And now for something completely different: Shrimp and Gouda Grits in Bacon Bowls (Part 1)

Something terribly exciting happened. I think I may have actually come up with something that didn’t exist before I did it. Well, at least it didn’t exist on Google. I checked.

A friend had a birthday gathering at her house last Saturday. I had thought I would make her a cake, but another friend beat me to the punch on the offer of a cake, so I had to come up with something else. He mentioned that one of us should make pig candy, which made the wheels start turning.

(You’ve never heard of pig candy. O.M.G. I guess I will have to do a post about that next. Or you could buy a SPQ book. Or just Google it. It will change your life.)

I am a full-fledged Queen in The Drama Queens of the Singing River, which is a chapter of the Sweet Potato Queens made up of some of my oldest and dearest friends. (If you aren’t familiar with that either, just go ahead and follow the link to check it out. I’ll wait.) And it just so happened that this birthday gathering was for our very own Boss Queen. Of course, some of the standard food at the annual SPQ Parade in Jackson, MS, (which we have attended in full-blown queenly attire) is pig candy (vats and vats of pig candy!) and shrimp and grits.

Why not combine the two?! Genius idea! I decided to make mini bacon bowls out of pig candy and fill them with gouda grits and shrimp.

Now after thinking about this for a few days and doing some serious Googling, I realized this wasn’t going to be something I could throw together in half an hour and be done.  And you shouldn’t try either.

So for your own protection this is going to be a two-part post. First, I will tell you all about my experiences making bacon bowls and tomorrow (or maybe the next day), I will get to filling them.

Pig candy is sweet. Very sweet. To match the savory profile of the shrimp and grits, I decided to make the pig candy a little spicy. After looking around online, I realized a lot of people add cayenne pepper for a little kick, and one recipe even used a bourbon/brown sugar syrup. Naturally, that is the one I decided to use as a starting point. Because bourbon, right?

So I got busy making little tiny bacon bowls. First I flipped a mini muffin tin and sprayed the bottom side of it with cooking spray. I took thin sliced bacon and molded it around the bottom of each cup.

The best way to do this is to cut each slice of bacon into thirds and drape them over the cups. Each cup with use one full slice of bacon. Be sure to overlap them a little so you will have a solid(ish) bowl.

Then I put some dark brown sugar in a little bowl and added a splash of bourbon — Just enough to be able to mix it into a kind of paste/syrup. Then I added some ginger and cayenne pepper until I thought it tasted good. (I don’t really like spicy stuff, so I went heavier on the ginger than the pepper, but you can do it however you like.) Then I brushed it onto the bacon.

When I looked it up on Bon Appetit, it said to put another muffin tin on top, with the bacon sandwiched between and then bake it. I baked it both with and without the second pan, and couldn’t tell much difference except that it took much longer to bake with the second pan on top.

DO put the muffin tins inside a baking sheet that has a rim to catch the grease as it cooks off the bacon. If you don’t, I promise you’ll be sorry.

Bake the bacon bowls at 400 degrees for about 18-20 minutes, or until it starts to look crisp around the edges. Take the tins out and let the bacon cool before you try to take it off the muffin tins. When you do remove them, be sure to put them upside down to continue to drain the grease off. They should get crispier as they cool.

Be sure to save the bacon grease that runs off onto the baking sheet, because you will need it when you cook the shrimp and grits. Stop freaking out. You don’t need a lot and it really does make a difference in how it tastes!

That’s it. Sounds pretty simple, huh?

Don’t be fooled. This whole process isn’t quite as easy as it sounds.

First, I thought they would never, ever get crisp enough. The first ones I made never did. They held their shape, but weren’t crisp at all. The last batch I did got a little too crispy and stuck to the muffin tins, which means they kind of disintegrated when I tried to remove them.

Second, the sweet and spicy syrup I brushed on them didn’t seem to make any difference to the flavor. When I tasted the syrup before brushing it on the bacon, it was definitely spicy. But after baking, the spice seemed to go away. I left it off the last ones I made and couldn’t tell a lot of difference.

When you make pig candy, you put the brown sugar on both sides of the bacon before cooking. When you make bacon bowls, you can’t really do that, so maybe that’s why the flavor didn’t come through.

The other thing to remember is that unless you have several mini muffin pans, or a couple of the large ones that make 24 muffins, you are going to have to go through this several times to make enough to take anywhere.

I wanted the bacon bowls to be miniature, because I was making them as a party food. If you use regular-sized muffin tins, you would end up with something closer to a meal serving. And, of course, large muffin tins would make even larger portions. (Duh.)

This was the first time I ever made bacon bowls, so it took me about 2 hours to finish about 30 (usable) bowls. You can make them ahead and keep in the fridge if you don’t want to risk not finishing them in time for a grand presentation at a scheduled event.

Go ahead and try them. Then let me know how they worked for you. Maybe you’ll think of some brilliant technique that I didn’t!

(Oh, and check back tomorrow for the recipe for the shrimp and gouda grits. Yum!)

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