Candles are a sure-fire solution to a chilly apartment. They're also a delectable complement to a home-cooked meal. Pour them over a spinach salad or a pomme soufflé, and warm up your room and your belly.
At least that's what the regulars at David Burke's Primehouse at The James Hotel Chicago are doing.
You can thank Primehouse's adventurous chef, Rick Gresh, for the unusual use of home décor. Last summer, he debuted the bacon candle and recently, he cooked up a vinaigrette candle version--made from rendered bacon fat, red wine vinaigrette jelly and herbs--to satisfy our appetites for novel comfort food.
Gresh attributes his inspiration to the smoky bacon from Allan Benton Smokey Mountain Country Hams in Tennessee---and his love for candles. After devouring a few pounds of bacon from the first batch Primehouse received from Allan Benton, Gresh was left with a lot of unused bacon fat, which he and his team wanted to put to good use. "Most people don't want to see spoonfuls of bacon fat, so the idea was to utilize it in a clever way. One day, I was sitting at home surrounded by candles, and thought, 'Why not make a bacon candle?'" the chef says.
Gresh says the delectable 2-inch votives leave lasting impressions on Primehouse's patrons. "We send [the candles] to the table and first, people think it's for ambiance. Then, when we drop the [spinach] salad, we pour the candle over it. You always hear a lot of screams," he laughs.
Scream they may, but guests usually come back for seconds, purchasing the flavorful table accessories to gift to friends and family. They cost $5 and can be bought at Primehouse's butcher shop. Although the bacon fat and bacon vinaigrette candles are his top sellers, Gresh's collection also includes dried steak and foie gras candles, which he requests individuals to order a day in advance. "Since it's a [perishable] product, I make them fresh each time," he says.
The vinaigrette candle takes about 20 minutes to create, requiring about a pound of cooled bacon fat. Those cooking up a bacon feast for many guests should pour the fat in a large container, store and cool it for a week. Then, add chopped red-wine jelly vinaigrette, some fresh herbs, and voilà! Greased lighting.
Well, the process is actually not that easy, but Gresh kindly offers his spinach salad and vinaigrette candle recipe to the creative RentedSpaces readers yearning to surprise their dinner guests with edible home décor below.
Spinach Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette Candles
Recipe adapted from Chef Rick Gresh
Makes 2 servings
For the bacon candles
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 gelatin sheets (or 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin)
3/4 pound bacon
2 teaspoons minced thyme
2 teaspoons minced parsley
1 teaspoon black pepper
Two 4-inch lengths of twine, dipped in vegetable oil
Two 2-ounce votive candle containers
For the spinach salad
1/2 pound spinach, washed, torn into bite-size pieces
Salt and pepper
1/2 red onion, sliced into 1/2 inch rings
1 egg, hard-boiled, peeled and coarsely chopped
Chipotle powder (optional)
2 ounces feta cheese, diced
1. Make the vinegar gelatin in a small pot, bring the vinegar to a boil and add the gelatin. Pour the gelatin into a small pan or bowl and chill until solid (about 2 hours). When set, chop the vinegar gelatin into small cubes.
2. Render the bacon: Cook the bacon over low heat until the fat is completely rendered (about 30 minutes). Pour the fat through a strainer, discard the solids, and chill. When fat is semi-solid (soft enough to stir easily but not too warm, or it will melt the gelatin), stir in the thyme, parsley and pepper.
3. Make the candles: Hold the twine in the candle container and spoon in a layer of the bacon fat. Top with a sprinkle of gelatin cubes, and repeat layers until the top of the container is reached. Repeat with the other candle. Chill until the fat is solid.
4. Make the salad: Toss the spinach with salt and pepper. Broil or grill the onion until soft. Dust the egg with chipotle powder, if using, and layer on a plate with onion, feta cheese and spinach. Light bacon candles, and after the fat melts (about 10 minutes), slowly pour over salads at the table.