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Saturday, June 09, 2012

Pigs in a Blanket and Other variations

Nice New Nibbles
Pigs in a blanket makes everybody giggle, but (just like a green Jell-O mold) they are the first things to be devoured at an event. Now, you can go to the store and buy them frozen and just pop them in the oven, or you can take it a step further and use store-bought puff pastry and make your own, or even Pillsbury crescent dough, or (dare I say) pastry from scratch? But I am all about the filling — that's where you can get creative. The classic of course is mini hot dogs or vienna sausage, but the French — yes we love what they do to food — they call it saucisson en croute and they use good quality chunks of sausage. You could also use asparagus, cheese, duck confit, the list goes on.

Chicken and apple sausage with fennel en croute

4 Chicken sausages (about 1 pound total)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium yellow onions, sliced 1/8-inch thin on a mandoline
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced 1/8-inch thin on a mandoline
1 apple, sliced thin
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed but cold
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 eggs whisked for egg wash
Fennel seeds for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400. Pierce the sausages and cook on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet for 30 minutes, turning once. Allow to cool completely. Meanwhile, caramelized the onions, apple and fennel. Heat the oil in a sauté pan until just shy of shimmering, and add the onions, apple and fennel. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and sauté on medium-low heat for 10 to 12 minutes, until soft and golden, adding a tablespoon of water as needed when the bottom of the pan begins to get too brown. Set aside to cool.

Place a sausage parallel to the side of the puff pastry, about 1 inch in. You can trim the pastry slightly to allow the edges of the sausage to peek out. Smear the pastry with 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard per sausage, just where the sausage is. Arrange some of the onion-fennel-apple mixture all along the sausage like sauerkraut. Then, roll the pastry around the sausage far enough so that the ends overlap. Trim the package away from the rest of the puff pastry, and begin again for the next sausage. Brush all the tops of the puff pastry packages with egg wash, and sprinkle lightly with fennel seeds. Bake, seam-side-down, on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet at 400°F for 25 to 30 minutes, until puffed and golden. Serve immediately.

Notes: You can make a variety of flavors, and differentiate them with the seeds you place on top. I often do plain hot-dogs inside with Dijon mustard and plain caramelized onions (no fennel), and sprinkle those with poppy seeds. Or spicy sausages and I put harissa or hot sauce or chili flakes in the mustard, and top those with sesame seeds. You can do a whole assortment, and serve them as a whole meal for a game.