Caprese Stacks with Candied Pancetta

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Caprese Stacks with Candied Pancetta

Caprese Stacks are an appetizer so sincerely simple that you may wonder how the heck I’m going to squeeze 500 words out on the subject. I mean Caprese salad is nothing more than tomatoes, basil and mozzarella on a plate, right? Caprese Stacks are simply vertical versions of the same thing, right? Of course, there’s a definitive argument to be made about simplicity demanding quality. But I could peck that idea out in fewer than two dozen syllables. Besides, I know you know how important quality ingredients are. You don’t need me to tell you what you already know.

Still, I feel like there’s a little room for my voice to be heard on this subject. Because if you look out there in blogland you’ll basically see two kinds of Caprese. Simple and silly. I have plenty of respect for the simple versions but most of the silly salads leave me smirking. There’s no room for mango in Caprese. Ancient grains belong in another recipe. And don’t let kale anywhere near the plate. Come on, don’t try so hard. Remember my argument about simplicity and quality. Still, I can’t help but feel there’s a tiny bit of wiggle room between simple and silly. I’m talking about pork, of course.

Behold! Caprese Stacks with Candied Pancetta. As simple and glorious as it should be yet topped with a serious burst of umami. Sweet and savory. Creamy and crunchy. And as fresh as it can possibly be.

Caprese Stacks with Candied Pancetta

When I first conceived of a pork topper for these Caprese Stacks my brain went straight to bacon. Candied bacon is a thing these days. So I decided some sweet sticky heat was just daring enough to get a little notice from my guests. But I couldn’t quite envision the finished stack. Would the bacon be crumbled, or set to the side in meaty strips? I wanted to stack a rasher on top but it’s not structurally suited for that. I needed something round.

How about Canadian bacon? Well, and I mean no offense to Canadians, I don’t really like Canadian bacon. Then again I don’t really like ham either. It’s a texture thing. Still, I often find myself picking up packages of Canadian bacon in the market and admiring it for its round shape and uniform slice. As a cook, I see that consistency of form and I think how nicely Canadian bacon would stack. In other words, I see the presentation possibilities. Which is almost enough to get me to buy a package. Then again I don’t really like Canadian bacon so I always put the package down and go back to the drawing board.

And that’s how I came upon pancetta. Caprese Stacks with Candied Pancetta. GREG

Candied Pancetta Candied Pancetta

Tomato-Basil Caprese Stacks with Candied Pancetta

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Published

Feel free to make these stacks as tall as you like.

Tomato-Basil Caprese Stacks with Candied Pancetta

Ingredients

  • 12 slice ripe tomato (centercut, about 3/4-inch thick)
  • salt and pepper (as needed)
  • 6 slice fresh mozzarella (about 3/4-inch thick)
  • basil leaves (as needed)
  • 6 slice candied pancetta (see recipe)
  • balsamic syrup (see recipe)
  • very good extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Place a slice of tomato on each of 6 small plates; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper then lay on a basil leaf or two. Top each with a slice of mozzarella and a basil leaf or two. Top each stack with another slice of tomato, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and a slice of candied pancetta. Garnish with basil leaves and an artful drizzle of balsamic syrup and very good extra-virgin olive oil.

Candied Pancetta

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Source Adapted from Cooking LightPublished
Candied Pancetta

Ingredients

  • 6 slice pancetta
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. One is for baking and one is for cooling.

In a small bowl, combine sugar cayenne. Place pancetta in a single layer on one of the prepared baking sheets; rub spice mixture evenly on both sides. Bake in the heated oven for 25 minutes or until crisp.

Remove from oven. To avoid sticking, immediately transfer each pancetta slice to the clean, cool parchment-lined baking sheet. These can be made up to 6 hours in advance.

Balsamic Syrup

Print This Recipe Total time Yield ½ cupPublished
Balsamic Syrup

Ingredients

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon granulated sugar

Directions

Place vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally and simmer about 20 minutes, or until reduced by about half. Do not raise the temperature to speed up the process. You’ll get balsamic hard candy. Remove from heat and let the sauce thicken as it cools.

 

 

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