One of my guests is a vegetarian. Any suggestions on building up flavor in the sad absence of bacon?
Think of bacon as fat with a smoky flavor. For the texture add more mushrooms. Add some liquid smoke. And you can never have too much cheese!
I'm a firm believer in ground fennel seed for meaty flavor...maybe 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon.. and more mushrooms for sure!!
Try scissoring dry nori seaweed into strips, fry in your favorite shorting until crisp,
I use EV coconut oil or Ghee, adds a delightful crispy flavor, not unlike bacon,
With all those big, savory flavors -- mushroom and cheese in particular -- I am not sure it needs a lot of doctoring. Maybe some extra mushrooms, sure.
Brown the mushrooms well, use good proper parmigiano or the like, and don't hold back on salt and pepper, and you should be in business. I'd probably add a well-caramelized onion to the mix for fun.
Mushroom, mushroom and mushroom! For more intense flavor, use re-hydrated dried mushroom. Also, try using a mix of mushroom as well.
I agree there are plenty of big flavors here without the bacon - but if you want to replace its smokey flavor, you could add some smoked paprika (goes well with mushrooms, etc.) or some grated smoked mozzarella along with the parmesan.
Thank you so much for these ideas! A lot of inspiration to add to my pantry. I realize that I have shitake mushrooms, so that will definitely make this delicious.
One question: I have some fresh oregano and thyme. Any thoughts on whether either or both would enhance or detract? At what point in the cooking process should I add them? Thanks everyone!
Thyme & mushroom is a natural combination - Add some when you start to sautée the mushrooms, as it's woody enough it can take a longer cooking time.
I was going to jump in with the smoked paprika idea as mentioned by amysarah above - if you were to use this make sure to toast the spice for 30 seconds or so before taking off the heat.
Speaking as an 'old' vegetarian, the flavors are in the food! No bacon needed, and the comments above are good.
Try finishing the dish with some smoked salt.
a little late to the game here--but i often use sun-dried tomatoes instead of bacon and prosciutto when cooking for vegetarians. they give that savory, chewy bite that i associate with salty pork products!
I would use smoked paprika and add more mushrooms.