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Simmered bacon

For 4.

This simple dish is impossible to destroy and perfect for a frigid night; not at all bad for warmer ones either.

-about 2 lb slab bacon (in one piece)
-2 leeks, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
-a tomato, quartered
-about 4 parsley sprigs
-1 Tablespoon juniper berries
-½ teaspoon peppercorns
-2 bay leaves
-¾ cup white wine

Preheat the oven to 300°

  1. Trim the bacon of all visible surface fat; you will lose a fair amount of volume.
  2. Choose an oven pot with a cover that just holds the bacon; you want a concentrated stock so keep things snug. Fit everything but the wine around the bacon, then pour it into the pot and add water just to cover the meat if needed.
  3. Cover the pot and bake it on a rack in the top of the oven for an hour to an hour and a half, or until fork tender.
  4. Remove the bacon from the pot, skim any surface fat and strain the sauce.
  5. Always serve the bacon in thick slices with the stock and some mashed potatoes and fried apple slices.

Notes: Mrs. Grigson used an artisanal back bacon smoked in Bristol “with beech shavings (from the local coffin maker).” We do not have access to back bacon (or a coffin maker) but found that the double smoked slab bacon from Boar’s Head works fine: After trimming away the surface fat we did not find the finished dish at all greasy.

- As Mrs. Grigson notes, the stock is a wonderful base for pea soup.

- Always serve a white wine with the bacon, and not only because it goes into the pot. Smoked meats go better with whites, as any reasonable Alsatian or German will tell you.

- You could omit the tomato but it gives the stock a pretty pink tint, the acid cuts the sweetness of the fatty pork and its inclusion is by no means inauthentic; British cooks started using tomatoes in discernable amounts early in the nineteenth century. If you do omit the tomato, substitute either a little malt vinegar or some lemon juice and peel.