I first encountered this dish when I moved to Long Island in the late 1980s.
It was at a wedding I attended with my girlfriend DeDee, and it was one of those classic Long Island weddings, with all the glass clinking to make the couple kiss at awkward moments, a thicket of big hair, and so much Billy Joel music I had to listen to the Dead Kennedys for a week afterward to recover.
I had a blast, but what I remembered most was this odd appetizer of an oyster, wrapped in bacon and squirted with lemon juice.
I asked the waiter what it was called and he said, “It’s an angel on horseback,” as if I was a moron for not knowing.
I later learned that angels on horseback—also done with scallops and sometimes called “devils on horseback”—was a de rigeur Long Island party food at the time.
I can tell you that even now it remains an awesomely tasty dish. Briny, minerally oysters just barely cooked, surrounded by smoky bacon and lightened with the zing of fresh lemon juice. I later switched to lime juice, because I like it even better.
Make a lot of these, especially if you can find small oysters, like the Olympias of Washington state.
Basically you want oysters of a size that you’d eat raw—this is supposed to be a one-bite dish, after all. I’ve used pre-shucked oysters for this many times, too, so just look for the small ones.
I’ve never seen a crowd eat fewer than 3 per person of these, and 4 per person is pretty safe. Personally, I’ve put away a baker’s dozen before, which, I think, either makes me a bona fide angel... or just a glutton.
Where Do Angels on Horseback Get Their Name?
These bacon wrapped oysters originated in Victorian England. Initially, hosts served them after dinner, but in modern times, we serve them as appetizers. Their name most likely comes from the curled-up bacon edges that look like angels' wings. When stuffed prunes or dates replace the oysters, the name changes to devils on horseback.
More Appetizers for Holiday Feasts
- Easy Baked Brie in Puff Pastry
- Cranberry Glazed Meatballs
- Classic Stuffed Mushrooms
- Classic Cheese Ball
- Shrimp Cocktail
Angels on Horseback
Canned shucked oysters can be found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and work well in this recipe.
16 to 32 small oysters (or scallops), or larger ones cut in half, shucked
8 to 16 slices thin-cut bacon
Lime or lemon wedges, for serving
Pre-cook the bacon slices:
Working in batches if necessary, cook the bacon slices on medium low heat in a large frying pan, until only about halfway cooked, but not crispy.
You need to pre-cook the bacon a bit or else when you cook them with the oysters the oysters will be overcooked by the time the bacon is crispy. Set the bacon aside to cool.
Heat the grill:
Get a grill or broiler good and hot while you wrap the oysters.
Wrap bacon around oysters:
To make an angel on horseback, you wrap 1/2 a piece of bacon around the small oyster and secure it with the toothpick. Overlap the edges of the bacon by about an inch if you can.
Grill or broil:
Grill or broil over high heat to cook the oyster and crisp the bacon, about 5 to 6 minutes on the first side Turn them over and grill another 2 to 4 minutes. You will need to turn them once or twice to get a good crispiness on all sides.
Sprinkle with lemon or lime juice:
As soon as they come off the heat, squirt with the lemon or lime juice and serve hot.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 25g||33%|
|Saturated Fat 8g||38%|
|Total Carbohydrate 24g||9%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||3%|
|Total Sugars 1g|
|Vitamin C 35mg||177%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|