Still looking for the perfect date for Valentine's Day? Why not settle on a bacon-wrapped date? They're tender, sweet, salty and rich. Here's a date that is guaranteed to make just about anybody happy.
For the carnivore, nothing can beat this appetizer in satisfying cravings of sweet, salty, fatty and bacon. You could wrap any kind of date with any old slice of cured pig belly and call it more than good, but giving your date a little extra care and attention will pay off big-time.
To make that tasty morsel extra-special, start with a plump Medjool. The "king of dates" is soft and moist and easy to pit. Select bacon that is uncured and preferably applewood smoked, not sliced so thick that the fat won't easily render, and not so thin as to be subtle. To give the date an added level of nutty creaminess, stuff it with a piece of Asiago cheese. While not an exciting cheese, Asiago's sharpness is assertive enough for the date and the bacon, and it becomes delightfully chewy when warmed.
Yes, Parmesan and Cabrales have more snob appeal, but the former gets grainy and the latter melts away completely by the time the bacon sizzles. (It's been tested!) A hint of piney herb in the form of a rosemary spear or two is a good addition with the cheese, but entirely optional. As for the finishing touch, a generous sprinkle of Pimenton de la Vera (Spanish smoked paprika) on the bacon gives the date a lovely spiced, smoke-on-smoke nuance -- an idea stolen from the over-the-top, chorizo-stuffed versions of this hors d'oeuvres being passed around. Stuffed, sprinkled, wrapped and roasted, this date will give you a little bit of bliss.
Asiago-stuffed Medool dates with bacon and smoked paprika
From: Jeanne Kelley
Note: If you prepare the dates on a flexible chopping mat, cleanup is easy. You can roast the dates off in batches.
12 medium medool dates
12 1/4 by 1/4 by 1 1/2-inch-thick slices of Asiago cheese
fresh rosemary (optional)
4 slices apple wood smoked bacon
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1. Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 425ºF. Using a small sharp knife, make a small cut in the side of the date and remove pit. Open the date slightly. Place a rosemary leaf inside the cavity if desired and top with a piece of cheese. Press the date together to enclose the cheese and rosemary.
2. Cut each bacon slice into thirds. Sprinkle bacon generously with smoked paprika. Roll bacon around each date, paprika side in, and secure with a toothpick. Transfer the dates to a small, rimmed baking pan or skillet. Roast the dates the in oven until browned on bottom about 6 minutes, turn and continue roasting until the bacon is cooked, about 6 minutes longer. Transfer the dates to a plate. Cool slightly, remove toothpicks and serve.
Jeanne Kelley is a Los Angeles cook and cookbook author, who also writes at Jeanne Kelley Kitchen. Or follow her on her Tumblr.