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Today: Kristen gets ready for game day -- and stretches the definition of genius in the name of deliciousness.
Back in the good old days -- when hair was feathered and foods were fused -- we wrapped a lot of bacon around a lot of things.
The classic Rumaki involved duck or chicken liver. Devils on Horseback: boozy prunes. There were scallops in snug bacon belts. Items were soaked in soy, or simmered in sweet chili sauce, before being engirded by pork. And then there's Food52's own Texan twist with roasted Hatch chiles, Devils on Hatchback.
If you have been to a cocktail party in the past 40 years, you've popped a few of these in your mouth.
Ready for it? It's bacon strips, halved, painted with Dijon, sprinkled with brown sugar, stuffed with water chestnuts, skewered, and roasted crisp. Optionally dragged through chutney.
I have been making them for parties ever since my parents learned my little fingers could roll them, and I recommend putting children and other kitchen assistants of limited abilities to work in this capacity.
Why are they genius? Well, they're delicious. There is always a fight over them, and never one left behind. It's four ingredients (not counting the chutney) and -- like some of the most genius recipes we've seen -- you don't really need a recipe to remember them. There aren't even amounts listed.
They're a peculiar blend of high and low cuisine (Do you have any Grey Poupon? I need to put it on my bacon) and one of the more sensible examples of early fusion food. They manage to rope in French Dijon, Chinese water chestnuts, and Indian chutney, and seem to have been part of a trend called Mock Polynesian.
In other words, they're American, to the hilt. Are you ready for some football yet?
There are few party snacks that feel more dated, but you won't see me trying to revive Jell-O salad or the sandwich loaf. This one holds up, like a fine pig in a blanket. And, really, old is the new new: these babies foretold both our recent tastes for salty with sweet and the bacon explosion (and The Bacon Explosion).
The generic-sounding chutney pairing is the part that made my bosses cringe -- maybe you will too. But you can go without, or make your own chutney, or use your favorite artisanal brand. Or just remember that you're dipping a ball of bacon in it, get some Major Grey's, and not worry too much about it.
But I'm not giving you the alternate microwave instructions. I've got standards.
Recipe adapted very slightly from The Elegant Hors d'Oeuvre by Margon Edney and Ede Grimm (Tofua Press, 1977)
Serves a crowd
Bacon, 1/2 slice for each water chestnut
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
Photos by James Ransom
More retro game day snacks: