This Chef Wrote “The Bacon Bible” — Literally
Peter Sherman thinks bacon works with everything, from cocktails to dessert
Not all themed restaurants are bad.
Witness: One built entirely around bacon dishes.
“I wanted to rep a new style of eating, where bacon was at the forefront as opposed to in the small print underneath a dish on the menu,” explains Peter Sherman, author of the just-released “The Bacon Bible.”
Peter Sherman currently runs BarBacon, a bacon-themed restaurant with two locations in New York City. This could come as something of a surprsie, considering he got his start working under celebrated chefs like Joel Robuchon, David Bouley and April Bloomfield, but Sherman doesn’t think it should.
“Before, if I wanted to push a dish out, I’d wrap it in bacon. Then I wondered, why isn’t bacon the focus of the dish? If that’s the thing selling it, let’s make it the main star.”
Now a few years since he got BarBacon up and running, Sherman has released his first cookbook, which explains how to turn your favorite pork dish into something that can be used across your entire meal, including apps, main courses, desserts, salads and even cocktails.
We sat down with Sherman over some cornbread (made with rendered bacon fat) and a bacon-infused Old Fashioned to get his thoughts on turning bacon into your meal’s main attraction.
InsideHook: Why does bacon work so well across cuisines?
Peter Sherman: The pig was the first domesticated animal here for a reason. It’s 250 lbs, has 15 offspring and you can eat every part. The thing is, even with the advancements of refrigeration, we haven’t changed how we’ve eaten it since about 1500 BC. Still, bacon represents all the necessities for chefs. It’s salt, fat (which is flavor) and smoke, and that ripples through all foods.
If I’m outside grilling this summer, what’s something bacon-y from your book that works well?
First, every grill can be converted to a smoker, so it’s great for making your own bacon. Plus, I think bacon is really year-round: Get a skewer of watermelon, a balsamic-soy glaze, cubes of bacon, that’s summer to me; Put a thin cube of homemade bacon on a skewer with butternut squash, hey, that’s fall.
You described a benefit of using bacon-infused spirits; can you elaborate on that?
We had so much rendered bacon at the restaurant. We go through 1000 pounds of bacon each week! All that bacon fat has tons of flavor we can use. I wanted to infuse cocktails, and alcohol pulls flavor from fat better than anything; I heat it up to just below boiling, whisk into a spirit, set overnight in the fridge and then strain it out. Works great in rum, bourbon and vodka.
But it took me a while to realize you could use that in reverse. We’re making bacon-flavored bourbon, but we’re also now having bourbon-flavored bacon fat in the process. And that works well with a bunch of food, and we’re basically the only people who have access to an ingredient like that. We used it cornbread, pastry shells and a lot of other dishes.
This is your first cookbook. You mentioned off-hand earlier that you should only really buy the first cookbook from a chef.
I’ve been involved with other cookbooks from chefs, helping to develop recipes. So I know that the first cookbook that puts a chef on the map, those are the most important ones. The heart and passion is in the first. Having said that, I have thousands of recipes, and I thought starting with 200 was enough.
What’s your goal with The Bacon Bible?
I’m creating a new dining option. You know how people are asking, ‘what are we eating tonight?” And you’re picking between Italian, Chinese or whatever. I want to make bacon its own bucket. Let’s base an entire cuisine around it.
Ignoring vegetarians for a moment, what about dishes for people who just aren’t fans of bacon?
Look, I’m happy if a cookbook has at least two recipes that become staples in my life. It makes the purchase worth it. There are vinaigrettes, rubs, sauces and things in here that would go great with fish or veggie dishes. I think you could be happy with this if you just used those.
If you had to make one perfect meal — starter, main course, dessert, cocktail — only using recipes in your book, what would you choose?
I’d definitely drink the Old Fashioned. The watermelon pork belly as an app. And then any of the bacon sausages. Bacon gives sausage a smoky, salty component. Couple that with pickled veggies, maybe like a pickled tomato. We do sausage and pIckle board in one of our locations. And finally, I’d end with a smoked chocolate mousse.