Will the pigs fly?
We're talking about pigs in a blanket, of course. They've been declared the hot cocktail party food of the season.
Declared by who? That would be the food editors of the venerable New York Times, which reported August 30 that cocktail weenies baked in dough would be the haute party food this season.
Now, New York is the Really Big Apple of the party world - so big, you can find proof of pretty much any trend you want. The Times could declare that stuffing cocktail weenies up your nose is a trend and you probably could find somebody in the five boroughs doing it.
But in the rest of the country? Most places are smaller. More exclusive, perhaps the party elite.
Could pigs in a blanket become a national party trend?
In some circles, they already have. Eastover, North Carolina, party hostess Susan Triantafyllides spotted them in October, at the 5th anniversary party for a local art gallery.
"The trend has already started," Triantafyllides declared. "Everything comes back into style eventually."
At most Harris Teeters, 40-count boxes of Hebrew National pigs in blankets, made with pinky-sized beef weenies, are on display in the meat department, right next to the big bags of chicken wings.
"Everybody loves them, whether they're willing to admit it or not," says Triantafyllides.
Sarah Boehmler lived in New York for 30 years before moving back to the Charlotte, North Carolina, area this summer. The Times article was no surprise to her.
"In New York, I would have a big party every year for the Park Avenue tree lighting." She would knock herself out preparing sophisticated party food, "and they ate the darned pigs in a blanket. I couldn't make enough."
After settling in Davidson, North Carolina, Boehmler gave a party in early December.
"I tried to have interesting things, but the pigs in a blanket went first," she admits.
Boehmler's caterer was Todd Townsend of Townsend's Gourmet. He's been satisfying customers' requests for something like pigs in blankets for a while, he says. But he tries to do it with style.
"Nobody calls it pigs in a blanket," he says.
Townsend's version is slices of andouille sausage marinated in bourbon and mustard, then baked in bundles of puff pastry.
"Andouille Sausage En Croute," he calls it, laughing. "The golden rule is, give it a French name and you can charge more. Andouille En Croute brings it into 2006."
Whether they're made with cocktail weenies or fancy sausage, wrapped with biscuit dough or puff pastry, pigs do hark back to an earlier, simpler time in party food. They're right up there with little meatballs cooked in grape jelly and chili sauce.
So why the return?
"It's a comfort food to me," says Boehmler. "People are tired of talking about (comfort food), but comfort foods are wonderful.
"In New York, you don't have sit-down dinners because people don't have the room. So you serve more substantial hors d'oeuvres."
Most versions of pigs in a blanket can be made in advance and frozen before baking. You can eat them one-handed, without a fork or plate. And unless you dip them in a really drippy mustard sauce, they're relatively mess-free.
Larry Elder, owner of the art gallery where pigs were served in October, admits he started thinking about them when he saw The Times story last summer.
Then he and his wife, Janice, went to an 80th birthday party for a friend's father. One of the foods being served was pigs.
"I'm thinking, 'this is too cool,'" says Elder. "And every one was eaten. Every one."
So Elder added them to the list for his gallery party.
"The caterer said, 'you're kidding, right?'" But the pigs were hit. And at another party a little while later, he saw the same caterer serving them again.
"They were wonderful," he says, laughing. "I'd forgotten how good they are."
SMOKEY PIGS IN A BLANKET WITH HONEY MUSTARD DIP
(Makes 4 dozen)
1 (16-ounce) package cocktail-sized smoked sausage links
1 (8-ounce) tube refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
Honey Mustard Dip:
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
DRAIN sausage links and blot dry on paper towels. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
SEPARATE crescent dough into 4 rectangles, pressing diagonal perforations together. Cut each rectangle in half, then cut each half into 6 strips.
WRAP a strip of dough in a spiral around each sausage link, pressing ends to seal. Place each link, seam down, 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
BAKE 11 to 12 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Cool briefly and serve with Honey Mustard Dip.
HONEY MUSTARD DIP: Whisk together honey, mustard and vinegar. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
ANDOUILLE EN CROUTE WITH BOURBON MUSTARD
(Makes about 4 dozen)
1 (6-inch) length or 1 (16-ounce) package andouille sausage
1 (17.5-ounce) package puff pastry, thawed
1 tablespoon bourbon
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
Pinch of tarragon, fresh or dried, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon water
CUT the sausage in half lengthwise and grill. (We did this in a grill pan, but you also could do it in a nonstick skillet.) Cool and slice each half into 1/2-inch pieces.
MIX bourbon, mustards and tarragon in a medium-size bowl. Add sausage slices and toss to coat well. Let stand 30 minutes.
UNFOLD one sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out gently with a lightly floured rolling pin to press out creases. Using the tip of a sharp knife, cut into 10 or 12 equal size squares.
PLACE a piece of sausage in the center of a square. Pull together each corner to form a "beggar's purse," pressing edges together to seal. Mix beaten egg and water and brush lightly on each bundle. (Can be made ahead to this point and frozen up to 1 week.)
PREHEAT oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or cover with parchment paper. Place sausage bundles on pan 1 to 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and golden, about 20 minutes. Cool 4 to 5 minutes before serving.
SAUSAGE IN PASTRY
(Makes about 3 dozen pieces)
1 pound spicy smoked sausage, such as chorizo (see note) or kielbasa
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
1 egg yolk beaten with 2 teaspoons water
Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce (see recipe above) or your favorite flavored mustard
REMOVE sausage from package and blot dry with paper towel.
UNFOLD puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Roll to press out creases. Cut into six rectangles, each about 3-1/2 by 4 inches. (Use the sausage links and make sure the rectangles are big enough to wrap around links.)
BRUSH one edge of pastry with egg wash, then roll pastry around sausage, pressing edge to seal and pressing ends closed. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate at least 30 minutes to firm up pastry.
PREHEAT oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush each pastry-wrapped sausage with remaining egg wash. Make cross-wise cuts in the pastry (not into the sausage) every 1 inch.
BAKE until pastry is puffed and golden, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, then cut into slices following the earlier cuts.
SERVE with Honey-Mustard Dip or another flavored mustard.
NOTE: Chorizo works great in this recipe, but it does produce a lot of grease. If using chorizo, remove any wrapping from the sausage links.
Will the pigs fly?