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.

Angels on Horseback Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4.

Canned shucked oysters can be found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and work well in this recipe.

Yum

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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.

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Links:

Wikipedia entry on Angels on Horseback
Devils on horseback - bacon-wrapped, stuffed prunes from The Greasy Spoon

angels-on-horseback-b.jpg

Showing 4 of 38 Comments

  • Teacher Amber

    I did some student teaching in South Africa, and while I was there, my host family threw a big party for their graduating son. They served “devils on horseback,” which was bacon-wrapped dates. Delicious!

  • jeanette

    I love bacon wrapped scallops! Anything wrapped in bacon is gooooood! For get togethers, I have done bacon wrapped shrimps on skewers.

  • beckback

    The popular thing in my family is bacon wrapped water chestnuts, it’s a must at all family gatherings! There is something about that yummy smoky salty bacon and the crunchy water chestnuts that just goes soooo perfect together!
    My husbands late grandmother started the tradition and I have picked it up and carried it on.

  • KissTheChef

    Love these. If you use the “ready to eat” bacon that is cooked, but just needs a minute in the microwave to get crispy, the oyster stays in better shape and doesn’t get chewy. It’s also easier to find than the thinly sliced bacon.

    I use the “pre-cooked” bacon to wrap shrimp, oysters, scallops, dates, holumi cheese and mozzerella bites. (not all at once – ha!) I’ve always had better success with not overcooking the wrapped item using this method. You still put the items in the oven, though. Don’t use the microwave to fully cook the wrapped food.

    Thanks..

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