Whenever I enjoy food that someone else has prepared, it's only natural I ask for the recipe. Sharing recipes is a kindness I think we all should offer each other. About 15 years ago, I was at a Fourth of July picnic in Gowrie, Iowa, at the Johnson's which I attended with my friend Brandi. The Johnson family hosts an exquisite get together and the parade at this celebration is second to none.
There is an incredible display of the American flag, veteran's floats celebrating every branch of the military and honoring those in the community and beyond that have given their service to our country, riders on horseback, dancers, tractors, dancing-tractors and the amount of parade candy is plentiful.
After the parade, lunch is served and Grandma Pauline pulls out all the stops. She makes fried chicken and every type of salad a person could imagine. Friends and family bring side dishes and so many pans of bars that any sugar-loving Midwest person would feel right at home. That day I happened to eat a really great peanut butter bar that took me right back to the Prairie City Elementary lunch room, which was the gymnasium my dad Rodger played basketball in years before. The memory of simpler times and delicious lunch time treats left me wanting more, so I set out to find the person responsible for bringing the peanut butter bars.
I asked an acquaintance for a recipe for peanut butter bars, because they reminded me of school lunch as a kid. When she denied my request I was surprised. To clarify, I asked again and she still offered up the same answer. It was a simple bar recipe and she and I lived two hours away from each other. It wasn't as if we'd be bringing these bars to the same church potluck or anything!
After that experience I set out to make the best peanut butter bars and to share every recipe I had ever created. Part of this experience is why I started the blog Food & Swine (foodandswine.com). The unseen benefit of sharing your recipes or ideas is that talented home cooks, friends and even chefs get a hold of them and make them even better.
Cooking is a personalized activity and each person I know has a different specialty and skill set, whether they are a master chef or a budding weekend baker. I love to learn new tips and tricks from people who are passionate about cooking and baking.
The recipe I'm going to share today comes from Chef Dominic Iannarelli, a friend of mine and a loyal supporter of the pork industry in Iowa. This is the most recent recipe that has been shared with me. I serve this hot bacon dressing over a salad of spinach greens, thin slices of red bell pepper, cucumber, celery, onion, dried cranberries and pecans or walnuts. The dressing holds over well and re-warms nicely.
Hot Bacon Dressing
By: Dominic Iannarelli
6 slices of thick cut bacon
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup kosher salt
¼ cup warm water
2 ½ cups rice wine vinegar
Chop bacon. In a large skillet, cook bacon until fat is rendered but not completely crisp. Remove bacon from skillet and set aside. Leave bacon drippings in skillet, allow them to cool slightly. In a medium mixing bowl whisk sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add water and rice wine vinegar and continue whisking until combined. Slowly add to bacon drippings while whisking. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat and cook until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat, stir in bacon. Hold and serve warm.