Several decades ago, April was officially designated as National Humor Month, with April 1 being the most humorous day of the month, April Fools’ Day.
I don’t know how you feel about it, but thus far April has been anything but humorous. Most of us have just finished dealing with trying to pay our taxes, both 2012’s and the first estimated amount for 2013. There is nothing, nada, zero, zilch humorous about our convoluted, ever more complicated tax codes, nor am I happy in the slightest about where a great deal of what we send “them” goes.
Now, as I’m sitting at my computer writing this column, the world is waiting to find out if that ridiculous, chubby, round-faced, short-armed little man currently “leading” North Korea is going to fire that missile or not, and where, exactly, it will be headed. I certainly don’t find that the tiniest bit humorous.
It’s paradoxical then, that some years ago, April was also designated National Stress Awareness Month, which right now makes a lot more sense than National Humor Month. But, just in case you don’t have enough to carry you through Stress Awareness Month, let me see if I can help by adding just a bit to the stress levels of April. The third week of April was officially Organize and Manage Your Files Week. Now, that makes me laugh.
By the time you’re reading this, we may have missed one very important April day, National Newspaper Columnists’ Day, April 18. Who knew? I’d have alerted you much sooner, had I known, so all of you regular readers of this column could have emailed me your good wishes and humorous thoughts. Or not.
We won’t even mention the ho-hum usual April nonsense about spring cleaning and “April showers bring May flowers.” Spring cleaning is right up there with organizing my files and the fickle weather, none of it thus far the least bit humorous. However, there is something to look forward to, perhaps both humorous and stress-relieving. April 26 is Hug an Australian Day, so if you have one handy or can lay hands on one, hugging an Australian should provide some stress relieving humor, albeit brief.
Yes, April is just packed with special days, such as National Take A Chance Day (and hug an Australian?) on the 23rd, National Penguin Day on the 25th (pay attention, Carole), National Prime Rib Day on the 27th, and National Shrimp Scampi Day on the 29th. And, the entire 4th week of April is National Karaoke Week. Do they still have karaoke at Cozy’s, I wonder? Or anywhere on the south end of the island? If so, I know a sure-fire way to make any or all of you laugh long and hard during the final days of this National Humor Month.
Just hand me the mike.
April 24 has been designated Pig in a Blanket Day, if you can believe that. No, I don’t know why or officially by whom, but there it is, listed in the “Special Days of April.” I grew up eating my grandmother’s pigs in blankets, and loved it then, still do. So, in tribute to that special day, here are a couple of recipes, one very old, one more modern, for this wonderful comfort food.
PIGS IN BLANKETS
1 cup flour
1 t. baking powder
¼ t. baking soda
¼ cup chilled vegetable shortening
1/3 cup buttermilk (or use plain yogurt)
1 large egg yolk
10 small sausages, pre-blanched, or 10 frankfurters, ends trimmed and cut in half crosswise.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet (or line with parchment paper).
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Blend in shortening with pastry blender or fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk; add to the flour mixture and blend just until mixture forms a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead 4 times. Roll into a 12-inch square.
Cut dough into strips 1-½ inches wide. Roll each strip around the middle of a sausage or frankfurter until the dough overlaps. Cut free from the strip and place seam side down on the baking sheet. Make 19 more. Bake “pigs” until pale golden, about 15 minutes. Makes 20.
Note: My grandmother and mother always made their “blanket” dough from scratch like this, but they didn’t have access to frozen phyllo or pie dough. You can substitute either one; I’ve also used packaged Crescent Roll dough.
During the ’50s, little sausage rolls (mini-pigs-in-blankets) were very popular appetizers. They still are, especially these more modern, “kicked-up” little bites.
MINI PIGS IN BLANKETS
1 T. butter
1 onion, finely chopped
12 oz. quality lean sausage meat (bulk sausage)
1 T. dried mixed herbs, such as Tuscan mix, or sage/tarragon/dill/oregano mix
1 oz. finely chopped pistachio nuts (optional)
12 oz. puff pastry, thawed if frozen
6 T. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten (for glaze)
Poppy sees, sesame seeds, for sprinkling
Melt butter in a small sauté pan over med. heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 min., or until softened. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Put softened onion, sausage meat, herbs and nuts (if using), in a mixing bowl. Season with a little salt and pepper and stir together until completely blended.
Divide the sausage mixture into four equal portions and roll each portion into long thin sausages measuring about 10 inches long. Set aside. (It helps the rolling if you oil your hands lightly).
On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to about 1/8-inch thick. Cut into 4 strips about 10×3 inches. Place a long sausage on each pastry strip and sprinkle each with a little of the grated Parmesan.
Brush one long edge of each of the pastry strips with a little of the egg glaze and roll up to enclose each sausage. Set them seam side down and press gently to seal. Brush each one with the egg glaze and sprinkle with one type of the seeds. Repeat with remaining pastry strips, sprinkling each with different seeds, if desired.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a large baking sheet. Cut each of the pastry/sausage strips into 1-inch pieces and arrange them on the baking sheet. Bake about 15 min., or until pastry is crispy and browned. Serve warm or cooled.
Note: You can make a quick, zesty sauce to dip these in by heating 2 T. skimmed milk, adding 1/3-½ cup chopped cheese (such as Mexican chopped, or chopped cheddar), stirring to melt, then adding 1 T. ketchup and 2 T. yellow mustard. Serve warm with the little Pigs in Blankets bites.