The sweetness of the dates, the savoury saltiness of the pancetta, the nuttiness of the almonds, and spicy heat of the chili make this Iron Chef dish a crowd pleaser. Serve to guests as a holiday dinner party starter. Leftover dates can be puréed and used as a spread on croutons or served as a condiment with a cheese course. Michael Symon is an acclaimed Food Network host, chef and owner of well-known restaurants across the U.S. like Lola, Lolita, Parea, and The B Spot.
2 cups pitted dates
3 oz. pancetta, finely diced (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Step 2: Put the dates on a small rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until heated through, about 5 minutes. Turn off the oven but leave the dates in there while you cook the pancetta.
Step 3: In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, cook the pancetta until it is 3/4 crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the almonds and continue cooking until they brown, a few minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the red pepper flakes and stock and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter, stirring continuously until the butter is melted. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley.
Step 4: Add the dates to the pan and swirl and toss them in the sauce. Divide the cooked dates among 4-6 plates and spoon the sauce over them.
Reprinted with permission from Michael Symon's Live to Cook (2009 Clarkson Potter).