One of my favorite pieces of food lore pertains to the crescent roll or ‘croissant’. The crescent roll is shaped to looked like the crescent moon on the Ottoman flag of the 1600s. The Turks tried to acquire Europe for over 300 years and in the second siege of Vienna, they attempted to dig tunnels under the city walls. Bakers in the city … who worked through the night … heard them tunneling and alerted their army. Polish King John III arrived in time. Manned by just half the number of soldiers that the Turks had, his army saved Vienna. The bakers were instructed to bake something special, so the people could celebrate the victory. The chose the shape of the crescent moon depicted on the Turkish flag … so each time a resident took a bite … they could celebrate defeating (biting) the enemy!
A hundred years later, Austrian-born Marie-Antoinette was responsible for associating the croissant with France. She was homesick, so her bakers made them for her! We typically associate the roll with French cuisine, but it really began its journey in Austria!
My dad used to say that Mother started making really good biscuits after they came out in cans! That meant, of course, that she didn’t make good biscuits! In my childhood (that last child of five), I don’t remember her making any kind of bread, biscuits or rolls from scratch. She was capable, she just didn’t do it! We had canned biscuits, but we never had the very popular crescent rolls that Pillsbury introduced to the market in 1965. They introduced the ‘dough boy’ the same year! Crescent rolls came to the grocery stores during my favorite vintage period!
Over the years, I have learned that you can fill crescent rolls with lots of things, bake them and you magically have great appetizers! Now that Pillsbury also produces the sheet of puff pastry, it is even easier to create magic! The following recipes are just that!
Prepare a pound of ground beef as you would for tacos, using a seasoning mix. Let the meat cool completely before assembling the crescents. One pound of meat will fill 2 cans of crescent rolls. Unroll each triangle of dough, place a portion of meat on the wide end and roll it up. Bake at 375 degrees until they are brown. You can serve them whole or slice them to reveal the spiral of meat … which is the most attractive way to serve them.
They are better served with a little sauce, spread or dip. We enjoy the following Guacamole.
Cut the kernels off two ears of fresh corn. Cut a large tomato into half inch chunks. Gently mash a whole avocado. Combine these ingredients with a teaspoon of lime juice and a dash of sriracha. Finish with a heaping Tablespoon of chopped cilantro or chopped Mexican tarragon. This is a perfect topper for a bite of the Spicy Beef Crescents!
This recipe uses one can of the crescent roll style puff pastry sheet. If you have a tart pan that it fits, use it. Otherwise, you can lay a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet, place the pastry on it and crimp the edges to hold the filling.
Cut 2 carrots into slices or cubes. Cut a small zucchini into slices of cubes. Cut just a few chunks of a sweet onion. Scallions work, too. This is great with some fresh herbs added. Basil, sage, thyme, rosemary and oregano work well.
In a Tablespoon of olive oil or flavored olive oil, sauté the vegetables until they start to caramelize. Add the herbs at the end of cooking. Let everything cool.
The actually filling for this tart is simple. Mix 1 egg with 1 1/2 cups of cottage cheese. Add a little salt, pepper and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Pour this into the tart shell. Place the caramelized vegetables over the filling. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until the center puffs up and the edges are brown. The amount of vegetables you use will determine the length of time to bake. Top with a few extra fresh herbs and let it cool considerably before cutting and serving.