- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A group of close friends has organized a yearly potluck for more than a decade. We have no set date. It can be in any season, cold or warm, or any time, early in the day or at night.

We simply find a weekend when all of us are available and not traveling for work or pleasure.

In winter, we assembled for our first meal together in many months and had such a good time that we left vowing not to wait so long before sharing food and drink again.

What we prize about these gatherings is that they are pressure-free. We divide the menu and choose who’ll prepare the appetizer, main dish, salad, side and dessert.

The hosts usually opt for the entree, with the rest of us bringing the supporting dishes. There’s never a theme, so each cook can prepare what he or she wants. Amazingly, the menu always seems to meld beautifully.

Our most recent supper was on a cold, blustery night. We began with wine served alongside savory chorizo-and-olive pinwheels, followed by a big pot of Provencal beef-and-tomato stew offered with a platter of buttered noodles.

A salad of watercress, fresh oranges and carrots dressed in an orange vinaigrette came next, along with a French double-cream cheese and crusty bread. For dessert, there was a tall chocolate cake that everyone ate with abandon.

My contribution was the chorizo-and-olive-pinwheel appetizer. It is made with a sheet of purchased puff pastry that is rolled around a delectable filling of chorizo sausage, green olives and salted almonds.

Baked until golden and crisp, the pastries are equally tempting served warm or at room temperature. They have another advantage, too:

They can be prepared a day in advance and even frozen.

The pinwheels were the only part of this delicious home-cooked meal that I had to worry about. Long live potlucks.

Chorizo and olive pinwheels

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 chorizo sausage, about 3 ounces, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/3 cup chopped shallots (about 2 medium shallots)

1/3 cup green Mediterranean olives (about 18), pitted and chopped

1/3 cup roasted, salted almonds, chopped (see note)

2 pinches cayenne pepper

Flour

1 sheet puff pastry (from a 171/4-ounce package)

cup grated Manchego cheese

1 egg, lightly beaten

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add sausage and shallots and saute until shallots are softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in olives; cook 1 minute more. Remove and stir in almonds and cayenne pepper. Cool to room temperature.

Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit a large baking sheet, and set the paper aside.

Clear some space in the freezer in which to place the baking sheet once the pasty has been assembled.

On a lightly floured surface, roll puff pastry into a 12-by-10-inch rectangle. Sprinkle pastry with cheese, leaving a -inch border on all sides. Spoon sausage mixture over the cheese.

Starting at a long side, tightly roll the pastry, jellyroll style, just to the middle. Then roll up the other side in the same way, and press the two rolled sides together. Using metal spatulas, transfer roll to baking sheet; freeze 15 minutes to firm for easier cutting.

Using metal spatulas, transfer pastry roll to a cutting board. With a serrated knife, cut roll into -inch-thick slices, discarding the two end pieces, which don’t contain filling.

Cover baking sheet with parchment paper, and arrange pinwheels at least an inch apart on it. Pinch sides of each pinwheel together to make sure filling is tightly encased with pastry. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

Beat egg with 2 teaspoons water and brush lightly over pinwheels. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven until puffed and golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Arrange pinwheels on a serving platter. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes about 18 pinwheels.

Note: Spanish Marcona almonds (which are more round than oval and have been sauteed in olive oil and seasoned with sea salt) work particularly well in this recipe. They are available at some grocery stores and at specialty food stores such as Whole Foods.

Make-ahead note: The pinwheels can be baked a day ahead. Cool and store in an airtight container. Reheat on a baking sheet in a preheated 350-degree oven until warm, 5 minutes or longer. The pinwheels also can be frozen for up to 1 week. Cool and place in a resealable plastic bag. To reheat, take straight from freezer, place on a baking sheet, and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until warm and crisp, 10 minutes or longer.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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