Cheesy, Bacon-Wrapped Dates

Today, as a special surprise, I decided to try to replicate one of mon mari’s favorite tapas plates that we used to order at The Cheesecake Factory restaurant—bacon-wrapped dates filled with Parmesan cheese.

Unfortunately, the restaurant doesn’t serve the dates any more, but I tried my best to recreate the sweet and savory combination here.

Cheesy, Bacon-Wrapped Dates
Makes approximately 30 dates.

1 pkg. Medjool dates (approx 30 dates)
1 pkg. of thick-cut bacon (next time I might use regular-cut bacon, but I just happened to have thick-cut bacon in the fridge)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese shavings or shredded Parmesan cheese (plus extra shavings or wedge crumbles to garnish, see below)
1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 tablespoons apricot preserves (I am going to experiment with red pepper jelly, fig preserves, or honey another time)

Baking sheet covered with aluminum foil

Preheat oven to 425°F.

To make the crumbly, cheesy filling: combine the Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, and parsley in a small bowl.

Spoon in the jam and stir the jam into the bread crumbs to finish the filling.  Set aside.

Prepare the dates.

Mmmm. Dates.

First, cut a slit into each date, lengthwise.  Then remove the pit and any part of the stem that might be on the outside.

Goodbye pits!

Stuff the filling into the dates with your fingers.  Time to get messy!

A duo of stuffed dates.

All stuffed and ready for a bacon hug.

Cut the bacon slices into halves or thirds depending on the size of the dates.  Then, wrap each date tightly in a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick.

One little date all wrapped up in bacon.

These dates have a "date" with my oven.

Bake the dates on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil for 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven, or until the bacon begins to crisp up.  The dates will be sweet, soft, and chewy and the bacon will be a warm brownish-red color.

Serve the dates on a platter with little crumbles of a fresh Parmesan wedge for a salty garnish.  You can leave the toothpicks in, or remove them, your choice.  If you plan to serve the dates with the toothpicks in, provide a dish for guests to discard the used picks.