Holiday Appetizer: Bacon-Wrapped Butternut Squash (Nuts on Horseback!)

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This is my own adaptation of a retro treat from Victorian England that’s still popular in the UK for Christmas dinners. Each little package offers an amazing combo of flavors and textures.

Cleo Coyle is author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries,
which are set in New York's
 Greenwich Village.

Simply take bite-sized pieces of butternut squash (or sweet potatoes); wrap each in a small strip of maple bacon; secure with a toothpick; brush with pure maple syrup; and roast. 

How much bacon? How much maple syrup? What temperature? I answer all of those specifics in my recipe and share some tips for making these babies without a hitch...















Cleo Coyle’s
Nuts on Horseback


If you're curious about the odd recipe name, Nuts on Horseback, it comes from the recipe that inspired it: Devils on Horseback, in which you stuff a dried fruit (usually a prune or a date) with an almond or with mango chutney before wrapping it in bacon and cooking it. 

As culinary adaptions go (that is, new ones emerging from existing ones) Devils on Horseback was simply a twist on yet another recipe: Angels on Horseback, in which you wrap a raw oyster or scallop in bacon, securing it with a skewer before broiling it. 

In my own version, the "nut" comes not from an almond but from the butternut squash, a delicious winter squash. It's in season now so you should find some nice ones at your local grocery. OR try sweet potatoes, which will work just as well.



Why Bacon Means Horseback

If you’re wondering (as I did) why "bacon" is represented as "horseback" in these recipe names, there are two theories...

One is that the bacon wraps around each filling like legs wrapped around a horse. The other comes from English history circa 1066 when Norman warriors, before riding into battle, covered themselves in thick slabs of bacon. Apparently, they did this to make themselves look grotesque—a bonus for scaring villagers during their invasions—and the bacon, when very thick, also worked as well as leather armor for protection. Apparently, they cooked and ate the bacon—if they survived the battle! 
Now let’s get cookin'…



Cleo Coyle's
Nuts on Horseback


Bacon-Wrapped Butternut Squash Bites


Makes about 80 appetizers


Ingredients:

1 butternut squash, 2 to 2.5 pounds
(or sweet potatoes)

12 pieces maple bacon

3/4 cup pure maple syrup 



Directions:

Step 1 – The Squash: First preheat your oven to 400° F. Peel, core, and slice up your butternut squash into bite-sized pieces. It’s important to make them small enough to cook completely through in the roasting time given. If you wish to use larger pieces, you will need to parboil them to make sure they cook through. See my note below on parboiling. 



Tip on Peeling: Use a Y-shaped peeler for the best results in peeling the squash and make sure you peel away all of the skin and whitish rind, which is bitter. Your pieces should be completely orange.




Step 2 - The Bacon: Cut each strip of maple bacon into thirds. Cut each third into two long strips for 6 pieces per strip of bacon. Wrap the squash pieces in the bacon slice and secure it with a toothpick.




Step 3 – A MUST: Line a half-sheet pan or baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. The maple syrup will blacken as the appetizers cook and the parchment paper or foil will provide easy cleanup and prevent your pan from being ruined.




Step 4 – Using a pastry brush, splash each piece generously with maple syrup.




Step 5 – Roast the appetizers in a well-preheated 400° F. oven for about 25 minutes. You're watching for the pieces of squash to cook through without burning the bacon. If you cut your squash slices small enough, this will work. However, if your squash slices are too large, the bacon will burn before the squash is cooked—solution: try parboiling the slices before cooking the next pan of them (see my instructions below).

PARBOILING TIP: If you want your pieces to be larger than bite-size, you can parboil the butternut squash for 3 to 4 minutes (no more!) to make sure they cook through by the time the bacon is cooked. 



(Optional) Directions for parboiling: bring a pot of water to a full, rolling boil. Avoid being splashed with hot water by using a ladle or large spoon to carefully lower your pieces into the water. Cook for three to four minutes and then use a slotted spoon to remove them, douse them in cold water, and drain well. Follow the recipe from Step 2 onward, and you'll definitely want to...





Eat (and read) with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
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