Executive Chef Thad Crennen of BackYard at Waller Creek shares his quirky recipe for maple-glazed bacon lollipops – the perfect party food.
By Chantal Rice, Photo by Courtney Pierce
For more than three decades, Chef Thad Crennen has been concocting clever and experimental bites based on classic recipes. As the executive chef at outdoor eatery and live-music hot spot BackYard at Waller Creek, Crennen, also an impressive guitarist and backyard-barbecue enthusiast in his spare time, continues to create radical and inventive dishes that are perfect for noshing while kicking back and enjoying the venue’s yard games and live music.
From street-corn casserole to Nutella French toast and deviled eggs with pickled jalapeños, goat cheese and fried Tabasco onions, Crennen’s specialties are guaranteed to dazzle and delight.
“Guests eat with their eyes before actually tasting food, so I really look for creative ways to showcase my dishes,” Crennen says.
Few recipes are as tempting as his striking maple-glazed bacon lollipops, which he serves alongside smoked popcorn. Inspired by a diner who ordered a side of bacon and not wanting to serve it in the “boring, usual way,” the chef grabbed a couple bamboo skewers and set to work bringing home the bacon in a unique way that would make guests want to pig out. The rest, he says, is history.
“I love this dish for the simple complexity of flavors, as the caramelized maple syrup counterbalances the heat from the jalapeño,” Crennen says. “And, of course, [there’s] the crispiness of the bacon. [It] all [works]very well together.”
Whip up a whole mess of the chef’s lollipops for a South By Southwest party or a backyard cookout and count the squeals this dish gets!
Maple-Glazed Bacon Lollipops
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
28 9-inch bamboo skewers
2 cups maple syrup (reserve 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup fresh jalapeños, finely diced
2 tablespoons black peppercorns, freshly ground
56 pieces 15/17 cut applewood-smoked bacon strips
1. Soak the bamboo skewers in vegetable oil for at least 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the syrup and sugar. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is smooth. Set it aside.
3. Thread two bacon slices onto each skewer and place the skewers on the wire rack. Brush each skewer with maple syrup. Sprinkle on the diced jalapeños and the freshly ground black pepper.
4. Bake the skewers until the bacon reaches the desired doneness. After removing the baking sheet from the oven, drizzle the reserved maple syrup on each skewer.
5. Allow the skewers to cool slightly. Serve the bacon lollipops at room temperature with popcorn or other nibbles.