Blue Cheese and Walnut Biscuits with Bacon Date Jam

Serves 12-15

For the Bacon Date Jam:

8 ounces applewood smoked bacon, but into 1/2-inch pieces

2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

3/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup red wine

1/4 cup water

1 cup chopped pitted dates

2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed

1/4 teaspoon allspice (optional)

For the Biscuits

2 cups flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

7 tablespoons chilled butter, cubed

4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (I used Point Reyes)

1/2 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

Prepare the jam: Place the bacon in a large skillet set over medium-high heat.  Cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until the fat has been rendered and the bacon is lightly crisped, about 10 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain.  Carefully pour off all but one tablespoon of the bacon grease from the skillet.  Add the shallots to the skillet, and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the balsamic vinegar, wine, water, dates, brown sugar, allspice, and bacon to the skillet; stir to mix.  Bring the mixture to a low boil, and then reduce the heat to low.  Simmer the mixture until the liquid has reduced and thickened to a syrupy consistency, stirring occasionally, 25-30 minutes.  Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes in the skillet, and then transfer it to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Pulse the mixture until the bacon is coarsely chopped (do not puree!)  Transfer the jam to a bowl, cover, and set aside to cool completely.

Prepare the biscuits: Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, thyme, salt, and pepper in the work bowl of a food processor; pulse to blend. Scatter the butter pieces over the top and pulse several times until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the blue cheese and the walnuts to the bowl, and pulse until they are evenly incorporated.  Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.  Add 3/4 cup of the buttermilk and stir until moist clumps form. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead just until the dough holds together, about 4 to 6 turns. Flatten dough to 3/4-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/4-inch-diameter biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out rounds. Re-roll dough and cut out more rounds until all dough is used.

 Transfer biscuits to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing apart. Brush the biscuit tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons buttermilk. Bake until biscuits are puffed and golden, about 15 minutes. Serve warm with the bacon date jam.