Want to cook like Nashville country star Trisha Yearwood? Develop a love for bacon

Mackensy Lunsford
Southern Kitchen
'Trisha's Kitchen' features down-home Southern recipes from the kitchen of Trisha Yearwood.

Trisha Yearwood has yet to meet a person whose interest wasn't piqued by her bacon-potato chip brownies. 

"Even if they are a bit skeptical when they think about putting brownies with bacon and potato chips, I know once they take a bite, I’ll have a convert," she said. 

Yearwood's latest cookbook, "Trisha's Kitchen: Easy Comfort Food for Friends and Family," mentions bacon nearly 160 times. To be fair, that includes the table of contents and index, but it's safe to say the Nashville-based country star, who is also married to Garth Brooks, is a fan.

"I mean, I wrote a love letter to bacon in my latest cookbook, so I guess you could say it is its own food group at our house," Yearwood said.

Her book, filled with warm and comforting Southern mains, sides, desserts and more, includes recipes for bacon caramel-drizzled sticky buns, twice-baked maple-bacon sweet potatoes and bacon onion jam. It isn't all bacon, of course, with an entire chapter focused on the types of vegetarian dishes Yearwood and Brooks served on "veggie night" when their daughters Taylor, August and Allie were younger.

"Our goal was to get more vegetables into their lives, which we did, but we came up with so many tasty recipes, we had the girls actually asking for veggie night," Yearwood explains in her cookbook. 

Dishes like Yearwood's grilled tomato and pepper gazpacho seem like chef-worthy creations, but she insists she's only a home cook who learned from her parents how to take chances in the kitchen. 

"They sparked my love of cooking," she said. "My style is casual and simple. Accessible food that you can make at home for your own family, even if you’re not a trained chef." 

For Yearwood, who describes her books as deeply personal, there's no ghostwriter working behind the scenes. The country music star wrote "Trisha’s Kitchen" during the first year of the pandemic when there was nothing but time for writing, testing, tasting and tweaking each recipe, she said.

"It was nice to be able to really just work on the book with no other distractions," she said. "I love every single recipe in the book and am very happy with how well it turned out." 

Yearwood says she's not likely to stop writing cookbooks any time soon, pandemic or not. 

Have extra bacon?Try 6 of Southern Kitchen's best bacon-studded recipes

"I’m always tasting something I want to 'Trisha-fy' or waking up in the middle of the night with one of those, 'What if I mixed this with that?' ideas," she said. "It’s fun."

The performer, who's lived in Nashville since 1985, finds plenty of food inspiration in her growing city.

"Every city that gets big in a hurry like we have goes through its own growing pains, but one of the best things to come out of that growth is the amount of great new restaurants that have made Nashville home," she said. "I love that you can get whatever kind of food you want in this town, from our famous meat and three diners to our 5-star, fancy tablecloth restaurants. It’s all here."

These recipes were reprinted with permission from "Trisha’s Kitchen," Mariner Books, 2021. The book can be purchased at local bookstores and on Amazon

Pimento Cheese & Bacon Grits

Every now and then I’ll come up with a recipe that combines all the things I love into one pan. This grits dish might be the trifecta, covering all the best flavors of the South. I add smoked Gouda to give it an even deeper, richer taste, but use whatever cheeses you love for these dressed-up grits. In "My Cousin Vinny," shot in my hometown of Monticello, Georgia, Joe Pesci’s character asks a witness if he uses instant grits. The witness replies, “No self-respecting Southerner uses instant grits!” I simply say, ”To each his own!” Using the quick grits in this recipe gets them to the table faster!

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients

4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped into ¼-inch pieces

¼ cup sour cream

1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimentos, drained

4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

4 ounces smoked Gouda cheese, grated

1½ cups quick-cooking grits

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions

Instructions

In a small skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, about 2 minutes, then transfer to a medium bowl.

Stir in the sour cream and pimentos until combined and smooth. Add the cheddar and Gouda and stir until the mixture is thoroughly combined.

Meanwhile, in a large stockpot, bring 6 cups water to a boil. Add the grits, salt and pepper and cook according to the package directions.

When the grits are cooked, pour the cheese mixture into the grits and stir until the cheese melts into the grits and is completely combined. Pour into a large serving bowl and top with the green onions before serving.

Caramelized Onion Bacon Dip

Trisha Yearwood's caramelized onion dip gets a smoky pop from the addition of bacon.

Caramelized onions are great served as a topping on pizza, or on a greasy cheeseburger, but I especially love them in this warm, cheesy dip. Combined with crispy, thick-cut bacon and three different cheeses, this dip will go fast. I don’t give any tips on storing leftovers, because I guarantee you won’t have any!

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

4 slices thick-cut bacon

2 large sweet onions (I like Vidalia), halved, then thinly sliced into half-moons

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dry mustard powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

½ (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature

¼ cup plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

2/3 cup grated Swiss cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish

Sliced fresh veggies and a sliced baguette, for serving

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Fit a rimmed baking sheet with a wire rack.

Place the bacon on the rack and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until crispy.

Pour the bacon fat from the pan into a large skillet and warm over medium-high heat. Add the onions to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute. Sprinkle in the garlic powder, mustard powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the onions are browned, soft and caramelized, 40 to 45 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese, yogurt, mayonnaise and Worcestershire until smooth and combined. Add the cheddar, Swiss cheese, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons of the chives and stir until completely combined.

Stir in the warm, caramelized onions. Crumble the bacon and stir it into the dip.

Transfer the dip to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon chives. Serve warm, with fresh veggies and a sliced baguette.

Potato chip bacon brownies

Trisha Yearwood's bacon-potato chip brownies.

The name really says all you need to know about these brownies. I haven’t met a soul who doesn’t love the combination of the saltiness of bacon and potato chips with the sweet decadence of chocolate. These brownies are one of my most requested desserts to take to a party or covered dish supper. Saving some of the bacon crumbles and crushed chips to sprinkle over the top lets everybody know what they’re going to find inside when they bite into one. Trust me, these brownies will become a family favorite.

Makes 16 brownies

Ingredients

Nonstick cooking spray

8 slices bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

2 cups sugar

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

4 large eggs

1¼ cup all-purpose flour

1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

2½ cups lightly crushed ridged potato chips

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 3-inch overhang on all sides. Spray the parchment with cooking spray.

In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring often, until very crispy, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Reserve the fat in the skillet.

Add the butter to the skillet with the bacon fat and melt over medium heat. Add the sugar and stir until it starts to dissolve, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for 2 to 3 minutes.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the cocoa powder, vanilla, baking powder, salt and eggs until smooth, about 5 minutes, then beat in the cooled butter mixture.

Add the flour and stir until just incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips, half the bacon and 1 cup of the potato chips. Scoop into the prepared baking pan and smooth with an offset spatula. Sprinkle with the remaining bacon and chips, pressing them lightly onto the surface of the batter.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then transfer to a cutting board.

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

Reach me: mlunsford@southernkitchen.com