OPINION | FRONT BURNER: Set off eating season with pinwheels, deviled eggs

Deviled eggs alongside cornichons (tiny sour pickles), almonds and salami-wrapped cheese make an easy, yet festive finger food spread. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

Tomorrow officially begins the season of eating. For the unfamiliar, the season of eating begins on Thanksgiving and continues through Super Bowl Sunday.

Food is as much a part of the holidays (yes, I'm including a certain football game in the umbrella of holidays because for some it is that important) as the togetherness. Depending on your specific situation and level of comfort, you could be back to big gatherings and crowded tables laden with platters of everyone's favorites. Or maybe you're still sticking it out with just your immediate household.

As much as I love all the traditional dishes, I also love the finger foods. Especially those made with staples from my fridge and pantry.

These savory bites can be made ahead and frozen for up to 1 month; simply pull out the desired number of bites and reheat at 375 degrees.

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Ham and Cheese Pinwheels

  • Flour, for dusting
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons any mustard (I like to mix a little brown sugar into plain yellow)
  • 8 to 10 ounces thinly sliced deli ham (I like Black Forest)
  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) grated gruyere or Swiss cheese
  • Chopped fresh thyme, parsley or chives, for optional garnish

Working with one sheet of pastry at a time, on a lightly floured surface, unfold and roll thawed pastry into an approximately 10-by-12-inch rectangle. Spread pastry with 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons mustard, leaving a ½-inch border on all sides. Arrange 4 to 5 ounces ham evenly over the mustard-spread pastry. Top with half of the cheese.

Starting on a long edge, roll the puff pastry into a 12-inch log. Trim the ends so that they are even, then tightly wrap the log with parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining puff pastry, mustard, ham and cheese. Refrigerate wrapped logs for 20 to 30 minutes.

While the logs chill, heat oven to 375 degrees.

Unwrap the pastry. Use the parchment paper to line 2 rimmed baking sheets.

Using a serrated knife, cut each log into 3/4-inch-wide slices. Arrange the slices about an inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until pastry is light golden brown and the cheese is hot and bubbly, about 18 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with herbs, if desired.

Makes about 30 pinwheels.

  photo  Deviled eggs alongside cornichons (tiny sour pickles), almonds and salami-wrapped cheese make an easy, yet festive finger food spread. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Celery seed, sriracha and smoked paprika perk up these simple deviled eggs. I served them alongside cornichons (tiny sour pickles), almonds and salami-wrapped cheese for an easy, yet festive, spread.

Deviled Eggs

  • 6 eggs
  • Ice
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon mustard, or to taste
  • Sriracha, to taste
  • Generous pinch or two of celery seed
  • 1 tablespoon snipped chives or finely chopped green onion tops
  • Smoked paprika or ground cayenne, for dusting
  • Hard-cook eggs using desired method.

To steam: Add about 1 inch of water to a medium pot and bring to a boil. Place eggs in a steamer insert that fits in the pot and gently lower the steamer into the pot. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and steam the eggs for 13 minutes.

To boil: Place the eggs in a saucepan in a single layer and fill the pan with enough cold water to cover the eggs by about an inch. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat, then remove the pan from the heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine ice and cold water. When eggs are finished cooking, using a slotted spoon transfer them to the ice bath and let cool for 5 minutes before peeling.

Peel eggs and then cut each in half lengthwise, and gently scoop out the yolks into a medium bowl. Arrange whites on a platter. Sprinkle the whites very lightly with salt.

Mash the yolks coarsely with a fork and then add the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, sriracha and celery seed. Mix until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning -- salt, pepper, sriracha -- as needed. Spoon the mixture into a small piping bag fitted with a star tip (or a plastic sandwich bag with a corner snipped off). Pipe the mixture into the egg white halves. Sprinkle with chives and paprika.

Makes 12 deviled eggs.

Recipe adapted from "Posh Eggs" with recipes by Lucy O'Reilly (Quadrille, $19.95)