Smoked Salmon & Spinach Puffs

smoked salmon & spinach puffs | sunsets on the side

smoked salmon & spinach puffs | sunsets on the side

How was everyone’s holiday?  I hope it was magical and relaxing.  In fact, I hope the relaxation portion is still going strong and continuing through your weekend.

But, I guess the biggest question of the day is whether we’ve recovered enough to be ready for New Year’s appetizer ideas?

New Year’s Eve is such a funny holiday.  There tends to be a lot of hype and some clutching on to holiday season remnants.  Buy, hey.  Any celebration based around champagne cocktails and fancy appetizers is one I’m happy to support.  We usually keep our New Year’s activities very low-key: drinks and apps at our good friends’ house, which is conveniently within walking distance.  That’s, um…come in handy a time or two before.

This year, though, we have a New Year’s Eve wedding, complete with a grand venue and built-in fireworks.  I’m excited to have such a valid reason to get all jazzed up and go out on the town.  Did that make me sound…old?

smoked salmon and spinach puffs | sunsets on the side

Anyway, since we’re heading out for New Year’s, I thought we’d get our fix of homemade, fun-sized food this weekend.  These little puff pastry nibbles would be perfect if you’re hosting this year.  They’re tasty and light, and they’re easy to make ahead.  You could put these together the morning of the party, leave them in the fridge all day, and then just bake them right before your guests arrive.

Or, you could bake some for lunch, eat them yourself, and then bake the rest right before your guests arrive.  No one here is judging.

Just a couple things to note for this recipe.  First, get as much of the liquid out of the spinach as you can.  Water in the spinach makes for a watery filling, so I let the spinach thaw totally and then squeeze the water out with my hands.  It’s a cold job, but it’s the best way to get dry spinach.  Also, you want the puff pastry to be as cold as possible, so I stick it in the refrigerator the day before I want to use it and let it defrost there overnight.  Then, I keep one sheet in the fridge while I’m working with the second sheet.  The cold butter in the pastry is what causes it to puff in the oven, so softened butter leads to improper puffing.

Say that five times fast.

Smoked Salmon & Spinach Puffs
 
Author:
Makes: 28 puffs
Ingredients
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 (10-oz) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted & water squeezed out
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 3 T. mascarpone cheese
  • 2 oz. smoked salmon, minced
  • ½ cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, defrosted
  • 1 egg
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer.
  3. Add the spinach (it may spit at you a bit, depending on how dry you got the spinach, so be careful when you put it in the pan), salt, and pepper and cook just enough to warm and separate the spinach, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the wine, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine has been almost completely absorbed by the spinach. Remove from heat and add the mascarpone. Stir until completely combined. Let the mixture cool slightly and then stir in the smoked salmon and Monterey jack.
  5. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry out onto a well-floured surface (keep the other sheet in the refrigerator so it stays cold while you work). Roll it out with a rolling pin until the sheet measures 10” by 12”. Using a 1 ¾” square cookie cutter (or whatever size/shape you like), cut the puff pastry into 28 small squares.
  6. In a small bowl, beat the egg and a splash of water with a fork until combined.
  7. To make the puffs, take 2 of the pastry squares, and brush the outside edges with egg wash. Place about ½ tsp. of the spinach filling into the middle of one of the squares (don’t overfill or you won’t be able to seal them). Place the other pastry square on top and, using a fork, crimp all the edges to seal.
  8. Repeat with the remaining squares and then with the second sheet of puff pastry. Brush the top of each puff with the egg wash, and sprinkle the tops very lightly with salt and pepper.
  9. Bake for 16-18 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Serve warm.

 

Eggnog Cheesecake Ice Cream

eggnog cheesecake ice cream | sunsets on the side

eggnog cheesecake ice cream | sunsets on the side

Eggnog is a mysterious and magical drink that only shows itself for a few weeks each year around the holidays.  It’s thick, it’s (sometimes) boozy, it’s indulgent.  I remember, when I was a kid, my dad and my sister both loved eggnog.  I wanted so much to like it, too.  All these years later, though, I still don’t.

It’s a texture thing to me.  Drinks should not be that thick.  Especially spiked drinks.  But, the flavor?  The flavor is goooood.  So, let’s take the texture issue right out of the equation.  You with me??

I reached back in the archives to revisit my raspberry cheesecake ice cream recipe back from the Summer of Homemade Ice Cream.  I’ve made so many variations of this recipe by now, but I’m still not tired of it.  And, this variation celebrates everything good about eggnog.  It’s festive!  Rich!  Delicious!  And, it plays up the thick texture in a new and entirely pleasing way.

Eggnog Cheesecake Ice Cream
 
Author:
Makes: 1 Quart
Ingredients
  • 12 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup mascarpone, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup eggnog, at room temp
  • ¼ cup sour cream, at room temperature
Instructions
  1. In a stand mixer, mix cream cheese and mascarpone on medium speed until completely smooth, about 3 minutes.
  2. With mixer running, slowly add sugar and salt. Mix until smooth. Add vanilla and cinnamon, and mix until combined.
  3. With mixer on low, slowly add the eggnog.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and whisk until eggnog is totally incorporated into the cream cheese mixture. Fold in sour cream.
  5. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours or overnight.
  6. Pour chilled mixture into the frozen bowl of an ice cream maker and mix according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When ice cream is at soft serve stage (which only took about 15 minutes because of the cheese in this recipe), transfer to freezer-safe container and freeze until firm.

Adapted from Cuisinart.