Monday, November 28, 2011

Appetizers: Puff Pastry Bacon Spirals

N.B. I wrote this over the weekend. I am no longer quite this cranky. But boy was I ever when I wrote this.
I want to apologize because I’m kind of cranky today. I really don’t know why. I don’t have anything to be cranky about, when you come right down to it. And it almost feels wrong to be cranky over the Thanksgiving holiday.
I mean, I know people are—their families drive them crazy and they get grouchy. I’m lucky because I genuinely like my family. They’re people I’d want to be friends with, even if I wasn’t related to them. And I live close enough to all my family that we don’t have to go and stay with them to celebrate with them. We can eat and go home to our own space and our own beds and so on.
And today is my birthday. You might think that’s what’s making me crabby—another year older and all that—but honestly that’s not it. I kind of like birthdays and I don’t get grumpy about getting old or anything like that.
We’re decorating for Christmas, which I always really like too. Getting all the lights up, taking out all the fun things we bought on clearance last year (I mean, really—I bought one of those Charlie Brown trees, the sad little stick with the five needles and a single red ball to put on it—last year for a buck, and now I’m seeing them in stores again for twelve and fifteen dollars; it’s just crazy).
I think one thing that’s contributing to my cranky is that I cut my finger a week or so ago, and now I have this massive bandage on it. I was slicing leeks, and while I had my fingers in the correct curled under position when I was cutting most of the way along, I got to that last quarter inch and changed my grip, and nearly cut off the tip of my left middle finger. I’ll spare you the graphic description, but suffice to say there were sutures involved and it wasn’t pretty. So with this massive bandage, it takes me three times longer to do much of anything, and I’m supposed to be making another Thanksgiving dinner again tomorrow night so we have leftovers for next week. On Thanksgiving day, we had 18 people, so had very little left over (well, not the stuff I wanted left over—stuffing and gravy, and besides, I want to make my stuffing, which I love but which consists primarily of a bag of Pepperidge Farm and some cooked bulk sausage).
So I’m kind of just accepting my cranky. But I think that’s putting me in a worse mood. Being in a bad mood is putting me in a worse mood. How’s that for logic?
So I decided to share a recipe for something that, if I had it, would make me feel better. Puff pastry bacon spirals.These are great party food. You can make them up ahead and cook them off just before you need to serve them, although they also are pretty decent at room temperature. They’re not supposed to be particularly pretty, so kids can help with the assembly. And they’re bacon. How can you go wrong?
I’m not usually much of a one for “during” shots, but I’m including two for this recipe because I wanted to make sure you got a feel for how done “halfway” is for the bacon, and to illustrate the “twist.” If you cook the bacon too done in the first step, you’ll have a hard time twisting it in the second step. If it’s not done enough, it won’t get nicely crisp.
Bacon Spirals
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed and cut into ¼” strips (about 36 strips, about 3” long—if your pastry comes folded in thirds, you can cut each third into 12 or so strips; I use Pepperidge Farm brand)
1 pound bacon, each strip cut in half the short way (don’t use the really thick cut artisan bacon for this—you really want the thinner cut because it’s easier to twist; you probably won’t use the whole pound but how many pieces are in a package will depend on the brand and the thickness of the slices; I use Smithfield brand)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil or parchment, lay out the bacon slices. Bake for about 7-10 minutes, or until partially cooked (see picture).

Cooked about halfway--a bit of browning around the edge, and the fat starting to render, but still flabby and pliable.
Remove bacon from the oven and allow to cool slightly, until it can be handled, about 10 minutes.

Twist together one slice of bacon with one strip of the puff pastry. Pinch the ends together to keep them from untwisting. You’re sort of wrapping the pastry around the bacon. As you twist, you can pull the pastry out slightly to make it longer, if necessary, to get it around the whole piece of bacon. (See picture.) Place each spiral on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil or parchment (you might want to use a new liner, and not just return them to the pan the bacon cooked on the first time, because the residual bacon fat from baking off the bacon half way may make them too greasy).

See? Not very pretty or tidy.
Return the pan to the oven, and cook 18-22 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and golden, and the bacon is cooked through. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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