Monday, April 23, 2012

Bacon Takedown!!

This weekend was the 1st annual Denver Bacon Takedown! The Takedowns are a cool, national food competition that recently added Denver to their tour list. Check them out: I signed up for the competition a few weeks ago and came up with the idea for bacon, black pepper biscuits with bacon jam. We tested them out at Easter, they were good but we had a feeling that they weren't enough to win a competition. 

This past Thursday, as we were driving to pick up our bacon, I couldn't shake the feeling that I wanted to add another dish. I wanted something bubbly, goopy and full of the lusciousness of bacon. No joke, after a couple, lame bacon brainstorming ideas, it was as if the clouds parted. Last fall, I was inspired by seasonal pumpkin raviolis and thought, "Why not make a pumpkin-ricotta lasagna?" It was TDF! On Thursday, I thought, "Wouldn't delicious bacon crumbles pair perfectly with savory-sweet pumpkin, fresh sage and creamy ricotta?" Yes, it did! The Piggy Pumpkin Lasagna got first place in the People's Choice award which came with a year's supply of Hormel Black Label Bacon[given via an awesome, giant check which barely fit in our little car], a Le Creuset pan, an Anolon pan, a Microplane and a giant Wusthof chef's knife. 

The process began Friday night, with child in bed and husband playing a show, I fried 4.5 pounds of chopped bacon and crafted my bacon jam for the bacon bisquits. Chopped bacon joined caramelized onions, coffee, maple syrup, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar in the crockpot and became bacon jam.

In between frying chopped bacon, I cooked an additional 9 pounds of bacon in the oven. At the end of the night, the entire house reeked of bacon and it was wonderful!

On Saturday, I made homemade ricotta- I use Ina Garten's amazing and easy recipe. Here it is: [sidenote, yes I am slightly jealous that it was made with Gwyneth Paltrow after Gwyneth sauntered over from her Hamptons home to test out recipes with the Barefoot Contessa and then probably frolicked on the beach while brushing accidental sand off the top of Ina's brownies]. While the ricotta was simmering, I began the process of making 4 batches of bacon, black pepper and brown sugar biscuits.

The following morning, I whipped up a quick bacon butter to go with the biscuits [whir 6 slices of pre-cooked bacon in a food processor with a stick of butter and, if you want, a tablespoon of reserved bacon grease].

 Yes, the boys did have to entertain themselves while I toiled, wink!

After the butter was done, it was on to lasagna. I crumbled my pre-cooked bacon from Friday night in the food processor, made a savory pumpkin sauce, grated mozzarella and let the party begin!

I had a blast at the Takedown! So great to meet the creative, fun fellow- bacon lovers. It was also wonderful to have my right- hand man, Sam, there. The hard-workin', introverted side of him chose to hunker down, heat, butter and jam our jillion biscuits allowing me to be a showboat, serve lasagna and chat up the tasters.

Piggy Pumpkin Lasagna
Yields one 9 x 13 pan.

1 box of oven ready lasagna noodles [the kind that you don't have to par-boil]
1.5 pounds of Hormel Black Label bacon
3 shallots, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
12 sage leaves, chopped or 2 tbsp. ground, dried sage
5 c. chicken broth
1, 29 oz. can of pumpkin puree
1 tsp of sugar
1/2 c. whole milk
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper 
3 cups of ricotta [recipe link above, if you have time to make ricotta]
1 lb. grated mozzarella

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Chop and saute a half pound of bacon, approximately 6 slices, in a dutch oven or soup pot, on medium high heat. While that bacon is cooking, place the pound of bacon, roughly 12 slices on a greased baking sheet and cook until brown, approximately 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside.

Once the chopped bacon has browned, remove from pot with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon grease.

Add shallots, garlic and half of the chopped sage to the bacon grease and saute until shallots are translucent.

Deglaze the pan with 5 cups of chicken broth, making sure to scrape up delicious bacon bits from the pot bottom with a wooden spoon. Add can of pumpkin puree, sugar, milk, black and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine and let simmer for a minimum of a half hour to allow flavors to combine well. You can also let this sit, Italian grandma style, covered on the stove for hours.

While this simmers, crumble your pound of cooked bacon and mix with your remaining sage leaves. I found that the easiest way to do this was by chucking all of it into my food processor and after several pulses, ending up with bacon sage crumbs. 

Prepare your lasagna assembly line, starting with a greased 9 x 13 pan, then your bowl of bacon sage crumbles, pumpkin sauce, ricotta and mozzarella. Check it out:

I start with a thin layer of sauce, then noodles, then whatever order you desire when it comes to your layers. The ricotta is only used on the in-between layers. My top layer only has the noodles, pumpkin sauce to coat the noodles, bacon- sage crumbles and the mozzarella. Make sure to leave at least half of your mozzarella for the top layer, to get that gooey crust. Make as many layers as fits your pan or as allowed by your noodle count.

Bake, covered with aluminum foil, for one hour. Remove foil and let cheese brown for approximately 5 minutes. Voila!


  1. You're giving away your secret, world-famous recipe? You're too kind! Don't even say the words "Le Creuset pan prize" or I might punch you in the the "you're so awesome you won it and I'm jealous" sort of way not in the real pain sort of way, wink! Please tell me you got to keep the apron. Good job!!!!!!!

  2. oh my GATO that lasagna looks amazing! Congratulations on your win!