Yes, you read that right. BACON CUPS!
Bite sized bacon cups filled with wasabi mashed potatoes, served with Sriracha-lime ranch.
So what had happened was....
It was a dark and stormy night. Not really, but it was pretty late. It was that time of night where there's nothing on TV but Craig Ferguson and infomercials. And I saw it. An add for The Bacon Bowl. And I thought to myself:
"Self, wake up."
"What do you want?"
"Self, that's a bit silly, isn't it?"
"A bowl made out of bacon? Why, yes. Yes it is."
"It looks a bit...unwieldy. We can do better than that."
"I believe you're right. We can make it bite sized."
"YES! To the Bat-Kitchen!"
"We don't have a Bat-Kitchen."
"Fine." Sigh. "To the Regular Kitchen!"
A quick note: For the last three or four years, this has been an "in my head" recipe. I've made it a few dozen times, but this is the first time I've written it down! So...it may be a bit wobbly in places. This is like your grandma's recipe for her spaghetti sauce "Take a pinch of this and a handful of that". In other words, don't worry about exact amounts.
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Step 1: Stuff and Things. What You Will Need to Shock and Amaze. Or, at Least, Amuse.
Time to gather your resources. There's going to be three stages to this little bit (or bite) of wonderful.
The first stage is making the bacon cups themselves. The second stage is the wasabi mashed potatoes. The third will be making the Sriracha-lime ranch (which you can actually make at any time during this whole process).
You could probably do this all in one day, but I usually make the bacon cups a day or two ahead of time, make the potato filling the next day, then heat and serve the next day. This whole dish is very forgiving, time-wise.
Don't be afraid to make A LOT of these. The last party I took these to, I brought 70. That's right 70! They pretty much disappeared immediately.
-Bacon. Lots and lots of bacon. For each cup you will need a half of a slice of bacon AND a sixth of a slice of bacon (I'll explain later). Basically, for every three cups, you will need two slices. You'll want good, thick cut bacon for this. For the ridiculous amount that I made (70+) you'll want around 50 slices. And yes, I do stand there in the store counting how many slices are in a package of bacon.
-Potatoes. I wish I could give you an exact amount here, but I always end up making way too much. Maybe two pounds (1kg) or so? Use good, starchy potatoes like Idaho russet. You're basically making mashed potatoes, here, so, whatever you would normally use.
-Sour cream. One 16 oz. container and maybe half of another. The whole one will be for the dip, the half will be for the potatoes.
-Butter. Four to six tablespoons. And use real butter. None of that pseudo-butter-matter. That stuff has it's uses, just not here.
-Wasabi powder. About a rounded tablespoon, or to taste.
-Parmesan cheese. About a half cup, grated or shredded (optional, but let's face it, more cheese is better).
-Powdered ranch dressing mix. Whatever brand you prefer.
-Limes. Two to three limes, depending on size and taste preference. Or you could use presqueezed lime juice, but I've found fresh tastes better.
-Sriracha. One or two tablespoons, to taste.
-Mini muffin tins. At least two. Four would be better. But however many you use, you will need them in sets of two. Non-stick is best.
-Large sheet pan. This is for making the bacon cups, so you don't end up with bacon grease all over your oven.
-Pot. To boil the potatoes in.
-Mixer. Optional, but makes life easier.
-Peeler. For peeling the potatoes.
-A ricer or potato masher. Also optional, and also makes life easier, but it really helps to get nice, smooth mashed potatoes.
-Mixing bowl. You'll need at least two of these. A larger one for the potatoes, and a smaller one with a lid for the ranch dip.
-Piping bag with large star tip. Alternately, you could use a plastic bag with the corner cut off or even just spoon the potato filling in. Whatever works. I like to pipe it in so it looks fancy, but as long as it tastes good, who cares?
-Sheet pan. For the final bake.
-Storage containers. (optional)
Step 2: Baking Bacon. Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Just Deal With All the Grease.
The first step will be making the bacon cups. I usually do this a few days ahead of time. If the party is Saturday, I'll do these Thursday, or even Wednesday.
While you're messing around with the bacon, go ahead and preheat the oven to 350 F (about 175 C).
I'm going to walk you through making one, individual, cup, then we'll extrapolate from there.
1) Take one (1) slice of bacon. Cut it in half, cross-wise. Set aside one of the halves for the side of the cup, I would recommend the narrower of the two.
2) Cut the remaining half into thirds.
3) Take the half and roll it loosely and place it lean side down onto the mini-muffin tin. Then unroll it until it fits in neatly. If you need to, you can trim away some of the excess fat if it sticks too far up out of the cup.
4) Take one of the 1/6th pieces and push it down into the rolled up piece, forming the bottom of the cup.
-That's pretty much it.
+++When I make them, I start by cutting the whole slab of bacon in half. I fill all the side pieces, first, then figure out how many bottoms I'll need. The standard 24 cup mini muffin pan will need 16 slices of bacon total. 24 halves and 8 halves cut into thirds (the 1/6th slices).+++
5) Next, take the second muffin tin and gently place it on top of the bacon filled one. Line it up and push down. +++This is important. If you don't do this, the bacon will curl up while baking and it will lose the cup shape. Sad face, no bacon cup. Happy face, extra bacon for you to snack on later.+++
6) Take a piece of aluminum foil and crumple it into a loose ball. Place this on the sheet pan off to one side. This will prevent the muffin tins from sliding down into the grease, later.
7) Take the bacon filled muffin tins and carefully flip them over, so they are upside-down. Set this on the sheet pan so one side is propped up on the lip and the other side is against the foil ball.
8) Bake for approx. 30-35 minutes. This will vary depending on how touchy your oven is.
9) When done, take out of oven and let cool for a few minutes. Carefully separate the two muffin tins and gently remove the bacon cups. A bit of a twist usually helps to dislodge them.
+++You don't want to let the tins cool completely as the bacon will act as glue, holding everything together. Very sad face.+++
10) Set the cups aside for later. I usually put them in containers and refrigerate until after the next step. (To-go containers from the local Asian restaurant really help here).
Step 3: Taters? What's Taters, Precious? Po-ta-toes!
Time to make the filling. I usually make the cups on Thursday, the filling on Friday, for a party on Saturday. If you are one of those people who can multi-task (or you have a large enough kitchen) you could do this all at once, on the same day. I'm usually too busy doing about a dozen other dishes, so I just squeeze this in wherever I can.
1) Peel and quarter the potatoes. Place in a pot. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Boil until done. +++Sorry I'm not getting more detailed, here. It's potatoes. Cook them until they're done.+++
2) Drain the cooked potatoes and place in the larger mixing bowl. If you have a ricer, now would be the time to use it. +++The one pictured works, but is not the best. It tends to come apart at the worst possible moment. I have my eye on a beauty from IKEA, I just need to drive the hour and a half to get there.+++
3) Add the butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, and wasabi powder. Mix together. If you have a mixer, use it here. If not, no worries, just mix it as best you can.
4) Let it set a few minutes then give it a taste. Add whatever you feel it needs. Salt? Pepper? Play around with it till it tastes right.
5) Prepare a piping bag (if you're using one) with a large, star tip (#32).
6) Spoon the potato mixture into the piping bag.
7) Pipe the potatoes into the bacon cups.
If there is any left-over potato mixture (there usually is, for me) consider one of these ideas: make more cups because will need them; make stuffed mushrooms (just add more cheese); make potato skins (again, more cheese); the possibilities go on and on.
+++These are now ready to bake. Or (if you are making them ahead of time) you can refrigerate them for up to three days. You might even be able to freeze them. Don't know, haven't tried.+++
Step 4: A Silly Pun Using the Word "Ranch". Sranch? Sriranch?
Ah, yes. Ranch dip. That most ubiquitous of Mid-Western dips. Let's liven it up a bit.
A few years ago (honestly can't remember if it was three or four). I had just made up the bacon cups and brought them to a Christmas party for the very first time. Everybody loved them, but we all agreed they were missing...something. Since I wasn't at home, I didn't have my usual supply of random stuff for food making. Thankfully, the house I was at had some interesting stuff and some creative people.
Time to improvise. Some Ranch powder. Check. Some sour cream. Check. Sriracha, maybe? Try it. Oh, wait, add some lime juice! Success!
And a new dip was born. Sriracha-lime-ranch.
This stuff is good with most anything. Veggies. Chips. I've even had it with pizza. And, of course, bacon cups.
You can make this at any point during the bacon cup creation process, but I find it best to make it around the same time I make the cups. This gives it time to set and let the flavors mingle.
1) Following the directions on the package, mix the 16 oz. of sour cream with the package of powdered ranch. Let it rest a bit. If you want, you can wait till the next day to move on to the next step. Just refrigerate till then.
2) Add the Sriracha and mix. Start with just 1 tablespoon, then add more to taste.
3) Add the lime juice and mix thoroughly.
That's it. It's ready to serve.
You may want to warn people, though. This turns out a nice shade of pink which, for some reason, makes people think it's sweet. I once saw someone (before I could stop them) dip a strawberry into it and...well...they were less than pleased. I'm sure they'll find it funny some day. I laughed, at least.
+++If you want to try something different (like I did this last time) try using yogurt instead of sour cream. I got some of that overpriced "Greek" yogurt that they're selling at the store these days and drained it for about an hour using cheese cloth. It turned out really well. Thicker, that's for certain.+++
Step 5: Putting It All Together.
It's time. Brace yourselves, people! The mob will soon descend!
+++I'm sorry I don't have a decent final product photo. Seriously, I had to chase people off with a disturbingly large spoon (don't ask) just to get the few I have!+++
1) Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
2) Place the filled cups on a foil covered baking sheet. Give them just a little bit of space, you don't want them touching, they tend to stick to each other.
3) Bake for around 20 minutes or until the potatoes are golden brown.
4) Let them cool a minute or two.
5) Grab one or two for yourself and hide them, put the rest on a plate.
6) Run away while the unwashed savages descend.
7) Don't forget the dip.
+++I'm going to let you in on a secret. Don't bake all the cups at once. Do half of them. Or less. Then later, do half of the rest. Then later still, do the last few. I made 70. First round was around 30. Next round: 20. Last round, the last 15. (I saved the last 5 for some special friends who were running late.) Trust me on this.+++
Step 6: Conclusion, Clean-up, and a Really Big Spoon.
This silly, little, late-night, dreamt-up dish has now become one of my "gotta haves" at every party. When people find out I'm coming to a party, they usually ask if I'm bringing these.
So, you've been warned.
I hope you enjoy these. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I may have forgotten something.