It all started with a post by Canary Girl. She wrote about bacon mayonnaise: mayonnaise made with rendered bacon fat instead of the usual vegetable oil. I was beside myself with the genius of this idea. But as I thought about it, the logistics seemed somewhat challenging. Bacon grease solidifies at room temperature which would make it seemingly difficult to emulsify into mayo. The really beauty of the idea, my thought- process continued, is the smoky, salty fat. So if I made “smoked” oil, then I could make mayo without bacon – and have a recipe that my non-pork eating friends would like.
Given my history of setting fires in other people’s kitchen, smoking oil wasn’t one of my better ideas. This is what I did… I lit a charcoal fire (yes, that’s right, open flame) in the Weber grill on the patio. When the embers started to fade, I threw on soaked wood chips. I put the grate on, and on the side without the flame, I put on a pot of canola oil. Oh, and as long as I was smoking, I put a second pan with home grown chilies and more oil. Thank goodness I’m still here to tell the tale, because I could have created a massive fire. But I didn’t and I ended up with some smoky oil and chilies.
With the oil, I made mayonnaise. Unfortunately, it tasted like the bottom of an ashtray. It probably would have been better with equal parts regular oil and smoked oil. As I recounted my tale to my neighbors they mentioned yet another brilliant idea: popcorn in bacon fat! And so the culinary journey continued…….
I rendered bacon over low heat – wanting to release the fat without crisping the bacon.
When enough fat coated the bottom of the pan, I added the corn kernels. While the corn popped, the bacon continued to crisp. After 10 minutes, I had fluffy popcorn mixed with crispy bacon bits. A quick toss with salt… The bacon flavor was good, but very subtle – I had used three slices for 1 cup of popcorn. Next time, I will need to use more bacon.