It can be easy to get overly precious with summer tomatoes. They are, after all, one of the most seasonal of seasonal delights, and obfuscating their summer fresh flavor can feel wrong.
You shouldn’t feel that way though. Despite what the purists and haters (myself included) may have said, there really isn’t a wrong way to eat a tomato. There are infinite ways to consume this particular piece of produce, and their versatility should be celebrated, not shunned. This is all to say that you’re not allowed to yell at me when I tell you that you should pour hot bacon grease over fresh sliced tomatoes. Do not boo me, for I am right.
If you feel a shouty impulse bubbling in your in belly, pause, and think about the other oils you have drizzled on tomatoes. I bet you’ve used olive. I bet you liked it. Olive oil is not exactly a mild oil—it has a distinct peppery flavor—but even the purest of purists will advocate its usage on fresh tomatoes.
Anyway, bacon grease is one of the best tasting greases. If you don’t strain it, it often has little bits of smokey bacon in it, and smokey, salty fat tastes really excellent on sweet, acidic tomatoes. The hot fat sizzles slightly on the delicate fruit, rendering it somewhere in between raw and ever-so-gently cooked. The tangy juice from the tomatoes mixes with the fat, forming an in situ kind of vinaigrette. Though it’s one of the saltier fats, bacon grease is not so salty that you can’t add a sprinkling of straight sodium chloride. A pinch of Maldon is kind of nice, as is a grind or three of fresh pepper. You could stop there and be quite happy.
But why would you stop there? Why wouldn’t you take it further, and make a bacon fat caprese? The hot, smokey bacon fat not only brings a new kind of flavor experience to the classic salad, it also wilts the basil and slightly softens the mozzarella, giving the salad a warmer, more welcoming, dare I say Southern vibe.
You can use the grease from a fresh pan of just-cooked bacon, but you can also heat up grease that you’ve saved from breakfasts past. Just make sure you get it sizzling hot—almost smoking—before pouring it on your beautiful tomato slices. The grease should pop and hiss as it hits the produce—it really is a lovely sound.