Prelude: The Grand Project & the Cleverest Idea EVER
When you look at the title and the first picture, you might think, are you kidding me?
I am not. Seriously.
I’ve failed plenty of times in the kitchen, but this was a disaster!
Chapter 1 – The Billion Dollar Idea
I was working on a new post to enter the bacon butty competition. I had developed an idea during the week and I thought it rocked.
The original idea
- Bake two batches of mini burger buns and use them to make sandwiches. A mini sandwich army in perfect formation would make a really compelling picture.
- As for the bacon, I would try a smoking recipe to infuse tea flavor into the bacon and give it an Asian twist. The awesomeness wouldn’t have stopped here.
- After smoking, I’d roll each piece of bacon in aluminum foil like a swiss roll and bake it in the oven until crispy, so it would look fancy in a sandwich.
- I would include the lettuce and tomato, staying true to the classic combination. But I would use a cookie cutter to slice them into neat, round shaped pieces, so everything would line up with the bun to create a perfect sandwich.
- At the end, I’d cook a tea infused apple sauce to accompany the tea smoked bacon and give the sandwich a moist mouthfeel and a shiny look.
Sound good enough? I thought it’d be a billion dollar idea!
I did some thorough research on how to smoke bacon, wrote down all the recipes and printed out all the notes I needed. I even made a sketch on how to assemble the fancy mini burgers and various ideas on how to make the bacon look fancy. Talk about planning the project ahead of time!
Chapter 2 – Thou Shalt Not Disobey a Sign From God
The day I went shopping, I woke up happy, had my shopping list ready, with a backup stored in my phone, and headed straight to Walmart.
At the meat counter, I discovered that WALMART WAS OUT OF BACON! Gosh, I couldn’t believe such a thing could ever happen! Although I laughed out loud when I saw people bitching that Whole Foods had run out of vegan cake, don’t you agree that bacon shouldn’t be something a supermarket can run out of? #angryface
You know what? This was actually a sign from God that I should stop moving forward with this project. I should have taken the sign!
But I didn’t.
I headed straight to another bigger supermarket. I bought tons of bacon, quadruple the amount I actually need, and probably a third of their stock. Because I know Teri Campbell (a professional food photographer based in Cincinnati and author of Food Photography & Lighting) procures a hundred times the amount of ingredients needed, to get the perfect burger in front of his camera!
I started by working with the dough. Long story short, it worked out well and tasted great, but the shapes weren’t as perfect as I’d planned. I was trying to find a few good looking ones, but I couldn’t. Well, I thought it might not be too terrible, at least the twisted shape would make it look more handmade!
Chapter 3 – The Girl Who Played with Fire
Then I started the smoking.
The truth is, I’d never smoked bacon before, nor had I ever tasted smoked bacon. But I thought, since I had done some very THOROUGH research (read: I had studied four recipes carefully), it would be alright! Even if it didn’t work the first time, I had a huge amount of reserves and I could make a new batch! I was so nervous and was afraid the hot wok would catch fire.
The good news is that nothing caught fire.
The bad news is that the first batch didn’t work.
I used a wok to build an indoor smoker. According to theory, I only needed to layer the wok with aluminum foil and place the ingredients-to-be-smoked on top. Then, I could use some sort of steamer (I used several pairs of bamboo chopsticks) to hold the bacon. I needed to heat the wok on high, covered, for 5 minutes to build up some smoke, then cook for 10 minutes on medium heat, then allow it to sit for 10 more minutes after turning off the heat.
The bacon should finish with a beautiful brown color and have a wonderful aroma from the tea and rice.
Sounds easy and totally should work out, right?
Chapter 4 – What Hell Smells Like
After heating up the wok for two minutes, I immediately smelled smoke. I thought it was strange, since I had already built up the smoke, but I wanted to tough it through the whole process and see where it takes me.
Half an hour passed, with anxious waiting. When I finally uncovered the wok, a stronger burning smell emanated immediately and after a minute, my kitchen smelled like the inferno of hell instead of tea-scented heaven.
I had found the answer, and it took me to hell.
Chapter 5 – Failure Isn’t the Mother of Success
I was stupid enough to place only one layer of foil on the wok. It had an invisible break, and the bacon fat had started burning on the hot wok from the beginning! I figured I didn’t pat the bacon dry enough, so it must have been the moisture causing the burn!
Also, since I didn’t have enough space in the wok, I layered up the bacon, which caused it not to brown evenly. When I tasted the bacon, I could tell it was smoked, but I couldn’t taste any delicate flavor except burnt ash. I should’ve stopped there.
But I didn’t.
Chapter 6 – The Perfect Solution
I ditched the wok, switched to a fancy skillet, and tried my luck again.
The skillet was larger and could hold heat very well with a tight lid. I placed 8 layers of aluminum foil this time and spread the bacon nicely to get it evenly smoked. The first 10 minutes went very well and I didn’t smell any burning. I thought, thank God, it finally worked this time!
Thirty minutes later, I couldn’t smell anything because my nostrils were numbed with the burning smoke that filled my tiny kitchen.
It turned out, the smoke was not caused only by the broken foil. The bacon fat dripped onto the hot foil and burn the tea and grain at the first place! I should have stopped there.
But I didn’t. [Continue reading]