Bacon cooking adventure #1, Cornmeal Cush

A very simple recipe, and it was a really tasty one-dish brunch all on its own, albeit with a beverage on the side of hot coffee with steamed milk. (The full recipe from Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon is below.)

I didn’t have Anson Mills cornmeal, but I did have a really good Italian cornmeal courtesy of Zingerman’s Mail Order. I used Edward’s Bacon from Zingerman’s Deli. I had a bit more bacon than I needed for the recipe, so I baked a few slices in the oven too, to just have on hand.

The recipe calls for chopping and frying the slices of bacon. And the first and most important thing I learned, is that Edward’s bacon cooks a lot faster than standard supermarket bacon! I almost overcooked it in both cooking methods. But not quite. Still rescue-able and extremely tasty. But a very good thing to remember – reset your default bacon-cooking-time assumptions, if you have them in your head like I did! Perhaps this’ll be true for all the artisanal bacons, I don’t know. Or maybe just all the dry-cured ones? I plan to make my way through plenty of bacon recipes so I’ll find out!

Cooking the cornmeal for the suggested time of an hour was a good thing, it really did get creamier. (I was too hungry to let it cook more than an hour.) When I tasted it while cooking, the bacon flavor from stirring the cornmeal into the bacon fat in the pan, was excellent. (I did not have a bacon chunk so I just used all slices.) And then topping off the cornmeal cooked in the bacon fat and water, with the bits of crunchy fried bacon goodness – mm mmm. Last, I deviated from the recipe again by pouring just a bit of real maple syrup over the top of my bowl – I love bacon with syrup – I thought that bit of maple sweetness melded nicely with the corn and bacon flavors. My partner ate his straight. We both devoured our bowls.

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Cornmeal Cush, page 197, Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon, by Ari Weinzweig

The name is likely a contraction of “cornmeal” and “mush,” and the dish is simple but delicious. It’s an old-time Southern approach to cornmeal that’s just a slight twist on the basic recipe for mush, but will get you a more bacon-y bowl of goodness.

Ingredients:
4 ounces sliced bacon (about 2 to 3 slices), chopped
2 ounces bacon, in a single chunk
4 cups water
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
1 cup Anson Mills stone-ground cornmeal (or any other really good cornmeal you care to use)
Freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper to taste

Procedure:

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Fry both the chopped and chunk bacon in a heavy 6-quart stockpot until the chopped bacon is done and the chunk is crisp on the outside.

Cornmeal

Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan and add a teaspoon or so of salt. When the bacon is done, remove it and reduce the heat to medium low. Add the cornmeal to the bacon fat, stirring steadily so it doesn’t burn or stick. Cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add a bit of the water and stir immediately to make a paste.

Cooking cornmeal

Add more water, stirring until well blended with the cornmeal. Continue until all the water has been added. Bring to a slight boil, stir well, and turn heat to low.

Add the bacon chunk back into the pan, stir again and cover. Cook the cush for at least an hour, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking. When you’re ready to serve, remove the bacon chunk from the pot. Chop it into small pieces and heat it along with the reserved bacon pieces in a skillet until crisp.

Cornmeal Cush

Spoon the cush into warm bowls, pour the bacon over the top and serve with salt and pepper.

Serves 2 to 4 as a main course, or 6 to 8 as a side dish

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