup into warm bowls and garnish with a dollop of the bacon marmalade and freshly grated nutmeg.
Per serving: 393 calories (58 percent from fat), 27 grams total fat (9 grams saturated), 44 milligrams cholesterol, 27 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams protein, 614 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.