For Christmas this year, Patrick and I decided to spend the day together. A good, long hike followed by a perfect home cooked meal. My next few posts will be the dinner (and dessert) Patrick and I made for Christmas 2012. You will also see some of the Jewish elements we worked into the meal. This recipe was our appetizer, and Patrick’s specific request since he loves bacon-wrapped dates and this was our slightly-healthier version of that, and because he loves the salty/sweet combination. Feel free to make these without the reduction to keep it simpler, and trust me, they will still be delicious. I made about 16 thinking there would be leftovers, but we ate them all!
Here’s what you will need:
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey (or agave, or maple syrup, or you can leave this out)
enough prosciutto and/or turkey bacon to wrap each date (keep in mind that each slice of prosciutto or turkey bacon will cover two dates. You could also do regular bacon for this recipe, but may have to adjust your cooking time since all the meats I used were fully cooked, and the bacon would be raw.)
4 tablespoons goat cheese
Here’s what you do:
Balsamic Reduction sauce:
1. Put the honey and balsamic vinegar in a saucepan and mix well. Then, cook over medium-low heat until the mixture is reduced (but don’t boil); about 5-7 minutes. Basically, you just want the mixture to steam until it is reduced down. You will end up with a sticky, thick mixture.
Wrapping and Stuffing the Dates:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. There are probably a lot of ways to get the goat cheese inside of the dates, but this method worked easily for me, so I went with it. First, I filled a turkey baster (with no needle) with about 2 tablespoons goat cheese at a time (and refilled as I went). If you don’t have a turkey baster, I think you could also put the goat cheese in a plastic baggy, snip the corner and use it like you would icing.
3. Next, I sliced each date in half. Now, if you are really talented and can get the goat cheese in there while the date is intact, more power to you. But, cutting the date in half made this process really easy and the dates still looked great. After you slice the date, use your turkey baster to generously fill one half of the date with goat cheese down the center cavern. Then, place the other half on top and you have a whole, filled date.
4. Wrapping the dates. This part is also really easy. Before getting started, make sure you have a baking pan ready to go, and sprayed with some cooking spray to avoid sticking. Now, if you are using prosciutto, simply slice it in half lengthwise. If you are doing turkey bacon, I found it was best to cut the turkey bacon slice in half crosswise (so you have two short, stubby halves instead of two long, skinny ones). Once you sliced your meat, take one of those halves, place the filled date near the end of the roll, pick up the end and roll it over the date, and then keep rolling. When the date is all rolled up, place the date seam=side down in the pan and go again.
5. Once you have wrapped all your dates (and you can easily make more or less than what I suggested), place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes. Then up the temperature to 400 degrees and cook another 5 minutes.
Putting it all together:
1. About one minute before the dates are done, turn your balsamic reduction on low heat to soften it up. Then, when you remove the dates from the oven, simply drizzle each one with a little reduction and serve.