When I see an extra busy day looming on the horizon, I often plan a low-key, easy meal that manages, despite its ease of preparation, to seem quite festive. We call it “Breakfast Dinner,” and usually it is prepared by Rob. I cannot tell you what an immense life pleasure it is, as the Mom and Head Chef of the family, to have someone prepare my dinner to order and serve it to me on the couch. Breakfast Dinner, by the way, is traditionally eaten in the living room while watching anti-educational television. It just tastes better that way.
Recently, I had planned Breakfast Dinner for a day when I was up to my eyeballs until dinner time, and Rob was coming home from an out-of-town business trip. Despite his plan to stay awake until our “real” bedtime, he collapsed as soon as he got home, first in bed, and again on the living room couch after a valiant struggle to wake up and walk down the stairs. When I heard him snoring gently on the couch, I knew that this particular Breakfast Dinner was my gig. I had bought bacon, eggs, and frozen Belgian Waffles, which Rob particularly likes. We always have syrup in the house in a variety of denominations including real Vermont maple syrup which Sam and use, regular old sugar-with-brown-coloring-and-maple-flavoring which Rob likes, and sugar-free syrup left over from a diabetic house guest. We also have, mysteriously, a nearly full bottle of “light” fake syrup with “butter flavoring,” which I must have bought during some sort of fugue state, as I can’t imagine buying such a thing on purpose.
At any rate, on this particular evening, I decided to prove once and for all that bacon should be made in the oven, where it is less messy, less time-consuming, and (I fervently believed) comes out exactly the same as it does when fried in a pan on top of the stove. I should have learned my lesson when I experimented with microwaving bacon, which resulted in thick clumps of bacon permanently fused to several layers of paper towel, but I really just hate frying bacon in a pan.
I had read more than once that bacon could be prepared easily by placing it on a rack in the oven, over a grease-collecting pan, and in fact the bacon package included directions for that method of preparation. Knowing that Rob was safely asleep and would not come into the kitchen to express his shock and horror at my choice of bacon-cooking methods, I meticulously arranged all of the strips of bacon on my cookie cooling rack, placed the rack over a high-edged pan, and placed the whole thing in the oven at the prescribed temperature, having set the timer for the recommended 15 minutes.
Based on my expectations of crisp bacon in that time frame, I began to cook eggs for Rob, and toast for Sam, and waffles for Rob. The toaster dinged, the eggs were finished, and the oven timer went off; opened the oven to discover that, in 15 minutes, the bacon had become microscopically smaller and darker, but was mostly flaccid and pale. Closing the oven, I began to serve what I had already cooked, promising bacon in the near future. Sam ate his toast, Rob ate his waffle and his omelette (an excellent one, by the way) and the oven timer went off. I discovered, on opening the oven, that very little progress had been made. In half an hour at a very high temperature, the bacon was still unacceptably limp and fatty.
Moving quickly to avoid discovery (no one had yet asked why, exactly, the bacon had not appeared) I set a frying pan over medium-high heat, removed the offending tray of bacon from the oven, and began to fry it in small batches. Using this old-fashioned, messy method, I had crisp, brown pieces sitting on paper towel in no time, and they were pronounced “fine” by the bacon connoisseurs in the living room.
Maybe some people like their bacon wet and floppy, and maybe they find the oven baking method satisfactory. Perhaps they should unite with the folks who enjoy their microwaved bacon covered with flecks of Viva. As for me and my house, we are sticking to pan-frying for the foreseeable future.