Bacon wrapped goodness! I bet on this salty and sweet combo and hit a home run with these Bacon Wrapped and Stuffed Dates. My friend was hosting a wine pairing party and each guests was asked to bring an Hors d'oeuvre and a bottle of wine to pair with it. I was looking for something easy enough to put together so I would not have to spend all day Saturday prepping and cooking and I also wanted something that could be served warm or at room temperature since I was taking these with me to a party.
I read all sorts of recipes about stuffing figs and dates with blue cheese, almonds, ricotta, parmesan. I went in my own direction and purchased the meaty Medjool dates from the bulk food section of Whole Foods and stuffed them with cream cheese and a smoked and salted almond.
Let's talk about the date itself. Dates are a type of fruit grown on date palm trees. Today, many types of dates are essential parts of Middle Eastern cuisine, but perhaps none are as prized as medjool dates.
Medjool dates have been called the “king of dates” and the “crown jewel of dates.” Like most dates, the fruit is dried prior to being eaten. What really makes these dried wonders so special is that they are exceptionally large, contain a large amount of “fruit meat,” and are extremely sweet. Each center of the date has an elongated pit, which is easy to remove.
My first step was to slice the date down one side (not all the way through) and remove the pit.
Next I spooned a small amount of softened cream cheese in each date. Stuffing options are endless. I thought gorgonzola was excellent paired with figs, and I can imagine that ricotta would be a wonderful creamy stuffing also.
For an element of surprise, I pushed one smoked and salted almond into the middle of the cream cheese to add crunch.
Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos. He loooooooves them. One thing that bothered me about the the bacon wrapped jalapenos was that they had to stay in the oven a LONG time for the bacon to crisp, and sometimes the food it's wrapped around gets overcooked. I have a "thing" with fatty soft bacon - yuck, I want it crispy all over.
I read a suggestion online to par-cook the bacon prior to wrapping it around food and putting them in the oven. Bingo, that solves my delima! I also decided to make these bacon extra special by spooning brown sugar over the bacon as it fries up in my skillet. As you can see in the picture above, the brown sugar dissolves with the heat and into the bacon grease in the pan and coats each piece with a delicious sticky syrup - candied bacon, resembling the ones I ate at Mulberry.
The last step was to wrap each of my stuffed Medjool dates with a sticky par-cooked piece of bacon, secure with a toothpick and place them in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
I arranged all the dates on a wire rack set above a jelly roll pan in the oven, that way the dates wouldn't be sitting in bacon grease, anything that dripped off these dates fell below to the jelly roll pan so these babies could cook up nice and crispy.
These turned out to be delicious. I particularly liked the sweetness of the date with the salty bacon and then the creaminess of the cream cheese - it was sensory overload, the trifecta! I was disappointed in the way the almond in the middle didn't retain it's crunch after being stuck in the cream cheese. I thought the almond would have a much bigger impact on the Hors d'oeuvre but it was truly the combination of sticky and smokey candied bacon with the sweet date that was so great.
Looking for other easy appetizer recipes? Check out these Foie Gras Stuffed Dates I made last December from a recipe I found on epicurious.com. These are so fancy and special! Another super easy but really tasty recipe I would recommend for a party appetizer are these Prosciutto and Fontina Pinwheels which Jim requests over and over again.
If you have more time on your hands and want to impress with a more difficult appetizer, then read about these full flavored Pork Dumplings with Ginger Dipping Sauce. There is actually nothing difficult in the recipe, it's just a time consuming preparation that is well worth it in the end.