Monday, January 10, 2011

Jacon (Beef Bacon) at Bolsa

I make a habit of seeking out meat that is out the ordinary, but Bolsa in Oak Cliff has been curing their own beef bacon for quite some time right under my nose, and I never noticed. That is until I had a quick chat with Bolsa's owner, Chris Zielke when the subject of cured and smoked beef belly came up. I had to have some, so Chris invited me to drop by and meet with Jake Depew, the restaurant's sous chef and creator of this beefy concoction which has been dubbed 'Jacon' by the staff as an ode to its creator.

My introduction to this dish came with a plate of several unadorned crispy hot strips of beefiness. It was sliced thicker than your usual bacon slices, and it had been baked rather than pan fried, so it remained a bit toothsome. The flavor was certainly salty and smoky like pork bacon, but the beefy flavor was undeniable. The fat itself took a bit more chewing due to the higher melting temperature of beef fat (+/- 110 degrees) than of pork fat (+/- 98 degrees) which melts more readily on the tongue.

After enjoying a full plate for a snack, Jake gave me a more detailed view of the bacon curing operation. First, whole Wagyu beef bellies are ordered from Waxahachie's own Marbelous Beef Company. For a while the restaurant got it for nearly free since it was considered basically worthless, but of course after enough orders are put in for it, the supplier began to realize its worth.

After the beef bellies are trimmed, Jake rubs them with his special (and secret) blend of salt, pepper and other spices and it's left to cure in the cooler. Once the curing process is complete, the beef is rinsed then cold smoked back in the kitchen. What comes out of that smoker is more fat than meat since the Wagyu cattle it comes from is very high in fat.

After the tour and explanation, Jake and I sat down for a drink and he presented a large chunk of the meat already wrapped up for me to take home. Chef Graham Dodd joined us and we talked about smoking meat, California blue cheese and beer. These highly talented and acclaimed chefs were not only genuinely hospitable and generous, they were also simply nice folks to chat with, even though they'd never met me before. I left with a full stomach, a hunk of cured and smoked beef, and a smile.

Two weeks later I made my way back to Bolsa for lunch. Jake mentioned that the Jacon sometimes shows up on a burger, in a salad or in other various dishes. I was hoping to find a beef bacon burger, but Jacon was nowhere to be found on that day's menu. I meekly asked the bartender if there was any beef bacon back in the kitchen that could be added to the Marbelous Wagyu burger. He returned form the kitchen with good news. Jake had spotted me and already had some Jacon frying. That ridiculously juicy beef patty, crispy beef bacon and creamy sweet chunks of Shaft's blue cheese wrapped between that soft brioche bun made for a burger experience like I'd never had. It may well have been the single best burger I've eaten. I liked it so well, I recreated the burger at home over the weekend for myself and a few friends. You can too by grabbing some ground Wagyu at Hirsch's in Plano, Shaft's bleu cheese from Central Market, and unless you can convince Jake to sell you a few slices, then order your beef belly from Marbleous and get started with the curing. It'll be worth the wait.

- BBQ Snob


Gipson said...

Never heard of beef bacon before, but it sounds delicious. As does that burger.

I say lose the blue cheese (I love it, just not on a burger), slap on a fried egg, and then drift off into ecstasy.

Outdoor Kitchen said...

Hi...Your post really got me thinking man..... an intelligent piece ,I must say.


Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.