Some people have a thing for mid-century modern design, I have a thing for party food from the 60s and 70s. Cheese balls, fondue and cocktail sausages have always seemed like fun food. Maybe it's because, as a kid, parties that weren't family reunions or church potlucks seemed so glamorous and cool, and the food was definitely part of that. I have to admit though, as far as 70s party food goes, the Hanky Panky recipe was an entirely new one to me.
What is Hanky Panky?
A Midwest crowd-pleaser, the origin of the Hanky Panky recipe isn't clear. It became popular in the 70s in Cincinnati, Ohio, though there's no side of the box recipe or newspaper clipping to pinpoint where it got started. You may also hear it called Hanky Panks or Polish Mistakes; apparently no one can decide on just one name, either. It's still a favorite appetizer in Cincinnati and surrounding areas; just across the Ohio River in Kentucky, local meat company Glier's makes a goetta (German breakfast sausage) that they think is perfect for Pankies.
Hanky Panky is a cheese and meat mixture served on rye bread. Yes, you can fancy it up some, but at it's simplest, it's ground beef and pork sausage cooked with Velveeta cheese and served on little squares of cocktail rye bread.
The Hanky Panky appetizer recipe is the one you want when your party menu needs to include some hearty, filling foods. It's excellent for game day or parties during the winter season when you want warm comfort food, but even though it takes a bit of prep time on the stove, it's still a hit during hot months, too.
Use a 1:1 ration for the ground beef, sausage and cheese (so one pound of hamburger, one pound of sausage and one pound of Velveeta). Cook the hamburger meat and ground sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it's browned all the way through and then drain the excess fat. Season the meat mixture with oregano, garlic powder or garlic salt and Worcestershire sauce. If you like a little more heat, you can added crushed red pepper or chili powder, too. Add the Velveeta cheese on top and stir until the cheese is melted.
While the meat is cooking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lay slices of party rye bread out on a baking sheet. When the meat and cheese mixture is cooked, place a spoonful of the mixture on each bread slice. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the bread is crispy and the meat and cheese mixture is nice and bubbly. Serve warm.
You can swap the sausage for chicken or turkey sausage, the Velveeta for a cheddar or other good melting cheese, and you can serve it on tortilla chips or pumpernickel bread or even fancy party crisps. It just needs to be bread that will stay crispy with the meat and cheese mixture. Just because nostalgic party food is great doesn't mean we can't change it up a bit; this is the future, after all.
One of the things that make the Hanky Panky recipe such a great appetizer is that you can make it ahead of time and freeze a whole batch. Cook the meat, melt the cheese and assemble the bites, but instead of popping the cookie sheet in the oven, put it in the freezer for about an hour. You can store the frozen bites in an air-tight container until you need them. Then they can go straight from the freezer onto a baking sheet and into the oven for 12-15 minutes.