Monday, February 4, 2013

Ingredient 5 – Dates

I selected dates for this week so I could make bacon wrapped dates for the Superbowl.  Honestly, I really don't give two hoots about the Superbowl or professional football.  But, the Superbowl has become a food event in American culture and I never turn down an opportunity to make an appetizer.

Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree.  They have been cultivated for thousands of years, originally in and around Iraq.  The date fruit is oval shaped and ranges from bright red to bright yellow when ripe.  There are three main types of dates: soft (e.g. Medjool), semi-dry, and dry.  Dates have a cylindrical pit, but you can buy them pitted.  Dried should be stored in an airtight container in a cool dry place (up to 6 months) or the refrigerator (up to a year).

When searching Google for instructions on how to prepare the dates, I came across recipes with a range of cooking temperatures, 350 to 450 degrees.  I decided to go with 400 degrees.
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Bacon Wrapped Dates   
3/4 lb thin sliced bacon
1 8oz package pitted dates
Blue cheese or almonds for stuffing - optional

Begin by pre-heating the oven and lining a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Before assembling, pre-slice some cheese so you don't risk food contamination with your bacon covered hands.  If you are stuffing the dates, you will need to open them up by sticking your finger in the end of the date.  They open easily. 
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I saw varying directions on how to prepare the bacon for wrapping.  But most of the recipes suggested cutting the bacon in half lengthwise.  I tried a few different wrapping styles in an attempt to see which worked best.  Some dates got more bacon wrapped around them then others.   
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After I prepared the dates, I put the baking sheet in the oven (oven rack set to middle position) and set a timer for 10 minutes.

When I came back 10 minutes later, everything started to fall apart quickly.  I checked the dates and decided they needed another minute or two before turning.  However, I never got the chance to turn them.  About 1 minute after I closed the oven door, the delicious bacon smell that was filling my kitchen turned to a burning smell.  I called Dave into the kitchen to consult.  A few seconds after he arrived, we discovered why the smell changed when I looked through the oven door to see a small grease fire.  Needless to say, I freaked out a bit and demanded that Dave fix the problem.  He extinguished the fire with baking powder, what a resourceful chemist.  Once the fire was out, we went about airing out the kitchen.

Not one to give up on a project, I decided to secure the dates with toothpicks and finish the dates stove top in a large sauté pan.  Dave removed the pan from the oven before extinguishing the fire.  It took about 5 to 10 minutes to finish the dates this way.  Even half cooked, the bacon dripped so much grease.  I had to drain the fat halfway through.  Once the bacon appeared done, I removed the dates from the pan and let them cool for 10 minutes on a paper towel lined plate.
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Dave and I ate a few of the dates and they were okay, but not great.  The bacon I purchased was too thick.  I thought it looked a bit thick when I was at the meat counter, but figured things would be ok.  Next time, I will listen to my gut feelings.

The most important lesson from the night, use the right tool for the job.  If I would have used a baking dish or a proper baking sheet, not a cookie sheet, I wouldn’t have started a grease fire in my oven.  Let my stupidity serve as a fire safety reminder to all.  Do you know where your fire extinguisher is?  Mine is under my sink.  Grease fires can be extinguished by smothering them with a pot lid, a fire extinguisher, or with baking soda.  Never pour water on a grease fire.

Overall grade: C-.  Do not let my mistakes dissuade you from making bacon wrapped dates.  I will be making them later this week and documenting the results.  I will not be bested by my own stupidity.

1 comment:

  1. Who knew making bacon-wrapped dates would be so exciting? :)