The holidays for me, as they are for most people, are a time when memories start to loom large. They're a time for missing those that are gone or far away, and missing things as they were. When you're a kid, you want things to be bigger and more impressive, and you have ambitious dreams. For the most part, I'm fulfilling those dreams, and I'm happy doing it, but at the same time I do badly miss the holidays at my Grandpa's house with my entire family lingering around, and the big extended family gatherings in Boone or Winston Salem with their typically Southern cuisine. I got the recipe for these parmesan shortbreads from a book I've had for a while - I saw it at my friend B's house at New Year's and was so impressed that I bought my own copy this past spring, but this is my first chance to make something from it. The minute I bit into one, the taste brought me back to my Grandpa's kitchen (with him it was cheese straws, not shortbread, but it doesn't matter).
There are a few foods that will do that to me - that trail mix with the wasabi peas and the spicy orange crackers, mince pie, parker house rolls, lemon curd. I lived in my mother's house my whole life, but it doesn't really bring back a nostalgic feeling because I forget that I don't actually live there anymore. When I visit, I wake up in my bed without any sense of surprise, and I drive around Raleigh forgetting that I ever moved. Grandpa's house, though, symbolizes my childhood in a different way. Last year at this time, I made chess and pecan pie, and mulled wine. This year I'm struck by an intense desire for caramel cake. I don't plan on doing any sort of Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, but I probably will throw together a few things throughout the season.
Anyway, the shortbreads were tiny, but quite tasty. I kept having to add water to the dough, which isn't called for - my dough skills really could use some work. The above picture demonstrates my fabulous mess-free grating technique. Using paper towels on a cutting board, you can make it easy to grate, scoop it into the measuring cup, and set the measured portion aside in batches, and then gather up the paper towel and pour all the cheese into the food processor. The drink I'm providing for the Blog Party is also a childhood reminiscence. I remember when Arbor Mist came out and I badly wanted it from the commercials, but of course it was alcohol and I was probably about fifteen at the time. I finally got around to trying it, and as you can see by the embarrassingly empty bottle it was a hit. Any kind of white wine would go great with these shortbreads, though.
Parmesan & Rosemary Shortbreads
adapted slightly from Hors D'Oeuvres by Eric Treuille & Victoria Blashford-Snell
makes 40 very small shortbreads
1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
3 T cold butter, diced
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp dried rosemary
Grate the parmesan as described above to make it easy on yourself and dump in the food processor. Sift in 1/2 cup flour (I suppose you should sift before measuring but I don't bother). Throw in a dash each salt and cayenne, plus the rosemary. Dice and add the cold butter. The instructions say pulse to form a smooth dough, but that didn't happen for me. I pulsed until it was basically coming together, dumped on my flour cutting board, then worked it together with my hands, adding some water a little at a time. Adding water while in the food processor would probably work well. Roll out a quarter of an inch thick. I did thinner but it was fine. They puff up a bit. You can cut out 40 rounds with a 1-1/2 inch fluted pastry cutter, but if you think that sounds ridiculous, use a shot glass. You'll probably only get twenty with the rim, but I used the bottom as a guide and cut them out with a knife instead. Put on the baking sheet with just a little bit of space in between the shortbreads and chill half an hour. Bake at 350 for about eight minutes or until golden brown. Cool.