Top Chef finalist Kevin Gillespie wowed the judges early in season 6 with this recipe for bacon jam. He braises bacon with onion, brown sugar, chicken broth, and Espelette pepper, then blends it into a sweet-savory jam. Toss it with split fresh okra pods that are charred in a cast-iron skillet to remove some of their characteristic slime. Spread the leftover bacon jam on toast or biscuits with eggs, or layer it into a tasty meatloaf or egg salad sandwich.
What to buy: Piment d’Espelette is France’s only native pepper, and it is so highly revered that it is protected by AOC status. It has a nice heat and is worth seeking out at a gourmet grocery or online. If you have trouble finding it, you can substitute hot paprika.
Game plan: The bacon jam can be cooled to room temperature and then refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Rewarm before using.
- 1Place the bacon in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat has rendered and the bacon is starting to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- 2Add the onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has browned, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and stir to combine.
- 3Add 1 cup of the broth and bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- 4Add 1 more cup of the broth and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- 5Add the remaining cup of broth, honey, Espelette, measured salt, and black pepper and stir to combine.
- 6Transfer the mixture to a blender and reserve the pot. Blend until smooth, removing the small cap from the blender lid (the pour lid) and covering the space with a kitchen towel (this allows steam to escape and prevents the lid from popping off).
- 7Return the mixture to the reserved pot, place over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter; set aside. (At this point, the bacon jam can be cooled to room temperature and then refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Rewarm before using.)
For the okra:
- 1Trim the stems from the okra and cut each pod in half lengthwise. Place in a large bowl, add the salt, and toss to combine; set aside.
- 2Heat a large, well-seasoned or enameled cast-iron skillet over high heat until very hot, about 3 minutes. Working in 2 to 3 batches so as not to crowd the pan, add the okra, cut-side down in a single layer, and sear undisturbed until charred on the bottom, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the okra and cook until crisp-tender, about 30 seconds more. Remove to a medium bowl.
- 3Remove the pan from the heat, add the okra in the bowl and 1/2 cup of the bacon jam to the pan (reserve the remaining bacon jam for another use), and stir to combine. Immediately transfer to a serving dish.