OK, Let’s Try This Again. (Plus Ham and Cheese Puff Pastries)

Appetizers, Party Food, Pork / Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Last week, I had my iTunes set to “shuffle” while I made dinner, and a Christmas song came on. And, just for a few seconds, I started thinking about a present I needed to pick up. Like Christmas never happened. I guess that’s what grief does.

I spent weeks worrying about my mommaw and then mourning her, and now, I’m just ready to start this year fresh, so … if your year got off to a rocky start – if you lost someone or had the stomach flu or your car broke down or everything just plain sucked – I am cordially inviting you to join me in rebooting 2013.

Here’s my plan:

1. Declare a new New Year’s. 

I’m leaning toward Oscar night (this Sunday), because it’s shiny and glamorous and I can drink a shot every time someone says “cinema.”

2. Straighten up the place. 

You can’t get on to new business with old underwear on the floor. You just can’t.

3. Make some new-and-improved resolutions. 

Like, “I solemnly swear to buy a piñata for every family birthday party.” Or, “As God is my witness, I’ll never turn down a fresh doughnut again. Like, never, ever.”

4. Commit to the do-over.  

Remember how do-overs worked when you were a kid? Once you agreed to doing something over, you were free to stop feeling hurt or wronged and just move forward. Let’s do that. I’ll throw away the last of the funeral flowers, and you pay your speeding ticket or take care of whatever business you need to, and we’ll get back to being awesome.

5. Grab a bottle of Champagne.

I’m partial to pink. It looks happy.

P.S. If you need a party snack, try these Ham and Cheese Puff Pastries. They’re sprinkled with a spice blend that makes absolutely no sense on paper (think chili powder, thyme, allspice, cinnamon and cloves), but it’s a mix that’s sweet and spicy and gives these pastries a little something-something that’s completely unexpected. Like celebrating New Year’s in February. Let’s do this.

Sweet and Spicy Ham and Cheese Puff Pastries

Slightly adapted from “The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook” by Cheryl and Griffith Day (Artisan, 2o12)

Makes 8 pastries

    Spice Blend:

  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Fine sea salt, to taste
    For the Pastries:

  • One 17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), defrosted according to package directions
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced Black Forest ham
  • 1/2 pound sharp white Cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat® or parchment paper.
  2. Combine the Spice Blend ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. To Make the Pastries: Unfold the pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface. Cut each pastry sheet into four (about 5-inch) squares.
  4. Place the ham and cheese on the centers of the pastry squares, dividing them evenly.
  5. Sprinkle some of the Spice Blend lightly over the ham and cheese.
  6. Fold two opposite corners of each square over the filling to make a pouch, and press the edges to seal; transfer the pastries to the prepared baking sheet. (If the pastry edges aren’t sticking together, dab them with a little water to help “glue” them in place.)
  7. Brush each pastry evenly with egg wash. Sprinkle them with more Spice Blend, to taste. Sprinkle sea salt evenly over the pastries.
  8. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the pastries are golden brown. Remove the pastries from the baking sheet, and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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