Devils on Horseback – fabulous party food, and here’s why…

Bacon wrapped shrimp

Subtitle this one: Everyone Loves Bacon.

I started making this appetizer several years ago, and it’s always a hit. And simple! And versatile! Mostly, delicious!! Always, GONE!

Here we go…

Devils on Horseback are made of a dried plum (prune), stuffed with an almond, or stuffed with bleu cheese (or Stilton) – and wrapped with bacon. Secured with a toothpick, and baked at about 500 degrees for about 15 minutes.

This delicious party food is perfect in so many ways. Bacon goes SO well with beer, or any other libations you may be serving. The sweetness of the prune, the creamy sharpness of the cheese, wrapped in a delectable crisp, smoky, salty bacon. Piping hot and perfect.

You may have had a similar appetizer at a party or wedding, called “Rumaki” which is duck liver or chicken liver, and a water chestnut, wrapped in bacon. When I was a kid, I’d steal these appetizers, eat the water chestnut and bacon and give the liver to my dog. I’d do the same thing today. I know Henry likes liver a lot more than I do.

When I discovered Devils on Horseback, I was thrilled! I wouldn’t need to dissect the food to remove anything objectionable! And then I discovered how many variations there are on this recipe!!! And I’m all about variations!

I made these last year for Christmas for my extended family, and some of them have nut allergies, so I did the dates stuffed with bleu cheese, wrapped in bacon for half, and almonds for the other half. For my husbands birthday I did the prunes stuffed with Stilton and wrapped in bacon. For a late summer BBQ, I made goat cheese stuffed figs, wrapped in bacon.

Let’s talk turkey. Or bacon, for that matter. Bacon is delectable. I don’t care what you say about it, it’s magic. I have a collard greens and bacon recipe that is to die for, and bacon is a secret ingredient in so many of my favorite recipes for a good reason. The flavor of bacon is unmistakable, and unequalled. Can you use Turkey bacon? I’d say its a safe bet that you could, I’ve not done it, but I think in these particular recipes it’s worth a shot. Personally, I am a bacon snob. My very favorite bacons are those that are nitrite and nitrate free, uncured, maple glazed, applewood smoked, non GMO fed, sustainably and humanely raised. Tall order. Yes. But I really love bacon. If you’ve watched the United States of Bacon on cable, you’d understand.

My go to bacon is of course, Vermont Smoke and Cure bacon. It is number one, hands down, the best bacon I’ve ever had. The 5 Knives variety is a bit pricey, but they are VT raised free range, vegetarian fed pigs, and the smoking process is phenomenal. The second tier bacon is amazing as well as their third tier original bacon. They use VT maple syrup, and a blend of spices, and it’s just incredible. Whole Foods carries it, depending on where you live, and it is also available via mail order. I also love Niman Ranch bacon, and when Whole Foods has a sale, I’ll stock up. If you’re budget conscious, then Trader Joe’s Applewood Smoked Uncured bacon can NOT be beat. $3.99 a package, and so incredibly delectable! You can thank me for that advice some other time.

The bacon DOES make a difference. That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact. Ok, it’s an opinion, but it’s also a fact…

Here are some amazing varieties you should be sure to try:

  • Bacon wrapped scallops
  • Bacon wrapped chicken breast & water chestnut Rumaki
  • Bacon wrapped ‘taters’
  • Bacon wrapped figs stuffed with goat cheese
  • Bacon wrapped mini franks
  • Bacon wrapped Brie stuffed apricots
  • Bacon wrapped shrimp
  • Bacon wrapped stuffed Manzanilla olives
  • Bacon wrapped cream cheese stuffed Jalapeños

The basic method. Tried and true.

Par-cook the bacon. For each of these appetizers, the bacon needs to be cut in half, so do that right out of the package, using a good sharp knife! Par-cooking means you’re partially cooking something. Get it? You want the wiggles to start coming out of that bacon, so cook it just until it begins to curl up a bit, and lose the opaque whiteness of the fat. Work in batches, never overcrowd your pan. Remove from the pan onto paper towel lined plate. Allow to cool.

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Certain stuffings, need pre-cooking, and others don’t. In general, the chicken breast should be cooked first. I use a good lean chicken breast, pounded down to scallopini thickness. Of course, you can marinate the chicken if you’d like to incorporate some additional flavors. If you’re making chicken and water chestnut wrapped in bacon, a likely marinade would be teriyaki, or sesame and ginger, maybe a wasabi & tamari. Marinate your chicken after pounding, for at least 3 hours. A quick searing in a cast iron pan, and allow the chicken to cool down before cutting into small bite size pieces. If you’re not a fan of water chestnuts, try canned or fresh pineapple chunks for a sweet and savory Polynesian flair! Put the water chestnut or the pineapple on top of each chicken bite, and wrap with the half slice of par cooked bacon, secure with toothpicks and place on a cookie sheet – it goes without saying that the toothpicks should be WOOD, and NOT plastic!!!! Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes, or just until the bacon is crisp.

For most of the fruit filling varieties there is no pre-cooking of the fillings involved, but always par-cook the bacon. Cooking can be done on your grill as well, or in a throwaway foil pan on your grill, or a cast iron pan on your grill. I have a Holland Grill, which is essentially an outdoor oven, so I cook outdoors from May through September. I’m hormonal, I refuse to cook indoors when it gets hot.

There is some additional variety which I’d like to talk about, and that is soaking the fruits. In what? Liquor is a good start… let’s chat. My favorite soaking liquor has to be brandy, in all of it’s glorious varieties. A good cognac has little competition if you ask me.  The prunes, the apricots, the dates, the figs, could all benefit from a few hours in a spa-like bath of black tea and cognac. Room temperature tea, nearly any variety works here, black, english breakfast, assam, golden monkey- whatever you have. One cup of tea and about 3 Tbs. of Cognac, Brandy, or Armagnac – and allow to soak several hours or overnight until the fruits are plumped. Remove from the liquid and dry on paper towels. for another hour or so. You can press down on them to remove as much liquid as possible.

Stuffing the fruits:

Cheese. Ahh. Choose your cheese. Feta, cheddar, stilton, bleu, gorgonzola, roquefort, brie, gouda, swiss, cream cheese, whatever you like. Make a nice pairing with the fruit you’ve chosen, and stuff the fruit with a small amount of cheese. Do NOT overstuff. It will be messy and counterproductive. You want just enough cheese, you don’t want to overdo it. The apricots and figs require you to cut a little hollow slit out of the top center with a small paring knife, and stuff the cheese inside. The pitted prunes and dates have a hole already where there pits used to be, just stuff the cheese down inside. Then continue to wrap them with a half slice of par-cooked bacon, and secure with a toothpick. Bake at 500 degrees for 8-10 minutes just until the bacon appears done.

A great cheat, are those pre stuffed olives you find in Trader Joe or Whole Foods, the ones stuffed with Garlic or Bleu Cheese or almonds. Just remove from the brine, allow them to dry, and proceed as above, wrapping in bacon and baking.

Mini franks are another favorite, although reserved for a more informal party or BBQ, or perhaps a Superbowl party. Very easy to cut regular dogs into bite size pieces and proceed as above. 500 degrees for about 10 minutes. Always keep an eye to make sure your bacon is not burning. And as I said, this works great on the grill too. Especially this variety.

Sauces

One of the most fun and creative things to make are dipping sauces. Really? You’re scratching your head… You hadn’t really thought about that, since the grocery shelves are full of pre made dipping sauces. No need. You have everything you need in your house already to make fantastic dipping sauces. Take my advice, if you’re making more than one, label them on the table, to save yourself from repeating, “This one is a curry mustard, this is a chipotle ketchup, and this one is a roasted garlic mayo” ninety times all night long.

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Let your creativity shine here. Try a maple mustard with sprinkling of cumin, try a curried orange marmalade. Try an herbed mayo, or a spiced ketchup. Trial and error, creative thinking, and you’ve got yourself some original awesome-sauce. Don’t let me down!

I hope you’ll try some of these ideas, and let me know how they turn out!  Or just invite me to your next party.

2 thoughts on “Devils on Horseback – fabulous party food, and here’s why…

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