Angels on Horseback
Have you ever heard of angels on horseback? Hank Shaw shares his recipe for this classic appetizer. ~Elise
I first encountered this dish when I moved to Long Island in the late 1980s. It was at a wedding I attended with my girlfriend DeDee, and it was one of those classic Long Island weddings, with all the glass clinking to make the couple kiss at awkward moments, a thicket of big hair, and so much Billy Joel music I had to listen to the Dead Kennedys for a week afterward to recover. I had a blast, but what I remembered most was this odd appetizer of an oyster, wrapped in bacon and squirted with lemon juice. I asked the waiter what it was called and he said, “It’s an angel on horseback,” as if I was a moron for not knowing.
I later learned that angels on horseback – also done with scallops and sometimes called “devils on horseback” – was a de rigeur Long Island party food at the time. I can tell you that even now it remains an awesomely tasty dish: Briny, minerally oysters just barely cooked, surrounded by smoky bacon and lightened with the zing of fresh lemon juice; I later switched to lime juice, because I like it even better.
Make a lot of these, especially if you can find small oysters, like the Olympias of Washington state. Basically you want oysters of a size that you’d eat raw – this is supposed to be a one-bite dish, after all. I’ve used pre-shucked oysters for this many times, too, so just look for the small ones.
I’ve never seen a crowd eat fewer than 3 per person of these, and 4 per person is pretty safe. Personally, I’ve put away a baker’s dozen before, which, I think, either makes me a bona fide angel… or just a glutton.
Canned shucked oysters can be found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and work well in this recipe.
- 16-32 small oysters (or scallops), or larger ones cut in half, shucked
- 8-16 slices of thin-cut bacon
- 16-32 wooden toothpicks
- 3-4 limes or lemons
1 Working in batches if necessary, cook the bacon slices on medium low heat in a large frying pan, until only about halfway cooked, but not crispy. You need to pre-cook the bacon a bit or else when you cook them with the oysters the oysters will be overcooked by the time the bacon is crispy. Set the bacon aside to cool.
2 Get a grill or broiler good and hot while you wrap the oysters.
3 To make an angel on horseback, you wrap 1/2 a piece of bacon around the small oyster and secure it with the toothpick. Overlap the edges of the bacon by about an inch if you can.
4 Grill or broil over high heat to cook the oyster and crisp the bacon, about 5-6 minutes on the first side, another 2-4 once you turn them over. You will need to turn them once or twice to get a good crispiness on all sides.
5 As soon as they come off the heat, squirt with the lemon or lime juice and serve hot.