Regulars vow they’ll try something new every time they dine at Avec, but inevitably return to Koren Grieveson’s addictive dates.
Makes 24 dates, or six appetizer portions.
2 lbs Medjool dates
1 lb Spanish-style chorizo sausage
1 pkg (12 strips) good-quality bacon
2 jars piquillo peppers (most jars are around 7.6 ounces)
1 14.5-oz can good-quality tomatoes
Salt to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Using a paring knife, make a small slit in each of the dates, then push out the pit.
3. Fill each date with chorizo, but not so much that the meat is overflowing.
4. Slice the bacon strips in half crosswise to create two pieces out of each strip. Wrap each date with one of the half-slice segments of bacon. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes. Once the chorizo has cooked through (you can slice a date in half to test), crank up the temperature to broil and transfer the tray to the broiler for a couple of minutes to crisp up the bacon, keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn.
5. While the dates are baking, make the sauce. Add the peppers and the tomatoes together in a medium saucepan and cook slowly over medium-low heat for the entire time the dates bake. Season with salt to taste, then puree the sauce until almost smooth but still with some body; think thin salsa texture. (A handheld immersion blender works great, but a countertop blender is fine.)
6. Once the bacon is crispy, divide the sauce among six plates and top with four dates each.
• Unlike the tubes of Mexican stuff common in Chicago, Spanish-style chorizo contains smoked paprika. Grieveson says the easiest way to make your own is to blend a bit of smoked paprika into a basic fresh pork sausage, about 1 tablespoon per pound of meat. You can find pork sausage and smoked paprika at Fox & Obel (401 E Illinois St, 312-410-7301). Or you can buy Spanish chorizo at Cafe Iberico’s deli (739 N LaSalle Dr, 312-573-1510). Both spots sell piquillo peppers.
• Or sub in regular roasted red peppers —they’re half the price.
AT AVEC $9 per serving
AT HOME $7 per serving