So, I thought my family actually invented hanky-pankies. Every Thanksgiving, Easter, First Communion party, or whatever, bringing the hanky-pankies was literally someone’s job. But after doing a bit of research in order to find ways to elevate them, I realized that we’re not alone. The tradition of celebrating functions with pumpernickel party breads (commonly found in supermarkets, they’re those sleeves of mini loaves cut into small squares) topped with a mix of melted Velveeta and sweet Italian sausage sold in a log (family divides are created over whether you toast the bread before or after topping) seems to be pretty widespread and runs generations deep.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and place the ground pork in the pan. Cook, breaking up the pork with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, until the fat is rendered and the meat is beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the shallot, sage, salt, caraway, brown sugar, allspice, and pepper. Reduce the heat a little and cook until the meat is browned and the spices are fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Evenly sprinkle the flour over the meat and stir to fully incorporate. Gradually pour in the beer, stirring and scraping up any stuck bits from the pan. Bring to a low simmer and cook until the beer is reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the cheese, stirring and folding to incorporate, creating a thick sauce. Stir in the Tabasco and parsley; taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes.
- If using full-size pumpernickel bread, working with stacks of four slices, use a serrated knife to trim the crusts off.
- Divide the pork-cheddar mixture among the pumpernickel slices and spread nearly to the edges. Cut the slices into quarters—or halves if you’re using party bread—and arrange on a rack placed over the prepared baking sheet (which makes for easier cleanup).
- Bake the hanky-pankies until the cheese is bubbly and browned and the bread is toasted, 10 to 15 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley and arrange on a serving tray. Enjoy immediately.
- WASTE NOT WANT NOT: I like to dry my bread scraps in a 325°F oven, then use the food processor to make bread crumbs. Add whatever dried herbs and spices you like!