This is ironic, to say the least.
Here I am, the girl who refused to eat any form of pork up until a few months ago, officially pushing the publish button on the first ever non-vegetarian recipe on the blog which includes BACON. Not only that, but it combines bacon with dates, which I now realize is not a new thing to many people, but which I wouldn't have ever even considered doing - not in a million years. I don't know what happened to former me, but clearly something's changed.
A few weeks ago I asked everyone on Facebook what kinds of recipes they wanted to see more of on the blog, and almost everyone who pitched in with an idea wanted one thing - appetizers. That sort of threw me for a loop, because as much as I might have a million ideas for desserts and baked goodies, and a new but growing list of savory recipe ideas, appetizers have never crossed my mind when it comes to recipe brainstorming. Whoops.
But then, I got the sweetest message from a reader telling me about one of her favorite appetizer recipes that's always a huge hit with her guests, and that's how these bacon-wrapped dates came to be. I talked myself into it, went out and bought literally the first package of bacon I've ever bought, and made something I'd never thought I'd make. And guess what? It was totally different and crazily good and my bacon-averse family ate it up. #winning
These are a cinch to make and they can easily be prepped a few hours ahead of time, which makes them perfect appetizer food (especially since I was specifically asked for easy appetizer recipes). The dates are first stuffed with cheese - I used mozzarella for a more subtle flavor but you could also go with something bolder - and then wrapped in half slices of bacon. They're rolled in brown sugar, and when they bake, the cheese melts, the dates turn soft and tender, and the bacon on the outside gets crispy and a little bit caramelized, creating a smoky-sweet flavor that's intensified by the rich sweetness of the dates. A simple balsamic reduction - at once sweet, tangy, and deeply fruity - cuts through the taste of the more cloyingly sweet dates and creates an explosion of contrasting flavors. It's unlike anything I'd ever tried before, and in it's complexity it's oddly good.
I feel like you can dress this recipe up or down because, on the one hand, it's really easy and bacon plays a big role, but on the other hand, it's unique and the balsamic reduction elevates it to something a little more fancy. Since these don't really take much planning-ahead to make and only require a few ingredients, they would be an awesome add-on to game-day menus (hello Superbowl Sunday!), but they'd also be a big hit at dinner parties and what not. Heck, you can even make them for yourself. You're worth it!
Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Balsamic Reduction
Crispy, smoky bacon caramelized with brown sugar and wrapped around hot, sweet, and tender cheese-stuffed dates creates an easy and unique appetizer. Serve with balsamic reduction for a tangy addition!
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 12 bacon-wrapped dates 1x
- 12 medjool dates
- 6 strips of bacon, cut into halves (I used Applewood Smoked Bacon)
- 3 ounces fresh mozzarella (or other cheese of choice)*
- 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 10 ounces (1 cup) good-quality balsamic vinegar
- Preheat oven to 425ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Slice date in half without separating halves completely and remove pit. Press ¼ ounce of cheese into the center of date. Close date and wrap tightly with a half slice of bacon. Roll in brown sugar. Place on the prepared baking sheet with bacon seam-side down and secure with a toothpick if desired. Repeat with remaining dates.**
- Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, and then flip dates, carefully pressing any loose melted cheese back into the dates as best as possible. Bake another 10-12 minutes, until bacon is crisped all around. Cool slightly and serve with balsamic reduction.
- In a small saucepan, bring balsamic vinegar to a low boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and simmer until the vinegar has reduced to about ¼-1/2 of the original amount, or until as thick as desired (Reduce more for drizzling and less for dipping). For me, this took about 25 minutes, although times will vary based on stove differences.
- Allow to cool briefly before serving. Serve balsamic reduction in a bowl for dipping or drizzle on dates just before serving. A spoon or a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip can be used for drizzling.
*If using mozzarella, choose one that has a good flavor, because some mozzarellas are very mild. A smoked mozzarella would probably work really well here!
**At this point, the dates can be covered and refrigerated for a few hours (up to one day) before baking if desired.