Ancient Holiday Appetizers, Part 9!

Guys, it’s time! Ancient Holiday Appetizers, Part 9! In this series, I dig through old cookbooks and recipe mags searching for edible Christmas treasure. Sometimes the dishes are best left in the past, but more often than not, they’re just as good now as they were back when every jacket came with Bo Jackson’s shoulder pads.

For Part 9, all of the recipes came from 1980s lifestyle magazines, like Women’s Day and Family Circle. This is one of my favorite Dino Drac to-dos, every year. Read on and take notes, because most of these dishes are sincerely worth trying!

Pepperoni Crescent Pinwheels! (1982)

SO GOOD. Using shredded mozzarella, sliced pepperoni and a tube of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, you construct these absurdly delicious things that look like sausage rolls but taste like calzones.

Think about how good those crescent rolls are on their own. So rich and buttery! Now picture them with salty pepperoni and gooey mozzarella baked in. My entire place stunk like a pizzeria mixed with the hot butter dispenser from a movie theater.

The recipe said to serve them with jarred pizza sauce, as a dip. If you do, this essentially becomes a deconstructed pizza. Given how easy they were to make, I can’t get over how good they taste, or how lavish they look. Like savory sticky buns.

SCORE: 10 out of 10. There is no way I won’t be making these again.

Kool-Aid Holiday Punch! (1981)

I grew up on a steady diet of holiday-themed sitcoms, where bowls of bright red punch were common props. I was obsessed with them. Those punches always looked like pure Kool-Aid, and in fact, they probably were just Kool-Aid.

(After all, why would set dressers spike 12-ingredient punches when plain old Kool-Aid looked exactly the same?)

Thus, I was thrilled to find an honest-to-goodness holiday punch recipe featuring Kool-Aid as the star ingredient. In this case, we’re mixing Tropical Punch Kool-Aid with grapefruit juice, cranberry juice and a bottle of club soda. The end result is a beautiful drink that straddles the line between red and pink. Looks like the stuff Skeletor popped out of in the post-credits scene from Masters of the Universe.

Interestingly, the Kool-Aid flavor becomes so muted under the fruit juices that you might not even be able to identify it. It’s deeply sweet with a citrus kick from the grapefruit, and like the best punches, it tastes more like “this and that” than any one particular thing.

SCORE: 10 out of 10. This recipe didn’t call for alcohol, but I can tell that it’d work with all sorts of liquor. Actually, it’s already such a medley of flavors that you could probably just dump various liquors into it with no rhyme or reason, and still end up with something tasty. I’m a fan!

Avocado alla Prosciutto! (1980)

This recipe comes from a time when avocados were still kind of a novelty food. They weren’t hard to find or anything, but like, if someone bought avocados while out grocery shopping, it’s a safe bet that they called three friends to talk about it later that day.

It’s a spin on the classic pairing of prosciutto and melon, and I’m excited about that, because no matter how much I love the presentation of prosciutto and melon, I hate melon too much to participate. This is much more my speed.

They say to use California Avocados, which isn’t surprising given that the California Avocado Commission (yes that’s a real thing) sponsored the advertisement. I opted to use Tropical Avocados, which are milder but firmer, and much larger. If you try this recipe, I recommend doing the same. A smaller avocado probably wouldn’t survive this sort of abuse, and even if it did, that’d just mean it was grossly unripe.

I loved these! The avocado is mild and creamy, which creates a great contrast with prosciutto’s strong flavors. It helps that they look so pretty, too. Pretty fancy shit for thirty seconds of work.

SCORE: 9 out of 10. Though the recipe doesn’t mention it, I suggest lightly salting the avocado, and grinding some pepper over the completed roll-ups before serving.

Cranberry Butter! (1985)

Well, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that despite following the recipe exactly as written, my cranberry butter looked nothing like the photo in Women’s Day. It’s supposed to resemble raspberry sorbet, but mine looked more like FX work from the third act of a Troma movie. Oh well.

The good news is that it tastes AMAZING. Given the ingredients, that’s hardly a surprise. Here we’re mixing fresh cranberries with butter, orange juice, and enough powdered sugar to dust every funnel cake in the Northern Hemisphere.

Were I to make this again, I might swap the fresh cranberries for a few tablespoons of canned sauce. Just seems like it would blend better without changing the flavor much. At least, I hope it wouldn’t change the flavor much, because this shit is good. Picture a sugary cranberry jelly mixed with a whole ass stick of butter.

GRADE: 7 out of 10. The taste is there, but I think I could make a more attractive version just by trusting my instincts. On the other hand, if I call it a “dessert tapenade,” then the way it looks makes sense. Yeah, let’s go with that. Dessert tapenade.

Grilled Shrimp Kabobs! (1988)

Oh wow, these rock. The recipe called for imitation shrimp, but I used real ones. I wouldn’t even know where to find imitation shrimp, and besides, the 1988 idea of “imitation shrimp” is surely different than the 2021 idea. (I don’t think they were suggesting some soy-based vegan thing.)

In any event, yeah, you gotta make these. Wrap raw shrimp with bacon, and glaze both sides with a mix of ketchup, soy sauce, dry mustard, powdered ginger, garlic powder and red pepper. Skewer ‘em, and pop into the broiler until the bacon looks like Aunt Beru. Voila!

The skewers are fetching and the shrimp tastes great. The only tricky thing is the timing. Shrimp cooks quicker than bacon, so you really gotta keep an eye on these, and know how far you can push the shrimp for the sake of crispier bacon.

While you could pass these off as appetizers, the truth is that even a few skewers would be substantial enough for a main course. If you’re going that route, I’d just throw two skewers (six shrimp total) over a plate of rice.

SCORE: 10 out of 10. Shrimp is something I’m okay with eating but never order for myself, so if *I* like them, you know they’re delicious. The real star is that glaze, which definitely tastes like the ‘80s, if that makes sense.

That’s quite a plate! I’m very happy with this year’s batch of Ancient Holiday Appetizers, which were almost kinda sorta worth the $200 grocery bill. Remember that I did this during those dry months when all you get from me are tweets about The Sopranos.

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4
PART 5 | PART 6 | PART 7 | PART 8

It’s going to be a crazy week for a lot of you, so if we don’t catch each other before Santa arrives, I hope y’all have a great holiday. (Or at least a few great days off, depending on what you celebrate!)