Angels on horseback, or oysters wrapped in bacon, is a classic oyster dish that is very common on the East Coast and is often seen as a wedding appetizer on Long Island in New York. With only three ingredients in the prep list – bacon, oysters and a squirt of lemon juice – this dish couldn't be easier to prepare. Make as many as you can afford -- I once made 100 for a group of 15 people and they were all eaten in less than 10 minutes. For normal people, figure on 6-8 as an appetizer. Double it for the main course.
The derivation of this recipe’s name refers to the fact that, as oysters are cooked, their edges curl, resembling an angel’s wings. Marilyn Hansen, in her 1990 book, “Entertaining in the Victorian Style,” says, “These intriguing morsels are indeed heaven-sent for oyster lovers.”
The counterpart to Angels on Horseback are Devils on Horseback, so named because there is a spicy element involved, like Tabasco sauce.
To further confuse the matter, Roger M. Grace of Metropolitan News Company contends that “Food authority James Beard (1903-85) insisted that angels on horseback required ham as a wrapper, and that if bacon were used, what you’d have would be devils on horseback.”
The British serve a dish they call devils on horseback made with prunes in place of oysters. And here is another variation of Devils on Horseback using figs in place of oysters.
- 3 to 5 dozen small oysters (shucked)
- 12 to 30 strips bacon (thinly cut)
- 2 to 3 lemons
- Slice the bacon strips in half. It is very important to get thin-cut bacon for this recipe, as thick bacon overwhelms the oysters. Likewise, it is important to get small oysters -- otherwise, they become too large a mouthful.
- Wrap a half-slice of bacon around each oyster and secure with a toothpick. Arrange on a broiling pan or get a grill ready.
- Place the bacon-wrapped oysters under the broiler until they're crispy, about 5-6 minutes.
- How long this will take on your grill depends on the heat; but I rarely do this on the grill, as the bacon fat falls through the grate and causes flare-ups. Then again, you do get a smoky flavor with real fire...
- Take the oysters out and turn them over. Return to the broiler and crisp the other side. This should take about 2-4 minutes.
- Serve family-style on a big platter. Don't hit them with lemon juice until right before you serve them, otherwise it ruins the crispiness of the bacon.
- Traditionally, this appetizer is served on buttered toast points, so if you’re a stickler for tradition, that’s the way to go.