Saturday, March 10, 2012

Smoked Coconut Bacon

When I first heard about coconut bacon, I pinballed around the internet to see what I could find. I landed on The Food Network site and watched a video of Chef Jesse Kimball of The Memphis Tap Room, which is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, make this amazing looking, crunchy, smoky, non-bacon bacon.

I have been looking for a vegetable medium or process that will have that crispy crunch like bacon. Along the way, I've stumbled upon some pretty cool things, but I think that this coconut idea is the Holy Grail. So, inspired by Chef Jesse's brilliant idea, I whipped up a batch using a bag of shaved coconut we had in the pantry. I added soy sauce, vegetarian worcestershire, and maple syrup to the mix for that sweet Southern bacon-y flavor. And, hey, it worked! The coconut takes the smoke beautifully, and when it's baked, it the inherent fat in the coconut crisps the flakes. The best part is that they stay crispy. You can make a big batch of this and have it for lunch all week.

We have used this many different ways since first making it: as a garnish for an omelette, on pesto flatbreads, and on top of grits, but my favorite has to be my avocado BLT. All you do is load up two slices of seeded whole wheat with sliced heirloom tomatoes, olive oil mayo, crunchy romaine, sliced avocado, and plenty of Smoked Coconut Bacon. It's beautiful to hear the crunch of the bacon when you slice the sandwich in half.

At the Memphis Tap Room, Chef Jesse Kimball has half of his menu devoted to delicious vegan and vegetarian food. He serves a Smoked Coconut Club with lemon garlic tofu and herbed mayo. It's good enough to win over anyone's palate. 

Smoked Coconut Bacon
(makes 3 1/2 cups)

3 1/2 cups coconut flakes (available at Whole Foods in the baking aisle)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetarian worcestershire
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon  liquid smoke (only of you don't smoke the coconut on the grill top)
Smoke the coconut flakes for four minutes using my grill-top method. Four minutes don't sound like a long time, but the coconut really soaks up the smoke quickly. This ain't no pork belly, y'all!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place the smoked coconut into a large mixing bowl and add the maple syrup, soy sauce, pepper, worcestershire, and sesame oil. (Only add the liquid smoke if you didn't smoke the coconut. This is just an option for people without access to a smoker.) Toss to coat. Spread the dressed coconut into a single layer on a parchment-lined 12-by-17-inch sheet pan or two smaller pans. Cook coconut for ten minutes, stir it around and spread it back out on the sheet pan, and cook it another five minutes or until coconut is nice and dark brown.