Friday, January 15, 2010

Weighty Tomes

Reading is one of my favorite pastimes. I can get away from my humdrum routine and escape to a mystery, a tropical island, another galaxy, or just find someone who's life is worse than mine and take comfort in that.

One of the problems I have with reading, though, is that I'm very suggestible. Particularly about food. When a character sits down to a dinner of lobster bisque, I start drooling. When the character pours a glass of crisp chardonnay, I wonder whether there's any wine in the house. Heaven help me if the character is handed a dense, decadent chocolatey brownie with a crackly top and moist interior studded with chunks of dark chocolate. I'm off to the kitchen in a heartbeat to whip up a pan of brownies I don't need but suddenly want very much.

One author in particular has this power over me. Martha Grimes, in The Hotel Paradise, has as her protagonist a 12 year old girl who spends a great deal of time thinking about food. Her mother is the hotel cook and the girl rhapsodizes over the foods served. One dish in particular, the girl's favorite, Ham Pinwheels, was so lavishly described I knew that I had to have it. But where to find it? It's an old-fashioned dish (the book is set about 70 years ago), so I turned to my old faithful tattered copy of Joy of Cooking. Based on the description in the book of ground ham wrapped in a flaky crust with a cheese sauce poured over the top, I came up with something pretty close.

Being an instant gratification kind of gal, I didn't want to make the pastry, so I used the kind from the freezer. I'm OK with that. It leaves me more time to read.

Ham Pinwheels with Cheese Sauce
- makes 12 rolls,

1/2 pkg (1 sheet) frozen puff pastry, thawed
6 oz. cooked ham, ground (about 1-1/2 cups)
2 Tbsp minced fresh onion
1/2 cup minced mushrooms (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Dash of hot sauce (optional)
Cheese Sauce (recipe follows)

1- Preheat the oven to 400 deg. F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or cooking spray.

2- In a medium bowl combine the ham, onion, mushrooms and season to taste.

3-- Lay one of the thawed puff pastry layers flat on your work surface. Spread half of the ham mixture over it, leaving one inch uncovered on the side farthest from you.

4- Roll the pastry up, beginning with the side nearest you, so you have a long tube. Brush a bit of water on the uncovered pastry on the far side to seal up the edge. Slice the tube in 12 segments, like cinnamon rolls.

5- Lay the rolls on the baking sheet.

6- Repeat with the other sheet of puff pastry and the rest of the ground ham mixture.

7- Place the baking sheets in the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Make cheese sauce while rolls are baking.

8 - Place the pinwheels on plates and drench them in cheese sauce. Serve immediately.

(If you'd like to double the recipe, you can freeze half of the pinwheels. Place them in a ziploc freezer bag without the cheese sauce. Allow them to thaw in the refrigerator, then reheat in the microwave or briefly in the oven.)

Cheese Sauce

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
Dash of pepper
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup milk

1- Melt butter in saucepan. Whisk in the flour, salt and pepper. Mix until smooth.

2- Gradually stir in the milk. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute.

3- Remove from heat and stir in the cheese, whisking till all the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.

(If you have extra sauce leftover, save it to pour over broccoli. You'll be a hero to your kids.)


Jenn @ BentoForKidlet said...

Yum that looks delicious! I am also easily influenced by what my characters are eating! Glad to know I am not alone :D

The Blonde Duck said...

Now I have to have it!

Mama JJ said...

It reminds me of that movie about pie (forget what it's called) where the waitress makes a pie for all her different emotions/experiences. After I watched it, I had to go and turn out a peanut butter cream pie with a long, convoluted title.

The Julie and Julia movie got me going, too. In fact, remember that cake? I'm not saying anything yet, except ... on second thought, never mind. I'm not going to talk about it till I'm ready to say EVERYTHING I want to say, no holds barred.

Risa said...

I think that movie was The Waitress, I loved the pie references too! This post was a great read, suddenly I'm in the mood for flaky pastry yummyness of any variety!

LyB said...

OK, so I'm here wondering what to make for dinner and there you go tempting me with those pinwheels! Too bad I don't have a sheet of puff pastry in my freezer or I'd have been all over those! Speaking of suggestive reading, you should read Julia Child's "My Life in France", if you haven't already. I'm almost done reading it and all I want to do is get a one way ticket to Paris! ;)

cindy said...

The power of suggestion--I love it!

Peabody said...

Oh my. As if the flakey dough was not tempting enough, you go and throw cheese sauce right on top.

Elle said...

Total yum!...especially that cheeses sauce. BYW I've given you an can check it out on my blog shortly. Thanks for brightening my day :)

Gabriel Sovereign said...

You do realize that your blog makes my husband and I very suggestible. lol Can we say, yum???

Rose&Thorn said...

You have hit the nail on the head, whenever I read food in a book I get hungry and inspired. One of my favourite books for escaping into food pleasure was Frances Mayes, A year in Tuscany - where she speaks about eating bowls of wild asparagus dripping in homemade olive oil... gotta go, my kitchen is calling!

Rose&Thorn said...

You have hit the nail on the head, whenever I read food in a book I get hungry and inspired. One of my favourite books for escaping into food pleasure was Frances Mayes, A year in Tuscany - where she speaks about eating bowls of wild asparagus dripping in homemade olive oil... gotta go, my kitchen is calling!

Astrid said...

Mmmmmh. those look yummy. I am thinking of making these for lunch today.

Melinda said...

I love this food suggestive weakness of yours and the re-creation of the dish in your kitchen.
I am just glad your character was not drooling over Spotted Dick.

Abby said...

Now I'm drooling. Those look to-die-for.

grace said...

yep, reading certain books has the same effect on me, but not as much as reading certain blogs. sometimes i feel the need to replicate something immediately, and if it wasn't 5:15 in the morning with everyone else sound asleep, i'd be knocking around in the kitchen right now. that cheese sauce is perfect for these little noshes!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I'd say you totally nailed it!

Anonymous said...
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Barbara said...

I love Martha Grimes. But specifically, I am mad for Richard Jury and have read everything she has written about he and his cronies. I think perhaps I am in love with him!
Anyway, I haven't read this book (have not much liked the books she has written without Jury) but am willing to give it a read..I'll see if the library has it.
I've not thought about ham pinwheels in years. They look super!

cookies and cups said...

Too funny! I would have done the same thing with the pastry too...
Hope it satisfied your craving!

Graziana said...

yum this recipe makes me drool! I love everything with puff pastry

ejm said...

However did I miss noticing the ham pinwheels in "Hotel Paradise"?! Thanks for pointing them out. And good sleuthing to find a recipe.


eatme_delicious said...

The pinwheels themselves sound and look amazing but then add the cheese sauce?? Irresistible.

Barbara said...

Hi, My grandmother makes a dish very similar to this and I love it. I have never seen or heard of it outside of her house before. Her recipe uses rolled Bisquick dough and she uses leftover ham from Easter or other special occasions. She chops the ham in the food processor and then makes a ham salad with mayo, mustard,dill relish, and i am sure a few other ingredients and then spreads the mix on the dough and then rolls it up and slices it. She also tops hers with cheddar cheese sauce (aka Campbell cheddar soup without the added milk) its so good and easy, I am surprised it is not a more popular dish!