Monday, January 18, 2010

Food: Christmas Pigs and wine.

Over the years it became apparant that Christmas was getting excessive with my family. Between the Christmas Eve dinner at my parents with my stepdad's family, to the Christmas brunch the next morning to open presents, followed by the jaunt to Nana's house for more food, more presents, 25 cousins (yes 25! cousins) and the annual snowball fight. Then...back to the parents for the "Christmas hangover" dinner of leftovers and collapse.

Nobody wanted to cut out the activities or the people - it is always wonderful to get together and see everyone but we needed to simmer it down on some of the presents and the big hosted meals. So...the Christmas Eve dinner has become the Christmas Eve wine exchange and Appetizer Extraganza. All the adults bring 1-2 appetizers and a whole lot of wine. Usually 5-10 bottles (from $10-$20 apiece) to exchange. Everyone eats what and when they want to eat - nothing formal, no fancy table, we sometimes even have (gasp! novelty paper plates). The kids open their present while the adults watch (and drink more) and then adults take a number to see where the are in the wine pulling line-up. We all take turns picking bottles until all the wine is gone. Everything is fair. You get to take home as many bottles as you brought and try out a bunch of new wines. Leaving with 6 bottles of great new wines is way way better than leaving with some scented bath salts and expired chocolates.

Now - everyone needs to bring an appetizer. I have tried to vary my offering - bringing a mix of high (goat cheese, pesto, sundried tomato spread) and low brow (onion dip aka onion soup mix, sour cream with a side of potato chips) but there is one thing I am required to make every year - per the request of young and old - the classic pigs in a blanket. I made them the first year and now there is no getting out of it. Luckily they are easy enough to make and can be assembled ahead of time and then baked when we get there.

Here is what you need -
1 pack Lil Smokies. I usually go with the beef in respect to my Jewish friends. These friends who occassionally show up to my parent's house on Christmas Eve because we are all home for the holidays and hey - eating and drinking at my house is pretty fun - especially compared to watching TV with their parents.
2 cans Pillsbury Crescent rolls. The regular kind, not the giant or the reduced fat or the extra buttery. Stick with the classic.

Directions -
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Cut each of the rolls into 3 triangular pieces.
3. Wrap each little weenie (hee hee I said weenie) in the dough - starting with the thicker side.
4. Arrange the wrapped weenies like soldiers waiting for battle on a baking sheet.
5. Bake for 11-13 mins. I usually keep it on the 11 side so they do not get too crispy.
6. Serve with BBQ sauce and a variety of mustards.

A few things to note -
- The amount listed above will feed around 6-8 people if there are other appetizers. I usually end up making double batches for things like Superbowl parties (people munch for 4 hours) and triple batches for the Christmas Eve festivities (20-25 people).
- Use silpats if you have them. If you don't have silpats - Jesus go buy some already - I have been talking them up for a year already. I swear sometimes you don't listen to me.
- You know they are done when the weenie is oozing just a little bit of delicious meat juice and the roll is just slightly browned on top.
- My friend Sarah had a nacho party for her 30th birthday and requested the piggies. Pigs in a blanket dipped in hot nacho cheese could be one of the most delicious and disgusting things I have ever tried. I had a stomach ache for days. I am not saying it was ALL the pigs fault - it was a nacho themed party after all. I am just saying it was probably what set me over the edge.
- Not matter how well you plan - you will never have an even amount of pigs to blankets. Don't fret - there is always that pesky vegetarian that just wants the roll or my 4 year old cousin that has declared he "likes pigs but doesn't like blankets." Go ahead and throw your leftovers onto the baking sheet. Nothing will go to waste.



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