Mike's Recipe for March 2012 - Devils...
While in San Francisco a couple weeks ago, we had the pleasure of enjoying a strange treat at Magnolia Brewpub. They called them Devils on Horseback and we liked them so much that I decided to try to do them as my March New Recipe. Most of the ingredients were pretty obvious (bacon, dates, and goat cheese), but that gastrique tripped Heather up prior to shopping. We had never made one before nor really given it much thought.
She knew that the one at Magnolia had beer in it, so she set out on the research mission with a simple google search for 'beer gastrique'. Hilariously, she stumbled on this page. Scroll down a bit and you see a recipe for exactly what we had at Magnolia! They even call them Devils on Horseback! Coincidentally, while the recipe wasn't sourced to Magnolia, it pointed at another so-called gastropub in San Francisco, The Monk's Kettle. We'll have to try it out next time we are in town!
There is a Wikipedia article for Devils on Horseback which sheds a little light on the source of this dish. Apparently it's a variation on a dish called Angels on Horseback that subs out a bacon-wrapped oyster for bacon-wrapped dried fruit. It cites prunes as the traditional fruit, but both the Monk's Kettle recipe and what we had at Magnolia featured dates.
The ingredients really are simple (including those for the gastrique). The main dish is just dates, goat cheese, and bacon. I did decide to cut the goat cheese with some cream cheese though. This is something we do with a lot of goat cheese dishes. It makes it more appealing for people who aren't into really pungent cheeses. The gastrique just involved sugar, lemon zest, and beer. I decided to use a bottle of Erie Brewing Railbender Ale we had in the fridge. It's a malty scotch ale that I thought would work with the sweet sauce.
Probably the strangest part of the cooking process was being tasked with blanching the bacon in simmering water for 30 seconds. I was ready to just skip that step but Heather told me that it may help remove some of the fat and moisture from the bacon. This could help it get nice and crispy around the date, so I went for it. I put a bunch of water into our biggest saucepan and dunked all 12 slices of bacon in. By the time I had gotten them all in and out again, some had surely been in for longer than 30 seconds, but it didn't seem like a problem. It made the whole house smell like breakfast.
The only stressful part of this meal was the gastrique. Three tablespoons of sugar went into an otherwise empty saucepan to melt. I've seen and heard so many horror stories about burning caramel to the point of destroying pans, so I made sure I was constantly swirling the sugar around. Over medium heat it actually took quite a while for the sugar to melt down. I did let myself multitask a bit here by pitting the dates while I kept a watchful eye on the sauce.
The recipe said to add the beer to the sugar as soon as it was a golden brown color. For me, this ended up being as soon as I didn't see any unmelted granules anymore. It was exciting to dump the beer in! It frothed up immediately to a huge pillow and smelled absolutely amazing! At that point I just let it reduce down and then the sauce was complete.
Stuffing the dates was messy but fun. There's nothing wrong with getting cheese all over your hands. Wrapping them in the blanched bacon was easy and the toothpicks held them together nicely. They all went on to a grill pan before being put in a 350 degree oven.
With Heather's guidance, we ended up leaving them in the oven significantly longer than the recipe called for. We wanted to get the bacon to the point of crispiness we were looking for. This involved a watchful eye as well as flipping them all once. They came out pretty great.
Again thanks to a Heather suggestion, we made a complete meal out of them by serving them over a simple salad. It all came out pretty great but I think I over-reduced the gastrique a bit. It was thicker than it probably should have been. If there was one thing we would change about this recipe, it would be to add a bit of acid to the mix. Heather threw together a quick vinaigrette to try and it did improve things. These things are surprisingly filling! We made quite a few just for the two of us and kept some for the next day.
You just read one of Upstate Crumbs' monthly New Recipe posts. Every month, Mike and Heather will each make a post about a new recipe. For Mike, it will usually be an adventure in trying to learn to cook. For Heather, she'll pick something that is outside of her comfort zone in some way.
Mike on March 31, 2012 at 5:15pm EDT