Mushrooms and bacon are good for each other. I can remember when I was first introduced to pear bacon by Ken at Clio just under ten years ago. Pear bacon was made by thinly slicing pears, dusting them lightly in sugar and slowly browning and caramelizing the slices in a combination of bacon fat and butter. The result was a sweet, salty, sticky fruit leather which brought a well deserved harmony between pears and bacon. At the time, we served the pear bacon with roasted sweetbreads, a nest of warmed spinach and a warm pear vinaigrette. Really just a delicious dish and an elegant and simple expression of flavors.
Back to today. We were working on a cauliflower pudding which we wanted to enrich with some egg yolk. Really we were inspired by the classic cauliflower polonaise. Our pudding base contained some brown butter and as far as the egg was concerned I wanted to use a sheet of slow cooked egg yolk seasoned with cayenne. Now, instead of bread crumbs, I wanted bacon. Look, I like bacon. And while bacon crumbs would have been tasty sprinkled on top, I wanted something earthy and light as well.
Hence the evolution of mushroom bacon. Thin slices of mushrooms are marinated in a warm bacon broth which has the addition of isomalt and glucose. The addition of these two sugars allows the drained mushroom slices to become crisper and more brittle when they are patted dry and then dehydrated in the oven. The dried mushroom slices combine the flavor of bacon and mushroom and have the texture of crispy cooked bacon without an excess of char and overcooking.
Now, with the base assemblage of ideas together and in working order, we have a number of possibilities to look at. First, does the combination of ingredients stand alone as a dish, or could we serve it as a component of something larger, perhaps with a braised lobster or warmed langoustines? What else can we now do with mushroom bacon? Certainly a slice of king trumpet mushroom draped around an oyster would not be all that bad. And if we cut larger chunks of mushrooms like bacon lardons and infused them in the bacon broth and then cooked them as meaty chunks, they would certainly add some character to a stew of gnocchi and fiddlehead ferns.