Thursday, January 21, 2010

Empañadas, Arroz Rojo, Chimichurri & Mexican Salad with Avocado Dressing

Empañadas.. What's not to like, right? A dish believed to be of Spanish origin, the originating word being Empanar = “to coat in bread”. Savory or sweet, these delicioso (a nickname for them btw) little pastries are loved the world around.. In Italy they're “calzones”, in the middle-east they're “sambousek”.

They can be filled with just about anything that won't liquify when exposed to high heat. They can be baked, broiled or fried. They can be made triangular, half-mooned, circular or pinched into little purses.

The way I do mine is usually half-mooned, fried and filled with shredded meat. Potatoes and chorizo are another favorite under my roof.

I'm on the lookout for different dough recipes, but not because the one I use is not good – it's just a little thick and robust. I have modified fellow alumni Tyler Florence's recipe for empanada dough by adding an egg and some spices to the dough, and frying the pastry as opposed to baking it as Tyler suggests. I find baking them leaves the dough looking still white and I like a uniformly browned pastry so I flash fry them and finish them off in the oven.

So my process is to take a hunk of pork shoulder, sear it on all sides, and let it to slow cook in the crock with some beer, onions & garlic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Mmm.. Delicious arabic non-alcoholic Budweiser! (Nahhhht! - Gotta make due with what I got though)
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Goodnight sweet carne. See you in the am!
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Afterward, I shred the meat, add in some sauteed minced onions & bellpepper and preferrably coat the mixture in a chimichurri sauce or something similar (recipe will follow).

Empanada Dough

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup masa harina
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg beaten
Oil, for frying

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, masa harina, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the melted butter. Gradually add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of water, working it in with your hands to incorporate; the dough should be easy to handle and not sticky. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and chill for 30 minutes.
Lightly flour your rolling pin and counter. Divide the dough in 1/2 so it will be easier to work with and roll it out to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 4-inch cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out 10 circles of dough; repeat with the other 1/2.
Spoon 2 generous tablespoons of filling into the center of each pastry circle, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Brush the edges with the egg wash and then fold the dough over in 1/2 to enclose the filling and form a semi-circle. Tightly seal the edges by crimping with the tines of a fork. Chill at least 30 minutes before baking.
Flash fry empanadas in hot oil (heated to 375F) for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 20 minutes.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Empanadas are wonderful to make for get-togethers because you can make them ahead of time in their raw state, and the dough is so resilient you can keep it in a warm oven without ruining any of it's integrity.

Serve with a side of salsa or chimichurri and you're in business.

Chimichurri is a classic Argentinian sauce prepared from parsley, garlic, oil, vinegar and red pepper flakes and other herbs/spices. It is used in many South American countries and it makes for a stellar marinade, let me tell you..

I make mine with cilantro vs. parsley because I can't ever seem to get enough of the stuff. A bunch of cilantro, few cloves of garlic, favorite vinegar (or lime juice), olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes and I add oregano and paprika for more red contrast to the green of the cilantro. All done in a food processor which emulsifies everything rather nicely.

For this meal, I also prepared mexican rice (aka Arroz Rojo) and “mexican-esque” salad of bibb lettuce, sliced red onion, red and yellow cherry tomatoes (sliced vine are fine too) and sliced chayote (rather bland squash but adds a nice crunch. Conversely, radishes can be used). For this salad I made a rift on Rachel Ray's avocado dressing, using limes instead of lemon.

(tip: everytime lemon or lime juice is called for (or any citrus for that matter) I zest the fruit as well. I believe in capitalizing on as much flavor as you can get out of a product as is possible.)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Mexican Rice (“Arroz Rojo”)
1 ½ c. Long Grain Rice
1 can Chopped Tomato
2 Garlic Cloves
1/2 Yellow Onion
Southwestern seasoning or paprika with mexican oregano and ground cumin (TT)

Wash and drain rice.
In blender or a medium bowl with immersion blender combine tomatoes, onion and garlic & puree. Add enough water to mixture to make 3 cups of liquid. Cook in a rice cooker or bring to simmer on stovetop & cook for 20 minutes.

Avocado Dressing

1 ripe avocado
1 lime, juiced
Handful fresh cilantro leaves, 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3 tablespoons water, a couple of splashes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Cut the avocado in half lengthwise cutting around the pit. Separate the halves and scoop out the pit with a spoon, then use the spoon to scoop the avocado from its skin. Place the avocado in a food processor bowl and combine with lemon juice, chopped red onion, cilantro, coarse salt and water. Grind until the avocado mixture is smooth, then stream oil into dressing. Adjust seasonings and pour over salad, then serve. Dressing may be stored 3 or 4 days in airtight container.