The Busy Kitchen is a Monday column written by two area chefs - Tiffany Poe and Valarie Carter - who also happen to be mothers of young children. They explore nutrition, cooking for kids and more.
Coconut crisps, Grandma's sugar cookies, chocolate with white chocolate chunks, butter cookies, oatmeal sugar cookies, molasses cookies, gingersnaps, gingerbread men - I love a good cookie.
But sometimes I wonder if Santa gets burned out. Christmas Eve after Christmas Eve, year after year, the sweet cookies might get a tad boring for ole St. Nick.
At our house, Santa doesn't really have a sweet tooth (I got two), so he sometimes gets a savory treat instead.
Palmiers are traditionally a sweet treat of puff pastry and sugar baked until crunchy. They are so yummy and aptly named because their shape resembles a palm leaf or, to some, an elephant ear. This savory take on the original combines aged cheddar, Dijon mustard and salty prosciutto ham to give the conventional version a run for the money.
Popovers are a favorite classic of mine. You might have eaten a form of popover and not even have known it - like if you've ever eaten roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. It's simply popover batter baked in the meat drippings.
Popovers are a batter-bread that bake up crusty and delicious, and are super easy to prepare. The hollow shells are just begging to be filled with something sweet or savory. I love fillings of butter and strawberry freezer jam, chicken salad and especially mango butter.
My mom used to make popovers from the Betty Crocker cookbook when I was growing up, but this mini-sized variation uses Parmesan cheese and are extra special when slathered with tapenade butter.
If Santa still wants a cookie, consider these Spanish-inspired savory alternatives that combine smoked paprika and Spanish Manchego cheese.
Though these won't satisfy a sweet tooth, Santa won't be able to keep his hands out of the cookie jar.
Milk may not be the best choice for these Christmas Eve nibbles. So, after the gifts are delivered and Santa is safe at home, offer them with your favorite brown ale, a dry or dirty martini, a glass of a sauvignon blanc or pinot noir. Santa will thank you - and maybe you'll finally get off the naughty list.
PROSCIUTTO AND AGED-CHEDDAR PALMIERS
8 ounces puff pastry, chilled but not frozen
1/2 cup grated aged cheddar cheese
3 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3-4 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
Freshly cracked black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Using a rolling pin, roll the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 10 inch square
3. Brush the dough with the mustard leaving a 1/2 -inch border all the way around the edges.
4. Arrange the prosciutto on top of the mustard.
5. Sprinkle with grated cheddar and a sprinkling of black pepper.
6. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the the pastry and roll slightly with a rolling pin. This will keep everything together as it is baking.
7. Remove the plastic wrap.
8. Roll the two sides of the pastry in towards the center as tightly as possible until they meet in the middle.
9. Wrap in plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for about half an hour. The roll should be firm but not frozen solid
10. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
11. Unwrap the roll of chilled dough and slice it crosswise into 1/4 -inch thick slices.
12. Arrange slices on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart.
13. Bake until golden brown. About 10-12 minutes.
MANCHEGO SMOKED-PAPRIKA COOKIES
Makes 2 dozen
1/4 pound (1 stick) salted butter, room temperature
1 cup grated manchego cheese
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 teaspoon good quality smoked paprika
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons water, more or less
1. Cream the butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Use the paddle attachment if you have it.
2. Add the cheese, paprika, salt, and combine.
3. Add the flour, and combine until the mixture looks crumbly, about 1 minute.
4. Add drops of water with your fingers until the mixtures combines to make a ball. More drops may be needed.
5. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and roll into a 9-inch log.
6. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Dough will refrigerate well for 3-4 days.
7. Preheat oven to 350.
8. Cut the log into 3/8 -inch-thick rounds
9. Place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
10. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven, until very lightly browned. Rotate the pan once during baking.
11. Cool, and serve at room temperature.
1/2 pound salted butter, softened
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup Spanish (green) olives
2 tablespoons capers
1 garlic clove, smashed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1. Combine all ingredients except butter in a food processor and pulse until ingredients are very finely chopped and uniform in size. Add butter and pulse until just combined.
Note: This compound butter is wonderful served over sautéed, roasted or steamed vegetables or any roasted or grilled meats, if you have any leftover from the popovers.
MINI PARMESAN POPOVERS
1 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled - plus softened butter for greasing
1 cup sifted flour (see note below)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Grease 30 mini muffin pans with softened butter.
3. Place all of the ingredients into a blender for about 30 seconds.
4. Let rest 10 minutes.
5. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin tin, filling them 1/3 to 1/2 full.
6. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
7. Remove the popovers to a cooling rack and pierce each in the top with a knife to allow steam to escape.
8. Serve warm with tapenade butter.
Note: The recipe calls for 1 cup sifted flour. This means to sift the flour, then scoop into a measuring cup and level. "1 cup flour, sifted," means to measure one level cup of flour and then sift it. The difference may seem minor but can make a difference in many recipes because the latter does amount to a bit more flour by weight.
Original Print Headline: Offer something new to Santa this season
A native Oklahoman, Valarie Carter earned a bachelor's degree in English from Oklahoma State University and an associate of arts in culinary arts from the Art Institute of Atlanta. She, her husband and their children live in Muskogee.