While making preparations to recognize April 24 as the day set aside to heap well-deserved praise on perennially favorite Pigs in Blankets — tiny bite-size sausages, or frankfurters, wrapped in a pastry and served hot from the oven — curiosity arises. What the heck are all these foods with silly names?
Pigs in Blankets is relatively easy to decode with a little logic. Pigs (pork) are wrapped in soft “blankets’ (puffed pastry, biscuit dough, refrigerated crescent dough, etc.), but how does one find logical meaning in Devil’s on Horseback — dates stuffed with cheese and wrapped in flavorful bacon before baking? An Internet search helps explain other mysteries.
How about an order of SOS — Stuff on a Shingle? Sometimes a crude word takes the place of “stuff.” The true name is Creamed Beef on Toast, made with either browned hamburger or dried chipped beef. The meat-based gravy, popular with military cooks, evolved out of necessity as a way to maximize and utilize the ingredients aboard a ship or on the field of war, where daily grocery runs aren’t the norm.
Ever try to beat Uncle Henry for that prized chef’s treat, the Pope’s Nose, at Thanksgiving? That is the bite-sized tailbone piece, triangular in shape and delicious with a little fat for flavor and perfectly roasted skin for crunch.
Order a Toad in the Hole at breakfast, and the waitress will produce a pan-sautéed piece of buttered toast with a perfectly fried egg in the center. When dining companions want the same thing in different parts of the country, they may ask for a Hen in a Hole or Popeye Toast.
America has inherited a couple of tasty dishes from Britain. Try a traditional dinner of Bangers and Mash (sausage and mashed potatoes) or a bowl of Bubble and Squeak (cabbage and mashed potatoes.) A basket of steaming hushpuppies would be welcome in this list, too, because the cornmeal-based fritter has nothing to do with cuddly canines.
Here come the three ugly stepsisters of fruit desserts – Slump, Grunt and Dowdy. Actually, the three are all close cousins to the American fave, fruit cobbler. Each is made with a sweetened fruit or fruit combination, topped with crust and baked until warm and bubbly. If that doesn’t satisfy one’s sweet tooth, there is always Shoofly Pie, a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch pie with a molasses filling similar to chess pie. Shoofly Pie pie is also popular in Southern cooking and has its own catchy jingle. Legend states that the name stuck because the sugary filling would attract flies while the pie was cooling in the window, so “Shoo, fly!”
PIGS IN BLANKETS
1/2 package puff pastry sheets (1 sheet), thawed
1 tablespoon water
20 cocktail sausages (like Lil’ Smokies)
Hot, Dijon or regular prepared mustard, for dipping
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork or whisk. Set aside.
Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Cut the pastry sheet into 20 strips 1/2 inch wide. Wrap the pastry strips around the frankfurters, and press to seal. Place the pastries on a baking sheet, seam side down. Brush the pastries with the egg mixture.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown. Remove the pastries from the baking sheet, and allow them to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Serve the sausage pastries with the mustard for dipping.
TOAD IN A HOLE
1 slice sandwich bread
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat a nonstick pan to medium. Butter bread on both sides, reserving 1/2 tablespoon of butter.
Using a biscuit cutter, cut a 2- to 2 1/2-inch circle from the center of the bread slice. Place bread and cutout “hole” in a hot skillet. Brown for 1 minute, and turn. Add reserved 1/2 tablespoon of butter to the center of the toast.
Break the egg into the center. Cook 2 minutes on each side, turning once. Season and serve.
DEVILS ON HORSEBACK
24 large dates, pitted
12 slices bacon, halved crosswise
1/2 cup fontina cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place 24 plain toothpicks in a small bowl filled with water; let soak 15 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and fit with a wire rack; set aside.
Halve dates lengthwise, being careful not to cut all the way through. Place a small amount of cheese in the center of each date. Wrap a piece of bacon around each date. Secure bacon with a toothpick.
Place dates on prepared baking sheet. Bake until bacon is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1 cup buttermilk
Approximately 4 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Crust: Place the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda into the bowl of a food processor, and process for 3 to 4 pulses. Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl, and using your hands, work the butter into the flour mixture until about half of the fat disappears and the rest is left in pea-size pieces. Make a well in the center of the mixture. Add the buttermilk, and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon just until the mixture comes together. Don’t overwork the dough. Turn the mixture out onto a piece of parchment or waxed paper that has been lightly dusted with flour, shape into a ball, and wrap and store in the refrigerator to rest while preparing the filling.
Filling: Combine the blackberries, sugar, water and ginger in a large mixing bowl. Pour the mixture into a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, and place over medium heat. Bring this to a simmer, decrease the heat to medium low, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until the liquid is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Retrieve the dough from the refrigerator, and using a 1-ounce ice cream scoop or a large spoon, gently drop portions onto the fruit mixture, evenly distributing the dough over the top. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top starts to brown. Remove the grunt from the oven, and allow it to cool for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.