Ridiculously decadent bacon-studded recipes for National Eat What You Want Day, May 11

Mackensy Lunsford
Southern Kitchen

If there's one food holiday we can get behind, it's National Eat What You Want Day, a fairly refreshing concept in a world full of fad diets. We're here for it, and we're here for it with bacon. From cookies to cocktails, here are some of our favorite bacon-studded, full-flavor Southern Kitchen recipes. 

Enjoy. You deserve it. 

Light and Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Life-changing bourbon-bacon chocolate chip cookies

This recipe comes courtesy of David Danielson and Tim Laird, authors of "The Bourbon Country Cookbook."

This is about to change your life. Or at least it’s going to change your mind about the best chocolate chip cookies you’ve ever tasted. The saltiness of the bacon combined with the tannins of the chocolate create an umami flavor that’s unforgettable.

It’s important to use a total of 1 cup of fat in this recipe. The amount of fat rendered from the bacon will tell you how much butter you need to use.

For example, if you have 1/4 cup bacon fat, you’ll use 3/4 cup unsalted butter to equal 1 cup. Generally, 1 pound of bacon renders 1/3 cup fat, in which case you’d add 2/3 cup butter to equal 1 cup total fat. However, all bacon is not the same in terms of thickness, size, fat content or quality.

Makes: 5 dozen

Hands on time: 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour and 50 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound thick-cut bacon

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2/3 to 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (see note)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons bourbon

1 teaspoon vanilla

10 ounces dark chocolate chips

Instructions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the bacon in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Pour the bacon grease from the baking sheet into a glass measuring cup and place it in the refrigerator to solidify, about 30 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a cutting board, cut into small dice, and set it aside.

Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder.

Once the bacon fat is solidified, add just enough of the unsalted butter to make 1 cup. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, bacon fat and sugars. Beat on low speed until combined.

Add the eggs, bourbon and vanilla and beat on low speed until thoroughly mixed. With the machine still running on low speed, gradually add in the flour mixture until completely combined. Stir in the bacon and chocolate chips.

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly browned, 9 to 11 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough, reusing the parchment if desired. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Baked Brie with Bacon and Apples

Baked brie with bacon

This recipe comes courtesy of the blog Biscuits and Burlap.

Melty cheese and crisp, rich bacon? Sign us up. Also, a tip. Since dropping gooey cheese is a mess at best and a hard-core burn at worst, we've got a serving tip for you. 

The key to moving baked brie from the oven to a serving dish easily is baking it on parchment paper and keeping it there. Slice the top rind off the brie and move it, still on the parchment paper, to a baking dish. Then just move it on the parchment paper (carefully; don't let it rip!) to a serving dish when it's done.

Serves: 8

Hands on time: 20 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

3 strips bacon, diced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 apple, such as Granny Smith, diced

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 (8-ounce) wheel brie cheese

Toasted and sliced baguette, crackers and/or apple slices, for serving

Instructions

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until brown and crisp, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour the rendered bacon fat into a bowl and save for another use.

Melt the butter in the now-empty skillet over medium heat. When the butter is foamy, add the apples and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt, and continue to cook until the apples are tender, about 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat. 

Slice the rind off the top of the Brie and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the cheese is very soft, 8 to 10 minutes.

Slide the baked Brie onto a serving dish and top with the apple mixture, followed by the bacon. Surround with baguette slices, crackers and/or apples, and serve immediately.

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Funnel cake fried bacon is so bad it's good.

Funnel Cake Fried Bacon

Is it breakfast or dessert? Who cares? While bacon is amazing on its own, coating it in funnel cake batter, then dusting it with powdered sugar is a sweet-savory match made in heaven. 

A note: It’s very important to batter and fry the bacon while it’s still crisp; if the bacon cools too much, the end result will be too chewy.

Serves: 4

Hands On Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

8 strips applewood-smoked bacon

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup milk

1 large egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vegetable oil, for frying

Powdered sugar, for serving

Instructions

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the bacon on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cook until crisp, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain on paper towels to remove excess grease.

While bacon is cooking, make the batter: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg and vanilla. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until smooth.

In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat 2 inches of oil to 350 degrees over medium-high heat. Alternatively, heat the oil to 350 degrees in a deep fryer following the manufacturer’s directions. Line a large plate with paper towels.

Dip one strip of bacon in batter to coat completely, then transfer to the hot oil. Working in batches, batter and fry the bacon until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to the prepared plate and dust with powdered sugar. Repeat with remaining bacon. Serve hot.

Cast Iron Barbecue Pork Pizza

Cast Iron Barbecue Pork Pizza

Feel free to use store-bought pork, barbecue sauce and pizza dough here; there’s no need to make those from scratch. Crank the oven up to its highest temperature and get all of your toppings ready to go before heating the skillet so the crust doesn't burn.

Serves: 4

Hands On Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

12 ounces pre-made pizza dough

All-purpose flour, for dusting

Yellow cornmeal, for dusting

1/2 cup bottled barbecue sauce

1 1/2 cups shredded barbecue pork

1/2 cup diced grilled red onion

4 strips applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/4 cup thinly sliced dill pickles

1 cup shredded low-moisture mozzarella cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar-Jack cheese blend

Thinly sliced scallions, for serving

Instructions

Heat the oven to 525 degrees, or as hot as it will go. Place a 12-inch cast iron skillet in the oven to heat for 20 minutes.

Lightly dust a work surface and rolling pin with flour and roll out the pizza dough into a 12-inch disk.

Remove the skillet from the oven and lightly dust the bottom with cornmeal and flour. Carefully press the dough into the bottom of the skillet.

Working quickly, spread the top of the dough with barbecue sauce, then top with the pork, followed by the onion, bacon and pickles. Cover the top with both cheeses and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly, 12 to 15 minutes.

Carefully slide the pizza out onto a cutting board, cut into wedges and serve sprinkled with scallions.

Southern Sweeteners Maple Bacon Cocktail

Maple-Bacon Old Fashioned

Maple syrup makes a brilliant substitute for sugar in this Old Fashioned recipe, created by writer Sabine Morro. We prefer to use the packaged bits and pieces sold by Trader Joe’s because they tend to contain more fat than meat, which is what we want in this recipe.

Serves: 1

Hands On Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

Bacon-Infused Bourbon

1 pound of applewood-smoked bacon (see note)

1 (750 mL) bottle bourbon

Cocktail

2 ounces bacon-infused bourbon (above)

1/2 ounce maple syrup

Dash Peychaud’s cocktail aromatic bitters

Dash Angostura orange bitters

Ice cubes, for mixing

Large spherical ice cube, for serving

Crisp piece bacon, for garnish

Orange wheel, for garnish

Maraschino cherry, for garnish

Instructions

To make the bacon-infused bourbon: Place the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the bacon has rendered all of its fat and turned crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon bits and save for another use.

In a large jar, combine the bacon fat with the bourbon. Stir, then refrigerate until the fat solidifies. Use a spoon to remove the fat and reserve for another use. Strain the bourbon through a triple layer of coffee filters into a second jar. If the filter backs up, replace with clean filters as needed. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

To make the cocktail: Place the bourbon, maple syrup and both bitters in a cocktail mixing glass filled with ice. Stir until well-chilled and then strain into a shaker. Shake well and strain into an Old Fashioned glass. Add the spherical ice cube, bacon slice, orange wheel and cherry. Serve immediately.

Mackensy Lunsford is the food and culture storyteller for USA TODAY Network's South region and the editor of Southern Kitchen.

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Reach me: mlunsford@southernkitchen.com