That’s a true Southern convention: a bread, a spread, and something-out-of-a-can. Sometimes all three at once. Not that those are indigenous or entirely exclusive to the South---they just seem to appear a lot on cocktail and party tables. (It seemed that recipes in the Little Church Cookbooks were still specifying "a can of mushrooms" long after even our own smalltown Kroger was stocking a nice array of fresh ones). And the little crispy warm cheesy bites, with the rich sumptuousness of a canned asparagus spear---well, that’s a nice accompaniment to cocktails, beer, iced tea on the lawn, or Aunt Cleome’s secret Wedding-Shower Punch recipe.
I used to call on my sons to help with these---the bread has to be ironed flat, by earnest application of a rolling pin, and the crusts have to be left on, making the labor more intensive. Thus the calling-in of the muscle-brigade, whose own liking of the little goodies extended not simply to enjoying them, but to making whole sandwiches of them, bypassing the flattening step altogether and smearing the spread onto two slices of bread, lining up about ten spears like logs on the bottom slice, laying on the top slice, and sliding the whole thing into the broiler like a tape in a VCR. That makes a mighty fine quick lunch, especially with a slice of melon or some fruit salad.
Simple as pi: Open a couple of cans of asparagus spears, drain out the liquid and discard, and lay the spears gently on paper towels to drain. Meanwhile, stir a small jar of Cheez Whiz with half-a-jar of Durkee’s, a coupla clops of mayo, and a good sprinkle of powdered garlic.
Open a loaf of white bread, flatten each slice, spread with a bit of the mixture, and place a spear at one end. Roll up and place in a buttered 9x13. When all are finished, brush melted butter over all the exposed areas of the rolls, Saran and chill till ready to bake. Preheat to 350, unwrap, bake 15 minutes til crispy and golden.
Slice into thirds with very sharp knife and serve in a napkin-lined bowl or tray. Or serve whole like little cigars, about three per guest, alongside a chicken salad plate with deviled eggs and a slice of melon.
PS: You can try to save labor by buying the thin-sliced Pepperidge Farm, but I've never had any luck trying to make that firm flatness roll into a neat round.
My most vibrant memory of these rollups is of a wedding reception that I catered many years ago, on an ice-slick day with tree-limbs down and the roads like glaciers. I’d braved it in my trusty wagon, and was dismayed on looking out from the reception area into the sparsely-populated pews of the church. I went on with my work, and put the trays of rollups into the oven with just time to bake, slice and put on the table before the people walked into the back for the reception.
One woman, in unaccustomed boots and slacks for church, muffler hanging from her neck and pockets-full-of-gloves sticking out like panniers, stood with a loaded plate of party goodies, eating the crisp little toasty nuggets like popcorn. “I promised my husband I’d be home right after the ceremony, but then about when the vows started, that heavenly scent of toast just rolllllllled out into the church.” I hope it didn’t disrupt the solemnity of the event.
Another client would order a double order of Jalapeno rollups for a party---half to serve cut and arranged prettily for the guests, and the other half left whole in her fridge, for her lunch at her desk during the next week.
Makes 10 10” flour tortillas --- 80 1" pieces
Put into food processor:
1 or 2 fresh jalapenos, seeded and cut into several pieces
½ medium green bell pepper. ditto
½ medium red bell pepper, ditto
Process til finely chopped
Add to processor:
2 packs cream cheese
2 spoonclops mayo
Good sprinkle powdered garlic
6 green onions, thin-sliced by hand, white and green
Pulse till nicely mixed. Spread now, or you’ll have to bring back to a spreading temperature later.
Spread each tortilla with the mixture---you CAN leave two opposite sides bare for ½ inch or so, as you’ll cut that off later to even it up before slicing. I just spread and roll, and toss the ½ inch selvages into a baggie for cook’s treat later. Roll fairly tightly.
Place rolls side-by-side in pan, lay a damp paper towel atop and Saran til ready to cut. Slice off ends, then cut roll in half, halve the two pieces, then the four pieces, to get eight perfectly-matched slices. Arrange on a pretty platter and garnish with parsley or cilantro and a whole jalapeno.
And I've found that teenage crowds like these with the addition of a couple of teaspoons of Taco Seasoning, right out of the packet, in the mixture. (Me channeling Miss Sandra, here).
To make “seafood” wraps, finely chop a 6-ounce pack of Mock Crab or Sealegs and stir by hand into the above cream cheese/mayo/garlic/green onions. Spread and cut as above. I usually garnish these with butter lettuce holding a few little red crawfish claws, to show that there’s shellfish inside.
The Spirals are the favorite potluck offering of a friend, who rolls tortillas around a mixture of cream cheese, grated jack, green onions, minced salami or pepperoni, and black olives. She spreads it thickly, makes the roll almost twice the size as usual, and slices them much thinner. They’re really pretty, like pinwheels on the plate.
Tomorrow: Warm from the grill