01 April, 2008

D'Artagnan Uncured Bacon

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to taste two unique and wonderful bacons made by D'Artagnan - their Uncured Smoked Duck Bacon and their Uncured Smoked Wild Boar Bacon.

Uncured Smoked Duck Bacon: Dark mahogany-colored lean meat bordered with a narrow strip of fat, sliced fairly thick. The meat is very "wet" and I can't recommend it for anyone who likes their bacon crispy. This duck bacon is best heated in a medium frying pan just until warm through - perhaps with a touch of browning on the fat.

Laid out on a plate before frying, you can see the wonderful richness of the duck breast and the layer of fat that becomes one side of the bacon strips after slicing. It's obvious that this isn't really a true bacon but rather a smoked duck breast, sliced to provide another option for the diner. (A good idea, actually - many people wouldn't think of serving a sliced smoked duck breast for breakfast, and the price per pound of D'Artagnan's smoked duck breast and "uncured smoked duck bacon" is almost the same. So three cheers for their duck joining us for breakfast thanks to clever marketing!)

In the frying pan, the fatty strips melt gently away, leaving only a slight boarder on the wide, lean rashers. Turn the bacon carefully in the pan, because the fat is only loosely attached and has a tendency to fall off. There is very little shrinkage to the lean bits, but duck fat melts easily. (You can see how much renders out by comparing the photos.) As soon as the meat is warmed through it's ready to be served. It has a delicious ham-like flavor, not too salty, enhanced by the subtlety of the smoke.

I used some of the duck fat in the pan to make homefried potatoes and poured the remainder into a jar to save for later use. If you've ever used duck or goose fat in cooking before, you know how marvelous it is for sauteeing. The smoke flavoring here may limit the uses of this fat, but it's still fantastic for potatoes, green beans, or stir-frying asparagus with slivers of garlic.

Overall, I give D'Artagnan Uncured Smoked Duck Bacon high marks. A half-pound package sells locally for $5.99 - perhaps too expensive for a regular weekend breakfast, but well in line for an occasional treat, especially given that the leftover rendered fat is so versatile.

Uncured Smoked Wild Boar Bacon is a much more traditional product. The rashers are smaller than with standard commercial bacon, which is about what I expected given the size difference between wild boar and domesticated swine.

I was a bit surprised by the amount of fat in the slices. I guess I expected wild boar to be leaner, but it was no more lean than any of the premium standard bacons I've had previously. However, the lean sections were darker and meatier than commercial bacon, and it was easy to get any degree of crispness I wished, cooking it as I would any other bacon.

There was a bit of shrinkage in the pan - again, no more than I would expect from any premium-quality bacon - and it must be said that wild boar bacon is pretty ordinary looking - indistinguishable by sight from any other bacon.

The flavor, however, is where this stuff shines.

The slices were no thicker than standard bacon, yet the lean bits were richer-tasting and chewier than standard. There was a hint of gaminess, but only enough to emphasize the difference between the boar bacon and the standard stuff. The strips were flavorful without being too salty (much like the duck bacon was) and quite good at any degree of crispness.

Like the Duck Bacon, I found the Wild Boar Bacon to be a top-notch product, at least as good as any premium bacon. At $6.99 for an 8-ounce package locally, it may be an occasional treat however. And I think the subtlety of the taste is best enjoyed on its own rather than buried along with other flavors in a BLT.


D'Artagnan Uncured Wild Boar Bacon at the Bacon Label Gallery
D'Artagnan Uncured Duck Bacon at the Bacon Label Gallery
D'Artagnan's website


No comments: