When you’re roasting a duck, you’re we smells awesome, long before the duck will actually be ready to eat. So you need to make a delicious appetizer to hold yourself over until the duck is ready.
1. Render it: lay out some bacon on a cooling rack set in a baking sheet. Bake them at 300 for about twenty minutes or so. It’s a low temp, but I have only one oven and the duck needs to be at that temp. And when it comes to bacon in this dish, you want the kind that comes from the butcher counter and not from a plastic vacuum seal bag.
Each slice is enough for two dates. You want to render some of the fat, but you don’t want to make the bacon crispy, otherwise, it won’t wrap.
2. Slice it: take a date and slice it open. You’ll be putting a little bit of blue cheese inside. I had originally started out wanting to stuff figs, but none of the figs at the grocery store looked quite right for what I wanted to do. So, we had medjool dates. And for blue cheese, we had some maytag blue cheese. Not only do I consider it to be one of the most delicious kinds of moldy cheeses you can buy, it is an Iowan product. And I like Iowan products.
Take a paring knife and cut the date halfway through from pole to pole. Remove the pit inside. One of the dates I had did not have a pit, which confused me. I ate it anyway.
3. Stuff it: With the paring knife, cut a sliver of blue cheese off the block and slide it into the date. Don’t be afraid to overstuff. This is where having a block of blue cheese makes assembly much easier than if you had, say, blue cheese crumbles.
4. Wrap it: take half a slice of the rendered bacon and wrap it around the filled date. Use a toothpick to hold it all together. Next time, I may skip the toothpick and deep fry the thing, like a mini chile relleno, of sorts.
5. Bake it: another twenty to thirty minutes at 300 degrees and you will be ready for snack time. A higher temp would be nice, but it has to share oven space with the duck, so 300 it is.
When they came out of the oven, the bacon was a little less crispy than I would have liked. But overall, these were quite nice. I made the mistake of telling my pregnant and stinky-cheese obsessed wife that these were easy to make. And then I quickly added, “I mean, they’re easy, but you know, time consuming and tedious.”
But I don’t think it worked. I think I will have to make these on a near daily basis from now until the baby comes. Not that that’s a bad thing.
Dates, and especially bacon wrapped blue cheese dates, are one of those things that, whenever my wife and I have them at a restaurant, we wonder why we don’t have them all the time at home. Dates themselves are quite delicious, and they’re fantastic with the bacon and blue cheese.
I think the next time, I will try figs, however. The fig would stand up to the other flavors a little bit better, I think. They have a plum-ish-ness that rounds out the salty/sweet thing a little better. And they have a different texture that is a pleasant contrast to the cheese.
Dates are less sweet, or rather, they are like honey-sweet or like a sweet that you might find in an old fashioned dessert that only our grandparents seem to appreciate. At times, the dates were mushy and got lost. Other times, like when I didn’t put in quite enough blue cheese, it all tasted a little muddled and monotone.
But for most of time, you got a surprisingly nuanced chord of flavors that would resonate long after the bite itself was gone.