I don’t know how it happened, but five-minutes ago, it was Thanksgiving and now, it’s December 12th and there are less than two weeks until Christmas. I should be more frenzied than I am for a woman who has yet to set foot inside of a mall, address cards, or even so much as bring her cookie tins up out of storage. In my head, I’m calling it “13 days” instead of “2 weeks.” It sounds longer.
In addition to the planned parties, dinners, and cookie exchanges we’ll all be attending this month, it’s also the season for unexpected guests spreading holiday cheer. In a perfect world, we’d all welcome droppers-by into our tidy homes with coiffed hair and beautifully-arranged platters of hors d’oeuvres at the ready. In reality, we often barely have enough time to tuck stray clutter into the nearest closet (let’s pretend I’ve never done this) and slap a wedge-o’-something onto a plate before the doorbell rings.
That said, it’s probably a good time to talk about Savory Palmiers, a recipe I turn to year-round for effortless entertaining. Traditionally, palmiers (or “elephant ears”) are sweet cookies made from sugar-sprinkled puff pastry that is rolled, sliced, and baked until flaky. Somewhere along the line, someone decided to swap out the sugar for cheese (so simple, yet so brilliant), creating a hot hors d’oeuvre that is as impressive as it is versatile.
Filling possibilities are endless and totally up to experimentation to find the flavor combinations you like best. (Let’s face it, there’s little that’s not going to taste good rolled between buttery layers of puff pastry.) A schmear of olive tapenade or pesto is lovely. Prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano are delicious too. The favorite variety in my house is Bacon, Caramelized Onion, Horseradish, and Gruyère, with Ham and Dijon a close second.
The ability to prep these in advance and bake from frozen makes them as convenient as those store-bought assortments we’ve all had a thousand times, but infinitely tastier. (I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met a frozen pig in a blanket that wasn’t greasy and overcooked.) When you get that call that friends are on their way, just heat the oven and bake your pre-sliced pastries straight out of the freezer. Your guests will arrive to find you relaxing in front of a warm fire with a crisp glass of wine in hand and the aroma of freshly-baked palmiers wafting out of your kitchen. All that’s left to do is to keep everyone away from those closets.
Ham and Dijon Palmiers adapted from Martha Holmberg, Puff
- 2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted
- 2 tablespoons cream-style horseradish*
- 2 cups shredded Gruyère
- 2/3 cup caramelized onions**
- 8 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- 2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 6 ounces thinly-sliced ham
- 1 cup shredded Gruyère
- Lay one sheet of puff pastry on a cutting board and spread it with 1 tablespoon of cream-style horseradish.
- Distribute the remaining ingredients across the pastry, in the following order: 1 cup Gruyère, 1/3 cup caramelized onions, half of the crumbled bacon, 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the pastry and press down gently to compact layers.
- Starting at the end closest to you, tuck and roll the pastry until you reach the center of the sheet. Roll the opposite end toward the center until the two rolls meet. Dab a few drops of water onto the pastry if the rolls won't stick together in the center.
- Repeat process with second sheet of puff pastry and remaining ingredients.
- Wrap the pastry rolls in plastic wrap and refrigerate (at least 1 hour) or freeze (30 minutes) until firm. Unwrap and cut with a sharp knife into 1/4-inch thick slices, about 24 per roll.
- Brush each sheet of puff pastry with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard. Layer remaining ingredients in the following order: 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1/2 cup Gruyère, 3 ounces ham. Follow assembly procedure above.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place sliced palmiers 1-inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until golden and flaky, 12-14 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. (Bake time will depend on how cold your pastry is before going into the oven.)
- Let rest 2-3 minutes and loosen palmiers from parchment with a thin metal spatula. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.
- Freeze palmiers on baking sheets until solid, then transfer to freezer-safe bags for storage.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place frozen palmiers 1-inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake, from frozen, 15-18 minutes, until golden and flaky, rotating pans halfway through. Continue as directed above.
**To caramelize onions: Slice 2 large onions (about 1 pound) crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Melt 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until foaming subsides. Add onions and a pinch of kosher salt and cook until onions begin to soften and release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Lower heat and cook, stirring often, until onions are soft and brown, about 30 minutes longer. Deglaze the pan with 1 tablespoon water and stir for an additional minute. Set onions aside to cool.