Friday, January 15, 2010
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.)
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.)