Monday, November 2, 2015

Tocino del Cielo (Bacon From Heaven)

The most decadent dessert I ever had

--is possibly a little Spanish custard I found in one of the more cono eateries in Manila: Tocino del Cielo, which translates alternately as 'Heavenly Custard' or 'Bacon from Heaven' or 'Heavenly Bacon' (I like to call it 'Holy Pig' myself).

It was created about six hundred years ago, in the city of Jerez de la Frontera, near Cadiz in Andalusia. The town wineries had been clarifying their wine using egg whites and had all these yolks left over, so they handed them to the nuns at the nearby Convento de EspĂ­ritu Santo de Jerez de la Frontera, where with a little water and a little sugar (they were poor and had little else to work with) they turned it all into an unbelievably rich dessert. 

Perhaps the earliest anyone ever served this dessert in Manila--certainly the first time for me, anyway--was at Dulcinea in Quezon City. One of the best I hear can be found in La Tienda, where I ate dinner with my wife years ago--remember ordering the Bread Ice Cream topped with Tomato Chutney, just because I was so curious  (Bread ice cream? Tomato chutney?). Did not have the Tocino, alas.

It comes with a little caramel sauce but really the whole show is that simple custard, a little brown square a few inches across. To get an idea of what the custard's all about, Marketman of Market Manila has a detailed recipe which calls for sugar, water, twenty-five egg yolks, a half-pound of butter, a little grated dayap (Filipino lime with a distinct anise scent) rind for flavoring--and nothing else. Did I mention how poor those Andalusian nuns were?

You take your fork and spear a slice--not too big!--put it in your mouth and I swear the rush is such that you feel your temples pound with heart's blood (like an upwards surge had bottlenecked just below your chin) and your very arteries curdle solid with fat. Maybe that's what the name's all about--a regular diet of this will send you to your maker, very soon if not immediately.

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