Side Orders: Pigs in a Blanket, grill safety tips for Memorial Day

Pigs in a Blanket / Getty Images
Pigs in a Blanket / Getty Images

America's Test Kitchen's newest cookbook, "The Complete Small Plates Cookbook," is one of those books that makes your mouth water with every turn of the page, and there are 397 pages — most with beautiful photographs — not to mention conversion charts, indexes and the like.

(READ MORE: Elegant shrimp dish works as appetizer or entree)

Small plates are nothing new. Before there were small plates, they were called tapas. Now you see them on menus as shareables or small plates. Whatever you call them, they are fun nibbles for beginning a meal or ordering several for an entire meal.

Chef Efren Ormaza introduced the first tapas restaurant, Terra Nostra, to Chattanooga on Frazier Avenue a couple of decades ago. It's now closed, but there are now so many new restaurants with small plates and shareables on their menus.

(READ MORE: Terra Nostra to close on North Shore after 17-year run)

This new cookbook from America's Test Kitchen lets you recreate the fun of small plates at home. With recipes ranging from fried cheese to watermelon salad with Cotita and Serano chilies to sizzling beef lettuce wraps and chickpea cakes, the book will keep you busy in the kitchen for months to come.

Here's a recipe that I found to be perfect for serving on small individual plates with a cold beer this Memorial Day weekend. It sounds familiar, but it's really nothing like one would expect. Pigs in a Blanket has been a fun favorite as long as I can remember, but they're usually made with crescent-roll dough and served with yellow mustard for dipping. America's Test Kitchen dresses these little doggies up with puff pastry and everything bagel seasoning. I've never thought of them as a tapas offering, but as I've learned in looking through this cookbook, just about any food can be called tapas — if it's served on a small plate.

(READ MORE: Holiday cook needs recipes for pigs in a blanket, make-ahead mashed potatoes)

America's Test Kitchen suggests serving a single Pig in a Blanket alongside beet-pickled eggs and a little carrot salad for color. Just make sure to keep some Pigs in the kitchen so you can refill the small plates as needed.

Pigs in Blankets

Add a touch of honey to the mustard sauce for a slightly sweeter taste, if desired.

1 (9- by 9-inch) sheet puff pastry, thawed

Flour, as needed

1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

32 cocktail franks, patted dry

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons everything bagel seasoning

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mustard sauce:

1/3 cup yellow mustard

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon ketchup

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Unfold the puff pastry on a lightly floured counter, and roll into a 12- by 9-inch rectangle with the short side parallel to the edge of the counter, flouring the top of the dough as needed.

Using a sharp knife or pizza wheel, trim the dough down to a 12- by 8-inch rectangle. Cut the dough lengthwise into eight (1-inch) strips. Cut the dough crosswise at three 3-inch intervals. You should have 32 (3- by 1-inch) dough strips.

Lightly brush 1 row of dough strips with egg wash. Roll 1 frank in each dough strip, and transfer the bundle, seam side down, to the prepared sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough strips and franks, spacing the bundles 1/2-inch apart.

Combine the Parmesan, bagel seasoning and pepper in a bowl. Working with a few bundles at a time, brush the tops with egg wash, and sprinkle with the Parmesan mixture. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Make the sauce: In a bowl, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients.

Let the Pigs cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Serve with the mustard sauce.


If you'll be cooking on the grill, the National Fire Protection Association has safety tips to keep in mind for Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, and the rest of the season.

According to the agency's data, between 2017 and 2021, U.S. fire departments responded to an annual average of 11,421 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues, including 5,763 structure fires and 5,659 outside or unclassified fires. These fires caused an annual average of two civilian deaths, 176 reported civilian injuries and $172 million in direct property damage.

"Because outdoor grilling involves the use of a fuel source to generate an open flame, it inherently presents potential fire risks that needs to be taken seriously," said Lorraine Carli, vice president of outreach and advocacy at NFPA.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, for the same fire-year period, an annual average of 22,155 patients went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills. Nearly half (47%) of the injuries were thermal burns, including both burns from fire and from contact with hot objects. These burns typically occurred when someone, often a child, bumped into, touched or fell on the grill, grill part or hot coals. In fact, children under age 5 accounted for an average of 2,820 of the contact-type burns (46%) per year.

"These numbers reinforce that grilling fires can and do happen. However, there's no need to avoid grilling during Memorial Day or in the months ahead," said Carli. "Instead, by following simple safety precautions, people can greatly reduce the risk of experiencing a grilling fire."

Here are some key takeaways from the association:

› For propane grills, check the gas tank for leaks before use in the months ahead. (There's a video at on how to check for leaks.)

› Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.

› Place the grill well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.

› Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.

› Keep children and pets at least 3 feet away from the grilling area.

› If you use starter fluid when charcoal grilling, only use charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. When you are finished grilling, let the coals cool completely before disposing in a metal container.

› Never leave your grill unattended when in use.


University extension services are some of the best sources around for information on agricultural practices and consumer sciences. While you'd want to check in with your local office to learn about certain topics, such as when and what to plant for our growing season, some of the expert advice is relevant no matter where you live.

Which is why you may be interested in a series of home food preservation webinars Penn State Extension in University Park, Pennsylvania, is presenting over the next few months.

Registration is required to attend, and some have a nominal fee. If you'd prefer a printed book, you can purchase "Preserving Food at Home Resource Guide."

To sign up for the first webinar, Introduction to Preserving, which is free, go to and search by the title.

Other topics include: June 1, Water Bath Canning, $5; June 5, Can-Along Strawberry Jam, $15; June 12, Hot Topics (safety issues), free; June 13, Ask the Experts, free; June 26, Jams and Jellies, $5; June 29, Pressure Canning, $5; July 12, Atmospheric Steam Canning, $5; July 12, Freezing, $5; July 29, Can-Along Pressure Canning Green Beans, $15; Aug. 2, Pickling, $5; Aug. 17, Tomatoes and Salsa, $5; Aug. 24, Fermented Pickles and Sauerkraut, $5; Sept. 25, Introduction to Drying, $15; Oct. 2, Wild Game, $5.

Contact Anne Braly at or

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