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Whoosh, not smoosh

September 14, 2011

I have decided that puff pastry straws are the little black dresses of party snacks. They are almost always appropriate, and you can accessorize them a million different ways. They keep well and travel well. They are endorsed by Martha and Ina and Canal House. And they look so delicate and spindly and lithe. One day I hope to fashion a batch of them into reindeer antlers for an elaborate holiday table centerpiece.

Also, parmesan puff pastry straws taste like fancy Cheez-Its. Also also, they are fun and easy to make. I don’t think I will ever tire of smooshing an entire tub o’ parm into a smooth sheet of puff pastry. Smoosh smoosh smoosh, all the live long day, and then I get to wield the pizza cutter with semi-reckless abandon. Jules, engineer that he is, is able to cut the puff pastry into equal strips with laser-like precision. I swear the man uses a protractor while I’m not looking. This is why I try not to let him make cheese straws. Without semi-reckless cutting abandon, there are no reject pastry bits for snacking while you make the rest of the party food. And really, a night without reject pastry bits is like a night without stars.

The America’s Test Kitchen recipe for parmesan straws is my go-to, but I’ve found that they taste exponentially better if you use good puff pastry and cheese. Pepperidge Farm puff pastry always comes out more greasy than crispy for me, so I usually get the fancy stuff from Whole Foods. (I’ve heard that Trader Joe’s frozen puff pastry is a nice happy medium between Dufour and Pepperidge Farm, but haven’t tried it. You?) These ingredients can get pretty expensive if you are making several batches for a crowd, especially if the crowd contains people that you really do not like that much. Why are these people at my party?, you ask. O.K. maybe you like them, but you don’t Cheese Straw Like them. Don’t look at me like you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Enter the Fig and Blue Cheese Bite, courtesy of The Runaway Spoon and Food52.

These little guys get their tang from just 4 oz. of blue cheese crumbles, which you whoosh, not smoosh, into a shortbready cracker base and crown with a drop of fig jam. One recipe makes a boatload of bites. The jam melts and spreads out a bit during baking, so you only need a small amount for each one. I think these things rival cheese straws in flavor. I imagine they would rival cheese straws in elegance, if you did what the recipe asked and cut them with a floured, 1-inch round cutter.

Or, if you’re like me (meaning: impatient and geometrically challenged), you could try cutting them into “squares” with a pizza cutter. The edges will curl slightly à la Shrinky Dink, and your bites will end up looking like a disembodied map of the Midwestern United States.

I’m not quite sure what the round ones are. But I think I see Minnesota!

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