I don’t have a lot of memories concerning appetizers growing up. There’s the frozen mass-produced shrimp cocktails my parents would splurge for if it was a good week. Those came three to a package, and my sister and I would get to share the spare one. Unfortunately, my sister and I were allergic to them, so that didn’t happen often. Weddings in the family had cake-and-punch receptions, and if we were lucky, strawberries. There weren’t a lot of cocktail parties that I remember, mostly sit-down dinners that were family occasions.
During the holidays, there were times when mixed nuts, dip and chips, or crudité platters to keep the ravening hordes out of the kitchen until the meal was finished, but nothing that was along the lines of hors-d'oeuvres.
When I started my own household in college, there were more parties. At first, the general potluck was the norm, though not all of them had traditional hot dishes. Part of this was due to my involvement in the Society for Creative Anachronism, and test-cooking ancient recipes. But the idea of having little bites at parties was also influenced by not having enough table-space to seat more than four people at a time.
At first, I was influenced by the freezer case at the local warehouse store, eventually branching out to my cookbooks. There were some adventures along the way (I’ll tell you the Green Eggs and Ham story later) before I got to the point of trying some of the more involved and traditional hors-d'oeuvres.
At first, Devils on Horseback held no appeal for me at all. My introduction to it was through the cooking show Two Fat Ladies. The hosts, Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright, were absolutely delightful to watch, and if you can catch an episode or three, I heartily encourage it. However, their version of Devils on Horseback centered on chicken livers. Not one of my favorite things, not by a long shot. So I avoided that particular tidbit for a long time.
Last year, I happened upon the variations with almonds or chutney in the center of the prune or date. Now, I haven’t tried making chutney, Indian or English, yet. I’ll get there eventually, I think. But the almonds and dates, - that is something I could get behind, and bacon made it even better.
Devils on Horseback
Prep 30 m Cook 15 m Ready In 1 h
20 wooden toothpicks
20 dates, pitted and left whole
20 whole smoked almonds
10 bacon slices, cut in half crosswise
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Soak the toothpicks in a bowl of water. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.
Spread open a pitted date, then stuff it with a smoked almond. Wrap the date with half a bacon slice, secure it with a toothpick. Place the wrapped dates into the prepared baking dish.
Bake in the preheated oven until the bacon is brown and crisp, 15 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving; serve warm or at room temperature with ginger honey soy dipping sauce.
Tip: If you have assistant, an extra pair of hands makes this recipe much easier to make. One of you putting the almond in the date, and the other wrapping the date in the bacon streamlines the process immensely.
Ginger Honey Soy Dipping Sauce
¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
½ cup honey
½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.
Yes, it is that easy.