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Cooking Our Favorite Restaurant Dishes at Home

By Kevin Grzyb in Food on Jun 10, 2005 5:41PM

avec_plate_06_2005.jpgEating In: Avec’s chorizo-stuffed medjool dates with smoked bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce

It’s no secret that Chicagoist is a big fan of the cooking at Avec, the follow up to Chef Paul Kahan’s fine dining hot spot, the award winning Blackbird. We really like the design of the space, warm wood feel with communal dining tables and the wood burning oven in plain view, but we LOVE the food. Small plates and big plates are the dining categories and it’s the type of place where you go with friends, order a bunch of dishes and share, and they have a great wine list. So, after our first trip there we couldn’t get enough of the chorizo-stuffed medjool dates with smoked bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce, so within a week of first having them we went to work trying to make them at home. Mrs. Chicagoist was happy. After a little research, we found out that this is not an original dish, but an updated take on a traditional recipe. So, we went shopping got some medjool dates, chorizo sausage and bacon. Speaking of bacon, if you happen to find yourself making a run up to Michigan for a weekend getaway, the best bacon in the Midwest may be at a small butcher shop in Three Oaks, named Drier’s, it’s the kind of butcher shop that has sawdust on the floor.

Before we move on to the recipe, if you have any dishes that you would like to reproduce at home, leave the restaurant and the name of the dish and when you ate it (the same chef might not be there if it was two years ago) in the comments.

So, on to making the magic:

We made a batch of 11, basically because that’s how many dates we had.

avec_slice_06_2005.jpgFirst, cut a slit down the length of the dates and split them open and remove the pit.

Next, pinch off a small (teaspoon maybe) piece of the chorizo and stuff it into the date and pinch the date closed around the chorizo. Repeat.

avec_dates_06_2005.jpgTake a half slice of bacon and wrap it around the stuffed date and place with the bacon end down on a baking sheet. Make sure the baking sheet has a raised edge, because there is a good amount of fat that renders out of a dish with two kinds of pork. Then into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes (more or less, depending on your oven, but your looking for the bacon to be crisp and the chorizo cooked through.

While the dates are baking away in the oven, and filling the kitchen with the most amazing of smells, you have time to prep the sauce. avec_prepped_06_2005.jpgThis is a totally home kitchen, bastardized version of what the real sauce is, but it’s still yummy and it’s quick:

avec_sauce_06_2005.jpgIn a saucepan, brown ½ of a diced white onion and two cloves of minced garlic. Add 1 can of crushed tomatoes (14.5 oz can?) Instead of chasing down the piquillo peppers, we opted to raid the spice cabinet and used a half-teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika, a half-teaspoon of sweet Hungarian paprika and a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook the sauce down over low-medium heat until it starts to evaporate the liquid and thicken up, about ten minutes.

Then serve, the nice thing is you can go family style and toss the sauce on the bottom of a serving dish and pile on the stuffed dates or you can plate them individually and serve them as a first course, which makes you look cool and sophisticated, as long as the second course isn’t mac-n-cheese from a box.