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Bash at Harris Grill celebrates all things bacon

On Tuesday nights at Harris Grill, bar patrons pass around baskets of bacon as if they were the usual bar peanuts or pretzels.

It's all part of the fun of Bacon Night, a weekly tradition at the Shadyside cafe. The bacon is complimentary at the bar; it's a buck a basket at the tables.

Head chef Matt Fetchik fries and bakes 110 pounds of bacon for the weekly event. He will be turning up the heat for Harris Grill's second annual Bacon Bash on Saturday. The celebration of all things bacon will require the chef to dress up his presentation of the tasty strips by creating appetizers such as bacon sushi, mini BLT sliders, bacon-wrapped meatballs, bacon breadsticks and bacon-wrapped tofu.

Also available will be bacon pierogies, chocolate-covered bacon, bacon horseradish spread with pretzels, bacon shot glasses filled with cheesy mashed potatoes and Coco's Bacon Cupcake. A bacon-eating contest is planned as part of the festivities.

The chef says his favorite bacon recipe, Chicken Fried Bacon, involves coating browned and crispy-cooked bacon with fried chicken batter, then deep frying it and serving it with homemade country-style milk gravy.

"You can't eat it more than one time every six months, because it's so bad for you -- but it's delicious," Fetchik says.

Last year's inaugural Bacon Bash was the result of an idea by Jason Mosley of Bellevue, a graphic designer who has dubbed himself Mr. Bacon Pants on the blog he writes about the joys of bacon -- MrBaconPants.com .

Why bacon?

"Why not?" he says. "It really is the perfect food to write a blog about. There is so much love and hate for it that you can never run out of ideas for stories about it. It's also deeply embedded in our pop culture, so everyone can relate to bacon."

When he heard that Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival organizers in Des Moines were taking their event on tour last summer, he arranged for the Pittsburgh stop to take place at Harris Grill.

"This year, they are focusing on the Iowa event, so I took it upon myself to create Pittsburgh's own bacon event, Bacon Bash," Mosley says.

Amy Kluczkowski, general manager of Harris Grill, says the cafe is becoming a popular destination for bacon lovers.

"At this point, we have quite a reputation," she says. "People bring out-of-town friends here on Tuesday nights. It's an adventure."

As for bacon blogger Mosley, he says his favorite way to enjoy bacon is on top of a bacon cheeseburger next to his favorite local micro brew.

"I like my bacon crispy and chewy. The way to achieve this is by using thick-cut bacon. It gives you the best both worlds, chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside," he says. "Also, you have to remember to cook it low and slow. Burnt bacon is a travesty."

These recipes are from Matt Fetchik, head chef at Harris Grill:

Chocolate Ganache Covered Bacon

• Water

• Vegetable oil cooking spray

• 1 pound thin-sliced bacon

• 1 pound semi- or bittersweet chocolate

• 18 ounces heavy whipping cream

• 2 ounces dark rum

• Confectioners' sugar

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a pot of water on the stove to boil. Spray a cookie tray with vegetable oil cooking spray, and lay the bacon on the pan so there is no overlapping. Cook the bacon in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes, until the bacon is just starting to crisp. Remove from the oven and cool on paper towels to drain the grease.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a glass or stainless-steel bowl, and place the bowl over the water. Carefully stir the chocolate with a spoon until the chocolate is melted and has a glossy sheen. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Set up a wire cooling rack on a cookie tray or paper. Gently place each piece of bacon in the ganache, and spoon the ganache over the bacon until it is coated. Remove the strip with a fork, allowing the excess to drip off. Place the coated bacon on the rack, and cool completely until the chocolate hardens.

Serve dusted with confectioners' sugar.

Bacon Shot Glasses with Bacon Cheddar Mash

• 2 pounds red potatoes

• Water

• Salt

• Vegetable cooking spray

• 20 strips of bacon

14 cup heavy cream

14 stick butter

• 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

14 cup sliced green onion or chive

• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• Sour cream for garnish

Wash and dice the potatoes, place in a pot and cover with cold water. Season the water with salt. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are fork tender.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat the bottom of an inverted muffin pan with cooking spray. Place the muffin pan on a cookie sheet with sides, and overlap the bacon on the inverted muffin pan to form the shot glasses. Place in the oven for 10 minutes, until the bacon is brown and crispy. Remove the bacon glasses carefully to paper towels to cool and drain.

When the potatoes are ready, drain and add the cream and butter. Beat with an electric mixer until they are fluffy, fold in the cheese and green onions. Season with salt and pepper.

Fill each shot glass with 1 12 ounces of potato mix. Garnish with crumbled bacon, cheese, green onion and a dollop of sour cream.

Additional Information:

2010 Bacon Bash

When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $35, includes several bacon appetizers and small plates prepared by Harris Grill, one beverage ticket for a draft beer or frozen Cosmopolitan, and optional entry in the bacon-eating contest

Where: Harris Grill, 5747 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside

Details: 412-362-5273 or website

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