Boston Brown Bread & Bacon – Made at Home

That sandwich is bacon and cantaloupe. If you’re making a sour face right now, bear with me. It was worth trying. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more natural the idea seemed to be. The other day I was soliciting ideas for what I might pair with a loaf of Boston brown bread, a rye/corn/whole wheat flour quickbread with a heavy dose of molasses. Something salty and savory seemed like the obvious choice, and within that category nothing leaps to mind faster than bacon. That’s a lazy choice, but I was already making the bread. 60 Minute IPA Pork Belly sandwiches would have to wait. Having settled on bacon, I solicited further ideas as to what else might go well. Associates suggested various items, all of them well within sandwich making tradition, until one associate offered a simple, one word suggestion: “cantaloupe.” At first I thought he was putting me on, but this was the person who had hipped me to the Nobadeer. The least I could do was take his suggestion seriously.

“Fast for a day,” I sometimes advise people, “then brainstorm sandwiches. In hunger, your brain will abandon fear and false limitations.” By the time I was seriously considering a bacon and cantaloupe sandwich, I hadn’t eaten in around 14 hours. I wasn’t about to faint, but it was long enough that my definition of “reasonable” had become more yielding. So I decided to try it. I wasn’t going to add anything else. The deep sweetness of the molasses, the salty, smoky bacon, and the bright sweetness of the fruit was precarious enough. No need to complicate things further.

It wasn’t bad. I wish I had a more dramatic result for you, in either direction. Many of you know how I feel about mediocrity, so I really do wish I could tell you it was shockingly good, or as terrible as your first instinct might have suspected. The bacon and the bread paired very well. The cantaloupe was a little incongruous, but not terribly so. Maybe I oversimplified, and with a few more ingredients a great sandwich would emerge. In any case, my curiosity had been satisfied. I moved on to other matters.

This was the first sandwich that had followed from the “bread, bacon, then what?” question. Sweet potato fries and green apple slaw together with the molasses resulted in three different levels of sweetness, each picking up where the other left off. This sandwich, like the other, wasn’t particularly fancy. It’s just a few things stacked between bread, but I figured it didn’t need anything else. Why gussy it up with an aioli, a bed of endive, or a jalapeño relish? Though the sandwich looked a bit plain, nothing else was needed so nothing else was added. The quality of this sandwich was miles above the other. The varying levels of sweetness worked very well together, and the various textures also worked in harmony. The bread was dense and chewy, the apples crisp, and the potatoes soft with a bit of crisp. Truth be told after, sampling half of the bacon/cantaloupe number I slid the melon off the second half and added the fries/slaw combination. Speaking of halves, the bread was a bit of a disappointment. Boston brown bread is traditionally a quickbread, and between the lack of yeast and my sub-par baking skills, it baked up into a squat, dense loaf. It was tasty enough, but it didn’t exactly provide the right base for the heaping sandwich I had imagined. That said, size and taste don’t have too much influence on each other, and this was a very tasty sandwich.

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