Better Family Dinners: Bacon-Wrapped Dates and Patatas Bravas Recipes from Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! Chef Eric Jorgensen

A key ingredient in the recipe for a happy family is time spent around the dinner table. To help your family prioritize family meals, we’ve started Better Family Dinners — a series of stories and recipes shared by chefs, cookbook authors, members of the community, and their families to help you have Better Family Dinners together.

For the second installment of Better Family Dinners, Chef Eric Jorgensen of Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! and Lil’ Ba-Ba-Reeba! shares a few family memories plus the recipes for two of his restaurants’ most popular and iconic dishes, Bacon-Wrapped Dates and Patatas Bravas. Both make great starters or side dishes as part of a traditional dinner or tapas-style meal of small plates.

Originally from Oak Park, Chef Eric Jorgensen graduated from Kendall College in 2006. After roles at SushiSamba in Chicago and New York City and The Mermaid Oyster Bar, also in NYC, Chef Jorgensen joined Lettuce Entertain You as Sous Chef at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! in Lincoln Park. After two years, he became Executive Chef Hannah’s Bretzel before returning to Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! in 2017 as Executive Chef and opened the first-ever Lil’ Ba-Ba-Reeba! location in River North in 2021.

On his days off, Chef Eric enjoys exploring new Chicago restaurants with his wife Anna, and his daughter and spending time with their adopted English Bulldogs, Commis and Cheddar.

As part of our Better Family Dinners series, we asked Chef Jorgensen to share some of his memories of food and family.

Better: What was your family dinner routine growing up? 

Jorgensen: My parents tried to make dinner happen nightly as a family as much as possible. Dinner was almost always at 6pm. My father was a police officer and my mother was a 911 dispatcher, they worked opposite shifts so that someone was almost always home with my brothers and me. Since their jobs could be rather unpredictable, that wasn’t always the case. My mother is a very good cook so she was always trying new recipes and ingredients. It’s part of why I wanted to become a chef.

Do you have a fond memory that centers around food? 

Not necessarily a single memory but many memories of being at family parties and the kitchen was always the best place to hang out. My mother’s family is very large so when they all got together there was a lot of food. Her brothers and sisters are all good cooks and would bring a wide variety of dishes. To this day the kitchen is still the place I hang out in at family parties. I just can’t seem to get out of the kitchen!

Do you have any traditions that you have carried on? 

Every Christmas Eve we, the whole family (brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, grandkids, etc.) gather at my parents house. The tradition is that each family brings a soup to share. Even as people grew up, moved, got married, had kids and everything else that life throws at you, we still do the soup thing. I make clam chowder, because an uncle (he wasn’t really an uncle, but a friend of my great aunt’s although he treated us like his family) who always made clam chowder that I loved passed away, so I figured I would continue to make that soup every year. The soup thing is something that I will continue, even if I have to make all of the soups.

Recipe: Bacon-Wrapped Dates


Serving Size: 12 pieces


12 Medjool dates, pitted
6 Applewood smoked bacon slices, medium cut
12 Unwrapped wooden toothpicks (no frills)

½ gallon (64. fl oz) of good quality Apple Cider
6 oz. White Wine Vinegar or Champagne Vinegar
1 cup Blended Oil (80% Canola Oil, 20% Olive Oil)
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
½ tsp. Ground white pepper
1 Gala or Honeycrisp apple
Chopped parsley, for garnish


1. Optional: Preheat oven to 450°F (see Step #5 below).
2. Pit the dates if they aren’t already: Slice lengthwise letting the knife hit the pit
(i.e., don’t slice all the way through), then pry sides open and push pit upwards and out.
3. Cut each bacon slice in half and wrap around each date.
4. With the flap end at the top, insert toothpick to ensure it doesn’t unravel.
5. Deep-fry the Bacon-Wrapped Dates at 350°F for 1 to 2 minutes, until bacon starts to crisp.
Or, roast in 450°F oven for 6 to 8 minutes, until bacon starts to crisp.

1. Bring apple cider to a boil and reduce to 1 cup, then allow to cool.
2. Combine cider reduction, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk to combine.
3. While whisking, slowly mix in oil to create emulsion. Taste and adjust salt if needed.
4. Garnish dates with apple cider vinaigrette, large diced apple pieces and chopped parsley.

Recipe: Patatas Bravas


Serving Size: 1-2


3/4 lb “A” size red potatoes (about 2.5 inches in diameter)
4 cups canola or vegetable oil
1/4 cup Brava Oil (see recipe below)

1 ½  cups canola or vegetable oil
1 Tbsp paprika
1 ⅔  Tbsp Spanish sweet pimentón
1 Tbsp cayenne
2 tsp dry thyme
2 tsp ground cumin
1 ½ Tbsp sherry vinegar
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic, minced

3 oz. (or a little more than 1/3 cup) sun-dried tomatoes
2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
3 cups mayonnaise (do not use Miracle Whip)
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt
½ tsp white pepper


1. Cut potatoes into quarters to create bite-sized chunks.
2. Place oil into a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat.
3. Very carefully add half of the potatoes to the oil and cook for 11 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Remove potatoes with a slotted spoon and place onto a baking sheet lined with a paper towel.
5. Repeat with remaining potatoes, and let them cool completely.
6. Reheat the oil back to medium-high heat (approx 350°F).
7. Fry the potatoes for 6-7 minutes until crispy and golden brown.
8. Remove potatoes with a slotted spoon and place into a bowl lined with a paper towel to drain excess oil.
9. Remove towel and season with kosher salt to taste, and add the Brava Oil. Toss to coat and serve with Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli

1. Combine all ingredients in a metal bowl and mix well. If possible, let sit in a plastic container in the refrigerator 24 hours before serving.
2. Mix well before using. The Brava Oil keeps for 7 days.

1. Soak sun-dried tomatoes in hot water for 30 minutes and allow to soften. Squeeze dry.
2. Incorporate sun-dried tomatoes with remaining ingredients until you reach desired consistency.

How to Help:

The Family Dinner Project is a nonprofit that champions family dinner as a way for families to connect through food, fun and conversation about things that matter. Based in Boston at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Psychiatry Academy, the Family Dinner Project team works with national and community organizations online and at community events to help families increase the frequency, meaning and long-term benefits of their shared meals. Learn more about their resources and partnership opportunities and donate to support their important work.

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