Ahh. The Bacon Takedown is over. I was left with a funny feeling today, that feeling you get when something you've been anticipating is over and you don't quite know what to do with yourself.
I knew what to do in the snapshot above: Swig a really big beer. Radegast Hall & Biergarten rocks - what a gorgeous, perfect spot to drink dank brews and eat crisp golden brown fries.
If you're familiar with my blog, you know this isn't a scene you'd readily expect in the Devour this kitchen. I don't usually cook meat at all (barring this episode). But I was too late to enter the chili cookoff and too busy for the mac 'n cheese adventure, bacon was next up and I was willing to dive into the grease to catch a drop of recognition. (Here's my drip of fame, by the way - a split second shot on Good Morning America, don't blink!)
Actually, it's pork belly, the Korean version of bacon- it's not cured or smoked. My pork from the Korean market was just sprinkled with garlic salt and freshly ground pepper and thrown on a grill, griddle, or pan - whatever I could dig out of my cupboards.
Before I get any further, here's the recipe for the Korean Bacon Lettuce Wrap that didn't win any prizes, but won me some solid props from the hungry crowd. A whole host of people told me my dish was their favorite and I heard through the rumor mill that my verdant, slick wraps were in the judge's top 5 (out of 30 contestants). Don't tell me if you heard otherwise - that gossip is keeping me going...
Try this recipe at home - you'll be surprised at how insanely delicious it is. Don't fret over exact measurements - just eyeball the amount of meat and lettuce you need. You can find all of the ingredients in any Asian market.
Korean Bacon Lettuce Wrap (Jackie's version of sam gyup sal)
Pork belly, cut into 1 1/2-in. square-ish slices
Freshly ground pepper
Toasted sesame oil, good quality
Red or green leaf lettuce
Sesame leaves (perilla leaves)
Garlic, sliced thin and lightly grilled or pan fried
Tenjang paste (soybean paste)
Spring onion salad (recipe follows, mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Start off with a small amount of the liquids and seasonings and keep tossing in to taste.)
Spring onions, sliced into thin ribbons (you can buy this pre-sliced in Korean markets)
1 Tbsp to 1 1/2 Tbsp ratio of toasted sesame oil to white vinegar
Toasted sesame seeds
Red pepper flakes
Lightly season pork with garlic salt and pepper. Grill or pan fry the pork belly until almost crisp, but don't overcook - about 2 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of your pork.
Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with toasted sesame oil and a smattering of kosher salt. Mix with your hands to fully coat each piece. Taste test and adjust your seasonings as desired.
Cut or tear lettuce into about 4-inch pieces and cut sesame leaves in half. Lay sesame leaf on top of lettuce, top with a piece of bacon. Add a piece of garlic, a dot of tenjang paste (this stuff is very salty, you only need a dab), and a pinch of the spring onion salad. Wrap up and devour! Enjoy the complex and completely harmonious flavors in one bite!
And now...back to the bacon bedlam.
The place was ridiculously packed. People were amazingly compliant and things moved relatively smoothly. The men and women who waited in line for an hour or two might not agree, but they didn't see the mess of the chili takedown! This event was worlds more civilized.
Here are pics of some of the other entrants - my friendly photographer (Jeff, who's a veg, by the way, and was exceedingly supportive of this whole escapade) captured quite a few great shots:
Here's the recipe for you guys, courtesy of Not Eating Out in New York!
This was my other table neighbor. House-cured bacon, homemade pickles with fennel and something, panko something, smoked salt, homemade tarragon something aioli, deep fried right then and there, served hot, vote for number 28, repeat, repeat, repeat. The bed of lettuce, pickle, batter fried meat, and creamy sauce was very reminiscent of fish and chips. Good bite.
I may be addicted to these competitions now. We'll see if my wallet, kitchen, and friends can hold up for another round...(thank you, Erin & Jeff!)