I decided to go with rye bread for my take on the bacon-and-cheese beauty. I like aggressive flavors, and rye is one of the only carb-y things I ever find myself really craving. In keeping with the theme of strong flavors, I also decided to include horseradish. Bacon, tomato, cheddar, horseradish… How could you go wrong?
Well, I managed. On our big cooking night, I put together a horseradish cheddar spread, put it on a slice of rye, and topped the whole thing with a fat slice of tomato and 3 strips of bacon. It was… soggy. Really soggy. The flavor was there, but it wasn’t appetizing. Oh well. Inventing recipes isn’t going to be a get it right the first time kind of thing. So the next day I tried again, using plain horseradish and a slice of cheese, and… meh. Still soggy. Still not worth the effort.
The tomato was the big issue. Fresh tomato was just too wet. Could I put it on after the beauty cooked? Could I cut it up into little bits of tomato and avoid the juicy seed part? Scowling, I wrote in my journal that what I really wanted was a grilled cheese with a bloody mary on the side. Hmmm…
Though I didn’t get a bloody mary out of it, On The Side turned out to be the answer I was looking for. I present: Cheddar and Horseradish Beauties with a side of tomato bacon chutney…
Cheddar-and-Horseradish Beauties with Tomato Bacon Chutney
For the Chutney
- 6 slices of thick “butcher cut” bacon.
- 1 pound tomatoes, chopped – I used a box of multicolored cherry tomatoes because they’re pretty, but I’m sure anything would do.
- ½ of a large onion, chopped fine.
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Beauties
- Rye bread, thickly sliced
- Creamy horseradish
- Sharp cheddar cheese, sliced thin
Cook the bacon over medium heat until it is browned and crispy. Drain it on paper towels, let it cool, and crumble into small pieces.
While the bacon is cooking and cooling, chop your tomatoes and onions and mix them together with the sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add mix to a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir and stir and stir and stir while the sugar dissolves and the tomatoes expel their juices. Reduce heat to medium and add bacon. Cook until thickened, a little over half an hour. Transfer to a glass storage container.
When you’re ready to make the dish, set your oven rack about 4″ from the broiler and set it on low. Place as many slices of bread as you want beauties on a cookie sheet and set under the broiler for a scant 60 seconds. Turn the bread and repeat so that it’s toasted on both sides. (You can also just put it in the toaster, which is much easier.) Remove from the oven and spread a thin scrape of butter on one side of the bread. Follow that with a more or less generous spread of horseradish depending on how spicy you want the dish to be. Layer thin slices of cheese over the horseradish and return to the oven. Cook until the cheese is bubbly.
Cut your beauties into easy finger sized pieces and serve with a heaping scoop of tomato bacon chutney (as well as a nice green salad because that makes it a healthy meal, AND it makes your picture look way bloggier. I mean, if that matters to you.)
This dish serves about 3. Which is to say me, 3 times over the next 3 days. It was really good.
-Inspired by Barbie’s Easy-As-Pie Cookbook
It feels arrogant to talk about recipe “invention” as though you’re the first to ever put a certain set of ingredients together. It feels especially arrogant when you’re really just modifying existing ideas. I am not the first to decide that tomato and bacon should be a sweet and sour spread, and there were plenty of recipes out there for me to pull a basic framework from before deciding how I wanted “mine” to go. (Very plain, please, and not too sweet.) In spite of that though, invention was very much how I thought of this thing. Invention or writing. This was going to have my name on it, damnit, so it had to be good.
At what point to you get to think of yourself as a serious doer-of-what-you-do and not just a playactor? I felt like a little kid playing Cooking Show as I cooked and experimented and did the whole test kitchen thing.
I am not a good follower of directions in the kitchen. I like to throw things together and see what happens. It’s interesting to have made something and formalized it. This is how it goes. At least my partner will be happy. I often have to answer his, “Hey how much of this ingredient do you put in that thing you make?” with an unsatisfying, “I don’t know. Some?” Hey, John! The answer to this one is six slices of bacon and a pound of tomatoes. The rainbow kind, because they’re the prettiest.