Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bacon Crisps with Caramel and Pepper Plus Buddhas!

 Bacon is a common ingredient in China though not often in the form we are used to seeing it in here. I love my bacon crisp, which is why I probably detested it as a kid, because my dad always fried it up soggy. He likes things with fat and always ate the fat off my steak which is why, I guess, he liked bacon not so crisp. Bacon is served as part of a western breakfast in China, but it is not served crisp. Bacon is also served as pork belly in numerous ways in China and Manservant loves pork belly. Me, not so much. But give me crisp, well done bacon in any form and my eyes light up.

Before I left for China I was invited to my friend's 100th day party to celebrate her successful bone marrow transplant. So far, so good and though she isn't over the hump yet, it still spells happy! Being a bacon lover,I brought bacon appetizers and these bacon crisps were a hit. I did two versions; one for my friend that was not so spicy, and the other for the rest of the family. It's hard to say which was gobbled up first, but needless to say there weren't any leftovers. Given that football season is upon us, I do believe these would be winners in anyone's play book.

I did two versions. One contained sweet, spicy, smoky seasoning and the other I topped with goat cheese, fig jam and bacon. I The fig version is accented with some orange zest which really brings out the fig and the bacon flavor. Both were hits. Using a refrigerated crescent dough made this an easy appetizer. The hardest part is frying the bacon, but I cook mine in the microwave which makes the job much easier. Feel free to come up with your own versions of this easy appetizer.  And now skip ahead for the recipe or read on for more about China.

So back to China. We started with one day in Beijing with the idea that we would go back at the end of the trip and see more. Our first day in China was to be spent in the Forbidden City. Well, we made it through two gates only to discover that they-who is obviously the government-had recently decided to start closing on Mondays. Much to our chagrin, we never saw the forbidden city. We did walk the outskirts and had great views of it from Jingshan Park,

but just didn't want to fight the lines on our return trip which was the beginning of the National holiday. I guess this is one reason for us to return!

It appears this guy had a different view!

Moat around Forbidden City

After seeing the views of Beijing from Jingshan, we went for Peking duck at Bianyifang. This is located in the New World Mall which was otherwise of this world. We quickly learned from Alex that many restaurants are in malls and they are always at the top of the mall which means one should catch the elevator rather than the escalator. Yes, this was a great duck place and we highly enjoyed it. It may not be as fancy or as full of atmosphere as others but the price was right and the duck was superb. The duck price is based on the weight of the duck that you choose for your table. Standard accompaniments such as scallions, hoisin sauce and pancakes are included; even sugar which is a new one for me.

Just wanted you to get a close up of the scenic back drop!
The menu comes in a giant hard back book cover and the inside of the menu is in full glossy photos. This is standard in most restaurants we visited. It does make it easy to order but one must make sure that what one thinks might be noodles are not intestines! Leaving the restaurant we were able to look down and watch the skaters!

Early Tuesday we left for Chengdu, which is a place I would love to go back too. (After coming home and getting a break from China, I realize now that I would love to go back and spend time at a more leisurely pace. After all, I still have a lot to eat!) Chengdu is in the Szechuan region of China which means spicy food and that is putting it mildly. Chengdu is also home of the pandas and the hot pot. There is so much to do from Chengdu and one of my favorite things was seeing the Leshan Buddha. I think this was the day we did 29,000 steps, so my walking sure paid off.

The Leshan Buddha is a Unesco World Heritage site. The Buddha is the largest stone Buddha in the world, built during the Tang dynasty. Construction began in 713 and took 100 years to complete. The Buddha is built overlooking a spot where 3 rivers come together. It is said that many fisherman lost their lives in the currents and a monk thought a Buddha would protect them. Turns out that with all the demolition of the rock face to create Dafo, there was enough rock that fell into the river which caused the currents to slow, which  ultimately saved the shipping vessels that passed through the area.

Getting to Leshan required taking the bullet train from Chengdu and then from there we took a taxi, but not before we fortified ourselves with noodle bowls across the street from the bus station.

Making dumplings where we ate
Zoe's noodles

It was here we also learned the proper stance when waiting in line in China. It involves standing with your elbows out so no one can cut the line. Alex was quite good at it. We were lucky because on our day at Leshan the crowds were small. After seeing signs above the Buddha stating "three hours from this point", near the steps to begin the hike down, we were grateful we didn't have to wait. It also seems that one can be dropped off closer to the Buddha which is what many tourists do.  We went to the entrance of the Oriental Capitol of Buddhism (love these names) which allowed us to walk through the park and see the views, the many carved stone Buddhas in the caves, and  get in our steps!

The entrance to the park


Just to give you an idea of the size.

Loved this guy! I think he is perfect for a food blog, don't you?
 It was difficult to take pictures, because it was so dark inside. There was even an X-rated section. It appears Buddhas are quite well versed in this area. This photo is quite tame.

                           And then there was this guy. I think he belongs in the Middle Ages.

                     This lady was honored. I know there is a story here, but I don't remember what.

Climbing down the side of the Buddha is about 13 stories of very steep, very uneven steps which is strenuous. And it seems Chinese women often dress up for these occasions. We saw many wearing high heels!

Climbing down also requires one to go back up. I think Zoe and Manservant were giving a gift to the gods and praying I'd make it back up! It also requires one to carefully watch out for selfie sticks which are prevalent through out China. Approaching the Buddha from the top allows one to spy the head of the Buddha. It takes a moment to realize that the river is not what one should stare at. There are over 1000 top knots of carved stone on this guy. Plus he has his own built in drainage system that allowed him to stay in such good shape over the years. Quite impressive to think of that way back when!

So this is what he looked like from the top. And below is looking up from the bottom. Maybe now you can get an idea of how much rock they moved in order to stop those currents!

Here is a view of the three rivers. Well. Maybe two out of three. And perhaps some pollution. Yes, that is the city of Leshan in the distance.

The maps are terrible at this place and I'm not sure what we missed, but I am sure we did miss things. In any case, this was an incredible day and one that I would do a repeat of again-if I ever have that chance. Stay tuned for more from Chengdu, but now it is time for intermission. These bacon crisps will surely keep you sated until my next episode!

Caramel Bacon Crisps
Serves about 12-15
Time to make: About 30 minutes for prep and 25 minutes to bake
1 lb bacon, cooked until just about done and not quite crisp. It will finish cooking on the pastry. Drain well.
1 pkg crescent roll dough - I bought one that had two sheets and no perforations that I found in my grocer's refrigerator section
1/4 c maple syrup
1/2 c brown sugar divided in half
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/2 t black pepper
3/4 jar of fig jam
3-4 oz of crumbled goat's cheese or blue cheese
Zest of 1 orange
Preheat oven to 325. Line 2 15 x 10 pans with foil and grease the foil well. Unroll dough and stretch to fit pan forming a crust around the edges. Prick the dough with a fork. Drizzle maple syrup on one. Mix the brown sugar with paprika and pepper. Sprinkle this on the pan with syrup. Top with 1/2 lb of bacon torn into small pieces. Top with remaining brown sugar. Bake for about 25 minutes or until crust is golden and bacon is crisp and topping is bubbly. Allow to cool before cutting or breaking into pieces.
Top crust of the second pan with fig jam and then torn bacon on top of that. Bake 15 minutes, then add the cheese and bake for another 10. Grate orange zest on top and let cool before breaking or cutting into pieces.

And a few more to pin and try!
Italian Nachos
Green Chile Peppadew Cheese
Chipotle and Caramel Glazed Popcorn
Nachos Al Pastor

The winner for the September giveaway is HS! I'll try emailing you!

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