Bon Appétit (May 2009)
We just love the idea of rumaki, the appetizer of water chestnuts and chicken livers soaked in soy sauce and wrapped in bacon.
They're wonderfully outdated and faux-exotic and mock-Asian. There's just something so kicky and 1963-Christmas-party-in-the-suburbs about them.
And we just love the notion of putting a new spin on rumaki! This recipe comes from Bon Appétit's May 2009 feature on "New American Classics," which offers updated versions of iconic dishes. There are twelve categories of dishes -- everything from the "new beef stew" (Zinfandel-Braised Beef Short Ribs with Rosemary-Parsnip Mashed Potatoes) to the "new mac and cheese" (Double-Dutch Mac and Cheese with Chard).
Anyway, when we decided to throw a small get-together last weekend, we decided these Asiago-Stuffed Dates with Bacon and Smoked Paprika would be a delicious accompaniment to our Arugula and Fava Bean Crostini.
Come on: Delicious dates, stuffed with cheese AND wrapped with bacon? Yes, please!
First off, though, it must be said that this dish barely resembles rumaki. The only ingredient they share is bacon. But the idea -- salty-sweet little bites -- translates really well.
And for something so intricate and impressive (pitted, stuffed, wrapped and sprinkled), these little nibbles actually come together very easy, especially if you get a good assembly line going. We swapped in Pecorino cheese, since we weren't able to find Asiago at the grocery store. (The recipe suggests either Pecorino or Manchego as substitutes).
These were a particularly excellent party dish because we were able to assemble them in the morning, and then pop them in the oven as guests arrived. We cooked ours slightly longer than the recommended time, because our bacon wasn't as browned as we wanted.
Incidentally, this recipe calls for smoked paprika, which is a really great spice to add to your cabinet. It's got a wonderful taste that's appreciably different from traditional paprika. The smoked version has a fuller, deeper, earthier flavor that's really terrific. We were actually introduced to it in our very first Bitten Word post, Pork Cheek and Black-Eyed Pea Chili. And we've used it since in dishes like Turkish Manti and Moroccan Chicken.
Anyway, once these rumaki come out of the oven, they make for savory and delicious appetizers: The gooey cheese and the sweet, warm dates get a crispy-spicy kick from the paprika-coated bacon.
All in all, it's a great update on a fun, classic hors d'oeuvre. So put on your best hostess dress, ladle out some sparkling rum punch to your guests, and pass around a tray of these great little bites.
* 12 Medjool dates
* 12 1 1/2x1/4x1/4-inch pieces Asiago, Manchego, or pecorino cheese
* 4 slices applewood-smoked bacon, each cut crosswise into 3 pieces
* Smoked paprika
Preheat oven to 425°F. Using small knife, make small cut in side of each date; remove pit. Insert 1 piece of cheese into each date. Brush bacon slices generously on 1 side with smoked paprika. Wrap each date with 1 piece of bacon, with paprika side against date. Secure bacon with toothpick. Arrange dates on rimmed baking sheet. Roast until bacon is browned on bottom, about 6 minutes. Turn dates; roast until bacon is cooked, about 6 minutes longer. Transfer to plate; cool slightly. Remove toothpicks.