Angels on Horseback

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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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Links:

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

angels-on-horseback-b.jpg

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Showing 4 of 38 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.

  • athena

    This is such a cool idea. It looks like old-school rumaki, but totally different! How can you go wrong with bacon and oysters?

    You can’t. ;-) ~Hank

  • RD

    As other posters have mentioned, this reminded me also of Rumaki – a chicken liver and slice of water chestnut wrapped in bacon, brushed with teriyaki sauce and broiled. Very popular back in the early 60’s when Polynesian restaurants were in vogue (ours was “The Luau” in the Houston suburbs). My Mom made it at home from time to time. This is an interesting variation I would like try.

  • karen

    these are the best!!! I actually don’t use lime or lemon juice but serve them with horseradish sauce. yum yum yum

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