- 1 pound slab bacon
- 3 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
- 1 large Spanish onion, cut into 2-inch chunks
- 2 big sprigs fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/3 cup cognac
- 1 48-ounce can chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 cloves
Cut off the skin from the slab bacon, then cut the bacon into ½ inch slices. Cut the slices crosswise into ½ inch strips. Toss the bacon pieces into a large cold skillet and put the pan over medium heat. Cook the bacon, stirring it once or twice, until it starts to give up its fat. Cook, stirring often, until it is well browned, about 10 minutes.
To remove the skin from the bacon, start by using a paring knife to separate the skin from the fat at one corner, then lift the skin up as you continue cutting, making it easier to see what you’re doing.
Scoop the bacon onto paper towels with a slotted spoon (reserve it for the Chicken with Figs recipe or another use), then pour off almost all the fat from the pan. Add the celery, onion, carrot, and thyme and cook, still over medium heat, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir everything together until the flour coats the vegetables and picks up all the fat. Adjust the heat to low and keep stirring until there are no traces of raw white flour sticking to the vegetables, which would give an unpleasant taste to the finished sauce. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a minute or two.
Take the pan off the heat and pour in the cognac. Return the pan to the heat and boil until the cognac is almost evaporated. Stand back from the pan once you add the cognac; there is a chance it could burst into flames.
Pour the broth into the pan, stirring to dissolve the flour. Toss in the bay leaves and cloves and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the sauce is at a gentle boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is lightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Skim off the foam and fat that rises to the surface as the sauce cooks. Strain the sauce.
I love slab bacon for this sauce because you can cut it into nice, big pieces that taste great. But if you can’t find it, buy the thickest sliced bacon in your supermarket and cut it crosswise into ½-inch strips.