I took myself out to dinner recently while I was in Chicago. It was early, and I was the only one there at first — which was a good thing, because if anyone has been watching I probably would have made a fool of myself. I completely lost it over an order of chorizo-stuffed-bacon-wrapped dates. The perfect combination of smoky, salty and sweet, all on one plate (and blissfully mine-all-mine!). Naturally, I finished every bite. The world can't live without these, so I'm copying the spectacular dish here for you, but adding cheese to the mix because we all know we deserve it.
Serve these at holiday parties, summer pot lucks and everything in between. And if pre-planning is your game, then I'm happy to note that these can be made up to 3 days in advance and then popped in the oven just as your guests arrive. Or do as I've done and stick them in your freezer until the time's right. Come Christmas Eve I may be frantically finishing up the wrapping and my traditional beef Wellington, but at least the appetizers are ready to go.
How to make cheese-and-chorizo stuffed dates
Adapted from Avec Restaurant in Chicago
Makes 16 appetizers
- 16 Medjool dates, pitted
- 8 ounces fresh, ground chorizo sausage
- 8 pieces of bacon, halved crosswise
- About 2 ounces cheese such as manchego, Parmesan, pecorino or fontina, cut into ¼" x 1" strips (doesn't have to be exact)
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Open up the dates wide without splitting them in half.
- Form about a half tablespoon of chorizo into a ball, then flatten it slightly. Tuck in a piece of cheese into the chorizo, shaping the meat to completely surround the cheese. Place this in the center of the date and press the date into shape so it hugs the meat. The date won't close anymore, but it's better that way.
- Wrap a piece of bacon around the date, then put on a baking sheet or in an oven-proof cast-iron skillet.
- Once all the dates have been stuffed, bake for 15 minutes before turning the oven up to 400 F. Then bake for 10 minutes more. If the bacon is still not crisp, turn on the broiler for a few minutes until you see some action. (But watch carefully - these can burn fast!)
Definitely serve these dates while warm. They can be prepared up to three days in advance or frozen for up to 1 month, then baked when you're ready to serve 'em.