For an easy holiday appetizer that looks elegant, try these winter-inspired pinwheels. They have meaty portobello mushrooms sauteed with thyme and sage, the two most earthy spices. Thyme and sage are what I imagine a forest must taste like, wild and fresh. The cognac was a little improvisation. With 5 bottles of red wine staring at me and not a single bottle of white to impart flavor on the mushrooms, I was stuck between using gin or cognac for the mushrooms.
My husband looooves cognac and got me to try it once, but never again. In its pure form, cognac has dragon-like fumes that make you light headed when you get within 4 inches of the glass. When you taste it, the fumes burn down your throat and clear up your sinuses as if it were a hot pepper. Still, cognac was a better choice than gin and I knew the alcohol would cook off. Since I’m an avid cookbook reader, I know that cognac is highly flammable, so I took extra precaution, ok, obsessive precaution when I added it to the mushroom filling; I took the entire pan off the stove, poured the cognac in while holding the pan over the sink, then returned it safely to the stovetop. I didn’t even want to leave the mixture unattended to go put back the cognac because I was afraid it might light on fire. If you don’t want to go the adventurous route, hopefully you have white wine you can use, if not chicken broth or the ever-friendly H2o, water.
P.S. I will never hear the end of “remember that one time you cooked with cognac…”
Click here for the printable.
Mushroom Cognac Pinwheels
Makes 15-20 large pinwheels or 30-40 small pinwheels (see note)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 portobello mushroom caps, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
5-6 fresh sage leaves finely minced, or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/3 cup cognac or dry white wine or water
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup grated smoked fontina, gruyere, or swiss cheese
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup of water in a small cup for binding the dough together or 1 egg lightly beaten
1. In a large saute pan over medium high heat, heat the olive oil, then add the diced onion and saute about 3 minutes until the onions are translucent.
2. Add the diced mushrooms, salt, thyme, and sage to the saute pan. Cook another 2-3 minutes.
3. Take saute pan off of heat and away from flames and add in cognac. Use caution as cognac is highly flammable. Cook another 5 minutes or so until the mushrooms are soft and have absorbed all of the cognac. Add the butter, allow it to melt, then mix with a spoon. turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
4. On a clean working surface, roll out the puff pastry dough. Use a sprinkle of flour if the dough has become sticky.
5. Starting at the bottom (the side of the dough closest to you), sprinkle the puff pastry with the grated fontina cheese. Make sure to cover every part of the dough EXCEPT the top inch of the side furthest from you. Add the cognac-mushrooms and spread on top of the cheese in the same manner. Brush the top inch with water or egg to help bind the dough when you roll it up.
6. Starting with the side closest to you, roll up the puff pastry like a jelly roll. It should roll up around itself at least two times. Use water and your fingers to bind the of dough at the top. You will have one long piece.
7. Place on a baking dish and refrigerate overnight ( or up to 2 days).
8. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the log into 1/3 inch slices and arrange on a baking sheet, leaving space between the pinwheels. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
Note: for smaller pinwheels, cut the puff pastry dough in half before topping with the filling and make two smaller logs to cut up.