Reminiscing about childhood reaches a fever pitch at this time of year, does it not? Sugarcoated songs and sappy commercials (i-yi-yi, the commercials, I tell you! Where's the Kleenex?!) are everywhere these days. I mean, sure, it was indeed awesome back in the day: setting my shoes out in the hallway at school with my fellow first graders and anxiously waiting for Kris Kringle to leave little presents in them while making ornaments out of red and green construction paper, yarn and glitter. Watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman on CBS. Flipping open the tiny cardboard windows of an Advent calendar to retrieve one waxy-tasting chocolate at a time in anticipation of the Big Day. All good stuff.
But you know what we didn't get to have back in the day? Booze, people. Lots of booze at lively holiday parties where delicious things wrapped in puff pastry are served. Call me dispassionate, but I'd definitely trade waxy Advent chocolates for a glass of prosecco and savory palmier, warm from the oven.
There's really no better time than right now to get a batch of these gems together. They're the perfect sort of thing to have on hand should the snow be falling and friends come calling "yoo-hoo!". And truly, this idea is really more of a method than an actual recipe. Even better, it all starts with a package of puff pastry you can just pick up from the supermarket (I really love a brand called Dufour, which is made with all butter and can be found at specialty grocers, but it can be rather spendy; Pepperidge Farm makes a suitable substitute).
Once the pastry is thawed and lightly rolled out, you can really go wild with whatever savory combinations of meats, cheeses, herbs and vegetables that you like. The general idea, though, is to keep the amount of filling to about 2/3 cup or so, and to grate or mince everything, even pureeing some ingredients into a paste of sorts if necessary--you want everything to stay rolled in the pastry when it's sliced into palmiers, and bigger hunks of ingredients will tend to fall out.
This is also a phenomenal use for all the random savory odds and ends we seem to acquire in the fridge with all the food-centered goings-on during the holidays. Recently I made them with two fillings--one had bits of bacon, extra sharp white cheddar, caramelized onion and garlic and a smattering of fresh thyme. Another had sun-dried tomatoes, olive tapenade, parmesan and more fresh herbs. The bigger and bolder the flavors, the better here--the neutral canvas of puff pastry really makes them shine.
Once the pastry is filled, rolled and sliced, the palmiers can be flash frozen and then stored in big ziptop bags and baked off whenever you want to impress some people with a "Ta-daaaa! I'm so domestic!" kind of flair. And that's quite a step up from the red and green construction paper, yarn and glitter sort of flair of days gone by, don't you think?
Bacon, White Cheddar and Thyme Palmiers
These are best served warm, immediately after baking. For the puff pastry, I recommend Dufour, an all-butter brand found in specialty grocery stores.
Makes 2 dozen
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
3 strips bacon, roughly chopped
½ small onion, grated
1 clove garlic, grated
Generous ½ cup grated extra sharp white cheddar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
In a dry skillet over medium-high heat, fry the bacon until crisp and all the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon to paper toweling to drain. Pour off all but one tablespoon of the fat. Place the pan over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic until soft and beginning to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme leaves and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with black pepper. Remove the pan from the heat.
Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the sheet of puff pastry lightly into a 12-inch square. Spread the onion mixture in an even layer over the puff pastry, right up to the edges of the dough. Finely chop the cooled bacon. Sprinkle the bacon evenly over the onion mixture. Top with the cheddar. Roll one end of the pastry in towards you, tightly but gently, stopping when the roll hits the center of the rectangle. Roll the remaining the pastry away from you to the center and gently press the two rolled sides together. Wrap the dough log in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about one hour.
Position an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Whisk together the egg and water in a small bowl.
Using a thin, sharp knife and a gentle sawing motion, carefully slice the log into slices about ½ inch thick. Lay the palmiers onto the baking sheets at least one inch apart and brush them with the egg wash. Bake one sheet at a time until puffed and golden brown, about 12 minutes total. Halfway through baking, rotate the baking sheet and using a small spatula or deft fingertips, quickly flip each palmier over. Serve warm from the oven for the best texture and flavor.
Sun-Dried Tomato and Olive Palmiers
Makes 2 dozen
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (about 6)
¼ cup prepared olive tapenade
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 small clove garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until the ingredients are uniformly minced and well-blended.
Prepare the puff pastry as in the above recipe and spread the filling evenly over the dough. Roll, refrigerate and slice the palmiers as directed above. Brush with egg wash and bake at 400 degrees on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 12 minutes, rotating the pan and flipping the palmiers over halfway through baking. Serve warm.