Angels on Horseback

Angels on horseback, a British appetizer made with oysters that have been wrapped in bacon and cooked.

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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

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  • 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.

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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Hank Shaw

A former restaurant cook and journalist, Hank Shaw is the author of three wild game cookbooks as well as the James Beard Award-winning wild foods website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. His latest cookbook is Buck, Buck, Moose, a guide to working with venison. He hunts, fishes, forages and cooks near Sacramento, CA.

More from Hank

Links:

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

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Showing 4 of 35 Comments

  • Andy

    Yes, this is a nice recipe. Just FYI Devils on Horseback is different, it is a prune or chicken liver dusted with cayenne pepper, wrapped in bacon and grilled. Also you can stuff the chicken liver into the prune and wrap that in bacon.

  • Chad Dore

    These are quite common in Louisiana, simply called Oysters en Brochette. There’s also a shrimp version that’s a little more popular. Sometimes a skewer is used to do many at once, and sometimes the whole thing is battered and deep fried, but often they are just baked in a really hot oven. I like the grilling method you have here though, since seafood cooks so much faster than pork.

  • Regina

    You had me at “bacon”…. But one appetizer we regularly make when we go to the beach is proscuitto wrapped shrimp: wrap large shrimp (two bite size) with a piece of proscuitto, and secure with a toothpick. Grill, the whole time basting with a mixture of melted butter, Tony Chachere’s, and fresh rosemary that’s been muddled…… (pardon me while I wipe the drool from the keyboard)….. mmmmmmmmmm I think I may have to make a trip to the beach, SOON!!!

  • Stephanie Johnston

    Angels on horseback for us was a campfire food. You took a hotdog, slit it, put some cheese it in, wrapped it in bacon, put on a stick and cooked over the fire until the bacon was crispy and the cheese gooey!

    Not too many oysters in Michigan growing up, but plenty of campfires :)

    Rumaki was also common — just as previous posters commented — water chestnuts wrapped in bacon and broiled. YUM!

  • azze

    This reminded me of my catering days when we served “Mock Rumaki” and to this day I have never had it again. It was a piece water melond rind and a cashew wrapped in smoky bacon.Yummy.

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Angels on Horseback