Thursday, December 2, 2010

On Parmesan Twists

Today is my first day back to the land of the living after spending three days in bed courtesy of a cute little germ machine. I've cooked nothing but boxed chicken noodle soup and toast, which is quite a drag for somebody as naturally patient as me. Particularly yesterday, when in-between naps and snot-potting (the neti pot is really something amazing for stuffy noses) I caught up on my DVR Kitchen Nightmare reruns. After the awful first half of each episode where Gordon Ramsay darts around the walk-in shouting "Look at that! Holy shit!" and pulls out handfuls of moldy slop from every corner, the rest of the episodes usually leave me quite hungry. 

Speaking of food, Thanksgiving was lovely this year. I didn't host, but I was asked to bring the cranberry sauce and appetizers. I kept the sauce simple, just cooked on the stovetop with sugar and Grand Marnier. I've yet to find a good cranberry compote that uses cinnamon that lets the two flavors work together instead of separately.

I also served a wonderful goat cheese wrapped in cranberries (thank you Costco) and kept baked brie warm in a tiny Crock Pot. Along with the brie I served a green chile and onion relish, and a whole mess of french bread slices. And on a whim, since I had puff pastry sitting around, I took one of Melissa Clark's suggestions and tried out Parmesan twists.

Parmesan Twists
(Click here for printable recipe.)

1 sheet Puff pastry, the best you can get, preferably with butter (however, if your options are to use shortening-based pastry or no puff pastry at all--because let's face it, it's not terribly quick to make--then by all means, use the shortening-based type)
About a cup of Parmesan cheese, grated
Egg wash (1 egg beat with 1 T water)
kosher salt

1. Let the pastry thaw. Even though you'll be using it in thirds (the way mine came frozen from the package), it will work better if you do as the directions say and let the sheet thaw before you monkey with it.
2. On a cutting board unfold your sheet; mine came in thirds.
3. Sprinkle a third of a cup of cheese down the middle of your pastry.
4. Fold the right side back over top, covering the mound of cheese.
5. Sprinkle a third of a cup of cheese down the middle of your new layer.
6. Fold the left side back over the top, covering the new mound.
7. Using a pizza cutter, slice your log into 1/2 to 3/4" slices. You should get at least a dozen.
8. Carefully move each piece to a prepared baking sheet (silicone baking mats work wonders here). Doing your best to keep the cheese inside, hold the top of the strip against your mat with one hand, and use your other hand to put one or two twists in the strip before lightly pressing the end to the mat. Some cheese will spill; it's fine. Best to put these where you want them to bake on the sheet the first time.
9. Continue with the rest of your strips.
10. Paint the tops of the twists with the egg wash, then sprinkle with remaining cheese and a light sprinkle of kosher salt.
11. Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

These bad boys were a hit, delicious warm or cold, and beat the pants off of my other cheese dishes. Folks, when in doubt, make these. They'll take no time and everybody will love them.

[UPDATE: I remade these with better photos of the folding procedure. You can see the photos here.]

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