On our last night in Puerto Rico last year (about a year ago, before the hurricane devastated the island) we decided to do our own version of a progressive dinner and try a few restaurants we hadn’t visited yet. The first, which totally makes sense for an appetizer course, was a tapas restaurant where we got three different things. My favorite was the bacon wrapped dates. Sweet and salty is just such a perfect combination and dates are naturally sweet, like nature’s candy.
So when Appetizer Night came around during hunting season, I decided to try my hand at making some. I couldn’t find Medjool dates the first time but found some dried dates and chose blue cheese to stuff them with (in Puerto Rico we had valdeon cheese) because I love blue cheese and it seemed relatively common in recipes. I think it gives it the right level of ‘funk’ to balance out the sweet dates and salty bacon without too much richness. They were fantastic! So then I decided to make them again for Christmas, to bring them over to our friends’ for their annual Christmas Open House. I couldn’t find the same kind of dates I found before at Costco, but this time they had Medjool dates. The biggest difference I noticed is the Medjool dates were a lot bigger and a little bit naturally sweeter. Bottom line, use what you can find.
Here’s what you need:
You can also brush with some maple syrup in the last few minutes if you want, I forgot to get it for the picture.
If you are using dates that haven’t been pitted, that’s where you’re going to have to start. Carefully cut a slit down the side of the date without going all the way through. Then use the point of your knife to flip the pit up and pull it out with your fingers.
Here’s a trick I tried on the second time. Par cook your bacon, so it starts to render a little fat but is still pliable. This will allow the bacon to cook quicker when it’s wrapped around the dates which ultimately lets less cheese melt and sneak out. It’s not required, but I thought the results were slightly better this way. The bacon will still be pliable but it’s not nearly as stretchy as when it’s completely raw, so you’ll need to focus on cutting the strips to the size you need to wrap around the date.
Lay out the bacon on a sheet of parchment (you could use a rack too,) and pop it into a cold oven. Turn the oven to 400 degrees and cook until the bacon is parcooked like this, about 7-10 minutes. Watch it though how quick it cooks will depend on how quickly your oven preheats.
Now it’s time to stuff your dates with blue cheese. It’s hard to say exactly how much you’ll need since it’s very dependent on the size of the dates you’re using. I got between 1-2 t in the Medjool dates. I crumbled the blue cheese from a chunk with a fork. Push in enough blue cheese to fill the cavity in the date but not so much that you can’t pinch it mostly closed.
Cut the bacon pieces in half or thirds, depending on the size of your dates. Wrap a piece of bacon around the date and secure with a toothpick.
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. The amount of dates you can stuff will depend on how much bacon you have.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes. Brush with maple syrup (optional, since I’m nice I made some without maple syrup for Tory, since she doesn’t like it).
Return to the oven for 5 minutes until the bacon is cooked (how crisp you get it is optional) and the cheese is starting to sneak out.
Some of that melted cheese will stay with the dates when you take it off the baking sheet – the little caramelization the blue cheese gets is phenomenal.
These are tasty even at room temperature, which makes them great to leave out at a party, during a game, or any time you want to graze on tasty appetizers.
- 26 Medjool dates, approximately
- 12 oz package of bacon
- Blue cheese, about a cup crumbled
- Maple syrup
- Carefully pit the dates by making a slit the long way through one side of the date. Use the tip of your knife to pry the pit up and remove with your fingers.
- Layout back on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in a cool oven and turn on to 400 degrees. Cook about 7 to 10 minutes until bacon starts to render fat but doesn’t turn crispy, this will vary based on your specific oven.
- Stuff dates with 1-2 teaspoons of blue cheese. Press the edges of the dates together around the blue cheese.
- Cut the bacon into strips long enough to wrap around a date. Wrap bacon around the dates and secure with a toothpick.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Place stuffed and wrapped dates onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with maple syrup. Bake for another 5 minutes.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.