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David Ross

eG Cook-Off 56: Savory-Filled Pastry

52 posts in this topic

Welcome back to the long-running eGullet Cook-off Series. Today we're launching Cook-Off #56: Savory-Filled Pastry. Click here for the Cook-off Index.

In the UK, they call them "Pasties," in India they are referred to as "Samosa's," and in Latin countries they are called "Empanadas." Savory-Filled Pastries are the perfect little bite-combining multiple flavors and textures-crisp yet light, flaky pastry enveloping a warm cocoon of savory filling. They are the definition of street food-you eat them with your hands and just a few bites will sate your appetite.

Often the simplest, most humble dishes are ones that open the cook to a myriad of creative possibilities--should the dough be made exclusively with butter or should we work in some vegetable oil or rendered pork lard for another flavor and texture element? Will the pastry hold up to the hot, juicy filling and shock of frying in oil? We talked about the best pastry for Samosa's here.

Should the filling be ground beef or braised, shredded beef? What about minced lamb in a spicy chile sauce? We can make a savory filling with seafood, perhaps spicy shrimp in a peanut curry sauce? What about a vegetarian pastry filled with pickled eggplant spiced with ras el hanout?

Do we deep-fry our savory-filled pastries or fry them in oil in a skillet? If we bake our little savory-filled bundles are we still being true to the intent of the dish? We've relished in Great Moments in Deep-Frying here.

I'll admit I never knew how much I would fall in love with these tasty bites until I made a batch-now I'm addicted. So let's get cooking and showcase our best savory-filled pastries.

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I'm planning on making chicken or seafood empanadas in the next few days. I always bake them: As you pointed out, empanada-ish things are ubiquitous, and in plenty of places baking seems to be the traditional cooking method. I find the fried ones just a little heavy, unless they're really tiny.

My calling what I make 'empanadas' is fairly arbitrary; they could just as easily be called 'pasties' (although they're not usually so large).

Anyone know (or have a pretty good idea) of how the dough for the softer exterior found on say, Reuben's Empanadas is composed? I love empanadas, and make them fairly often, but that softish dough (which I love) eludes me.


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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I'm planning Empanadas de Verde with spiced queso fresco filling for the weekend - these have a savoury, soft green plantain-based dough, and are fried in just a tiny bit of oil in a cast iron frypan. I've baked them before but was unimpressed with the results; however, other doughs hold up beautifully to baking.

In my book, the difference between an Empanada and a Pastie is the dough. Empanadas should have a soft, unleavened dough (and for some reason, I feel a bit cheated if it's not plantain dough, but that's just me), while Pasties must have a puff-pastry type shell that's quite flaky. The way they're cooked doesn't come into it - Empanada translates as "covered in bread" and Pastie is a corruption of Pastry - but the dough does.


Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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I've only made sweet filling empanadas thus far in my Mexican cooking career. This thread is of great interest to me.

In the fridge currently is way too much leftover of a Hispanic-type potato dish (my own take on a Tex-Mex recipe) which contains basically roasted potatoes, fried corn niblets, poblanos, and black beans with assorted spices, etc, topped with broiled cheese (the leftover is untopped). Methinks I could add the cheese, then chop this dish more finely, add a tad more spice and heat, and then make and bake empanadas with it quite handily. It seems to me that if the potatoes are chopped finely enough, that the resulting empanadas can be frozen as easily as the sweet-filled ones. Of course, the dough will be for savory and not sweet.

Do correct me where I am going astray.


Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

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Darienne, sounds delicious to me!

Do things like eggroll count for this cook-off? Or jiaozi?


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Empanadas should have a soft, unleavened dough (and for some reason, I feel a bit cheated if it's not plantain dough, but that's just me)...

I'd love to know more about plantain dough. Never heard of it before but it sounds marvelous. Recipe?



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I take it yeast dough does not count? I've recently discovered the joys of making calzones....


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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Who said yeast dough didn't count? I just said it doesn't belong in Empanadas. It's essential to Calzones!

Linda, I'll post the recipe along with how-to pics this weekend. It's something that kind of has to be seen to be learned properly.


Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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Anyone got a good Jamaican patty filling recipe? I got no clue what goes in it.

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I have a good recipe...at least we like it...that a friend gave to me. I have no idea where the recipe came from. She made us these meat pies because we loved them. And then she just made the entire thing as one big pie...so much less work she said. I imagine there must be hundreds of recipes for meat pies out there.

One key to the entire process was that she put curry powder in the pastry and it was delicious.


Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

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The Savory Filling-

I try to not spend too much time preparing for a Cook-Off other than a cursory look through an old cookbook or a glance at something online. If I’m going to prepare a dish I’m not familiar with, I’d much rather go into it as a true novice without the influence of hours of research telling me an Empanada must be this or that—I’d rather allow the discussion of the topic to teach me based on the personal experiences of those of you who join in.

I settled on preparing an Empanada for my entry into our Savory-Filled Pastry Cook-off. I have a basic knowledge of Mexican flavors and so I figured that I could easily concoct a meat filling stuck into a little pocket of pastry. The filling was easy, but then I quickly found that the pastry would present me with a whole different type of challenge.

I tried two different meat fillings. The first was a basic “taco” style mixture of ground beef, salt, pepper, chili powder, chipotle chili powder, chopped onion, minced garlic and beef stock cooked down to a thick consistency. While good, it didn’t give the finished Empanada the unique flavor that I was looking for-a mix of sweet, spicy, fragrant filling with a crisp, pillowy crust. The ground beef turned out to be your basic taco filling that could have easily been spooned into a corn tortilla shell, wrapped in a flour tortilla or stuffed into a pocket of pastry. What I needed was a filling with unique, robust flavors.

I wasn’t sure if an Empanada filling should be “dry” or have a sauce mixed into the meat, but relying on the theory that basic cooked minced meat can be dry and tasteless, I decided to combine it in a sauce to help avoid the dryness problem. So for the second filling, (which I hoped would be more tasty than the first), I settled on making my red chile sauce to give the meat a kick.

Making red chile sauce at home is very simple, but it does require some attention to detail. Plastic gloves are a must for handling the dehydrated chiles once you reconstitute them. (Forget your kitchen gloves and you’ll end up with hands, arms and other body parts that burn and itch). A

blender or food processor is needed to bind the ingredients of the sauce into a paste.

My basic red chile sauce-

16-20 dried chiles, (I use a combination of Ancho, Chipotle, Guajillo or whatever I've acquired and have on hand)

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 yellow onion, diced

2 tsp. dried oregano

2 tbsp. sugar or honey

1/8 tsp. liquid smoke

Salt and black pepper

A mix of dried chiles-

Empanadas Cook-Off 007.JPG

The chiles reconstituted in hot water-

Empanadas Cook-Off 009.JPG

With gloves, peel the chiles and remove the seeds, then mash in a blender, adding some of the chile soaking water to make a thick paste-

Empanadas Cook-Off 015.JPG

Saute the onion and garlic in vegetable oil until soft-

Empanadas Cook-Off 017.JPG

Then add the chile paste and stir to combine-

Empanadas Cook-Off 019.JPG

Return to the blender and add all the other ingredients, then blend, adding more of the chile soaking water to make a sauce.

Once the sauce is finished it can be covered and refrigerated indefinitely. It’s delicious when brushed over meat on the barbecue.

For the second meat filling I chose to combine ground buffalo meat with a bit of ground pork. I’m lucky to live in Eastern, Washington, which is not far from some of the big buffalo ranches in Montana. We have a regular supply of different cuts of buffalo meat in most of our local markets. The buffalo in this recipe happened to be sourced from the Durham Ranch of Gillette, Wyoming.

(One curious note on the label: “USDA permits no preservatives in this product.” Apparently buffalo meat is banned from being injected with preservatives. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing).

For my tastes, buffalo meat is sweet and slightly gamy yet still close enough to the flavor and texture of beef that it isn’t off-putting like say wild venison. The one caution cooks deal with when cooking buffalo is that it is very lean, making it a challenge to cook a buffalo steak beyond the point of rare yet still retaining moisture and flavor. I solved the problem by adding some fatty ground pork, about 5 parts ground buffalo to 1 part ground pork, sautéed the meats and then added the red chile sauce.

Ground Buffalo and Pork-

Empanadas Cook-Off 022.JPG

Fresh, Lean Ground Buffalo-

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Buffalo in Red Chile Sauce-

Empanadas Cook-Off 028.JPG

The next step would prove to be the most challenging-finding the right pastry dough for the Empanada. (And I tried three different types of pastry and I still don't think I've got the "right" dough).

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Years ago a friend from Singapore introduced me to little meat pies,kind of a tender pie crust with ground beef filling. The secret, I thought only we knew, was curry powder in the dough. Secret's out I guess. Mashed potatoes in with meat I remember....time to search.

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The Pastry-

I tried three different types of pastry for the Empanada:

-Refrigerated pie dough

-Frozen puff pastry dough

-Homemade pie dough (without sugar and lard substituted for the vegetable shortening).

Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Dough-

My first attempt at filling the Empanada using store-bought pie dough was a disaster. The filling was still warm out of the pan, and the heat of the filling literally melted the pastry away. I couldn’t work fast enough from the time I spooned the filling into the center of the pastry round before it started to melt and holes began to appear in the dough. From that point on I realized that regardless of the type of dough I used, I would have to let the filling cool to room temperature before I began the stuffing and frying process.

The refrigerated pie dough was convenient and easy to work with, but as you would imagine, it had some major flaws. It didn’t have any flavor whatsoever, nothing. The texture of the fried store-bought dough was crisp and the crumb was coarse, holding up well to the deep-fry method and holding up well in the hand. It just didn’t taste like homemade, buttery pastry dough and it didn’t have a light, flaky texture. Nothing unique about it.

Pepperidge Farms Frozen Puff Pastry-

I always keep some puff pastry in the freezer, typically Pepperidge Farms brand, or Dufour Pastry Kitchens if I’m feeling an urge to spend a little more money to get something of higher quality. Pepperidge Farms frozen puff pastry seems to work just fine for simple, quick dishes.

The main problem I have working with Pepperidge Farms is that they fold it, which creates this seam that tends to break when you pull the pastry and try to lay it out in one rectangle. I’ve found the easiest way to avoid the problem is to let the pastry thaw at room temperature before unfolding it gently. If there is a break at the seam, it’s easily fixed with flour and a quick rollover.

I still hadn’t learned from my first attempt at stuffing pastry dough with hot, or warm, filling. One spoon of the hot filling and the puff pastry immediately withered and I couldn’t get the Empanada formed. At that point I stepped back and let the filling cool in the refrigerator a few hours before another attempt at stuffing.

To get the Empanada at the final size I wanted I used an empty can as the template for cutting the dough. Then about 2 tablespoons of filling, a brush of water on the edges of the dough, then crimped to seal the edges. I’m not exactly an artiste when it comes to fluting pastry—I used my fingers or a pasta cutter to crimp the edges of the dough, nothing fancy but it worked.

The puff pastry was easy and convenient, and the deep-fried Empanada was crisp, yet light, flaky and buttery. Deep-frying, (in 350 canola oil), the puff pastry gave the surface little blisters which added to the light texture. One problem with the puff pastry is that the interior dough was still basically raw around the filling, and that was after about 4-5 minutes in the deep-fryer. It tasted better and had a better texture than the refrigerated pie dough, yet it still lacked the amount of flavor I was looking for.

Cutting the puff pastry dough-

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An interesting coffee cup for a dough template-

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The stuffing on the pastry-

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The shaped puff pastry Empanada-

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The fried puff pastry Empanada-

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The fried puff pastry Empanada-

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“My” Pastry Dough-

I’ve been making this pastry dough recipe for about 15 years now and it typically doesn’t fail me—at least when I use it in baked dishes. This was the first time I've attempted to deep-fry “my” pastry dough.

The basic recipe calls for both butter and Crisco shortening to give the pastry both flavor and an incredibly flaky, moist and flavorful crust. I use a combination of both all-purpose and cake flour. The finely milled cake flour gives the finished pastry a delicate crumb.

Recipe-

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cake flour

1 tsp. salt

1 stick (1/2 cup), chilled butter

1/2 cup Crisco

Ice water

Mix the dry ingredients and then cut in the butter and Crisco by hand with a pastry cutter. Add the water and stir with a fork to bring the dough into a ball. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before rolling out.

For the Empanada version of my dough recipe, I decided to substitute lard for the shortening because I thought it would add more flavor. I left the sugar out and added some dried chipotle chili powder and black pepper.

"My" pastry dough ingredients-

Empanadas Cook-Off 030.JPG

The finished dough ready for resting in the refrigerator-

Empanadas Cook-Off 040.JPG

Tools for cutting the pastry rounds for the Empanadas-

Empanadas Cook-Off 044.JPG

The filling with a sprig of fresh cilantro-

Empanadas Cook-Off 062.JPG

Deep-frying in 350 canola oil-

Empanadas Cook-Off 077.JPG

With a sprinkle of coarse sea salt-

Empanadas Cook-Off 083.JPG

Buffalo Empanada with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa-

Empanadas Cook-Off 087.JPG

I already had the roasted tomatillo salsa on hand from a recipe I did a week before. It couldn't be easier and was a perfectly piquant dipping sauce for the rich Empanada-

Hull and halve some tomatillos. Broil in the oven just until soft and the skin begins to blacken. Place the roasted tomatillos in a blender and combine with olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper, cilantro, parsley and chili powder, (I use dried chipotle chili powder).

Empanadas Cook-Off 096.JPG

Making your own pastry dough takes time, but it’s always going to result in the most flavorful finished product-you can control the amount of fat and moisture that goes into the pastry, and controlling the amount of flour gives you the leeway to experiment with the “mouthfeel” of the crumb in the dough.

The deep-fried Empanada using the homemade pastry dough had the best flavor-incredibly rich, buttery and fatty. The only problem was that it took almost twice as long in the deep-fryer to get a golden-brown color than either the refrigerated pie dough or the frozen puff pastry products. The crust was light, flaky and cooked through, but the biggest problem was that after one bite, the pastry fell apart and left me with pieces of dough and filling. In my mind an Empanada is to be eaten with your fingers not a knife and fork. I think cutting down on the amount of butter and lard and excluding the cake flour in the pastry would probably leave me with a more sturdy finished Empanada. But minor technical criticisms aside, I’ve come upon a savory-filled pastry that I’ll be making many more times in the future.

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Like TheTInCook and Kerry, this has me thinking about Jamaican beef patties!

One of the earliest recipes I remember working with was the Jeff Smith Jamaican beef patty recipe when I was in elementary school (I think it was in his book 'Our Immigrant Ancestors'). I'll have to see if I can dig up a copy to participate in the thread! I wonder if he made sacrifices for ingredient availability... I don't remember scotch bonnets/habaneros being part of the recipe, but maybe we were also just working with what we had!

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I've never been happy with the dough recipes for empanadas: I like a lean, soft dough for these things, and it has always eluded me.

I decided to try adding a lot of fat to a plain dough, since I noticed that doing this makes for very soft bread. I first combined 500g flour, two grams of cake yeast, half a teaspoon of salt, and 250ml (a little over a cup) water, then added in 60ml (about a quarter of a cup) of olive oil. This made for a really nicely behaved dough: it stretched without much recoil, and no tearing, although next time I'll add a bit more water, to make stretching the dough easier; this time, it was pretty dense, and the crusts were on the thick side.

I was originally planning on making a seafood or chicken filling, then my boyfriend requested ham, which didn't thrill me as a concept, then I noticed a frozen block of cubed venison while I was out shopping, and decided to go with that.

While I browned some garlic and onion, I broke down the venison into smaller (1cm/0.5") dice, bloomed some celery seed and a couple of cloves, browned the venison, deglazed with a splash of whisky, added enough stock to cover the cubes, added some tomato paste, rosemary, a bay leaf, some reconstituted porcini and their liquid, and a bit more celery seed, and simmered everything for a couple of hours, until the venison was more or less tender. Then I just took the lid off and reduced the mix until it was thick enough to be manageable and not ooze about while I was filling and baking the empanadas. They were baked at 205C for a quarter of an hour, at which point they were lightly browned.

They were a bit misshapen because I was not as careful and precise in forming them as I would have been: I was a bit rushed towards the end, since everything took much longer than I'd expected, and it was well past eight--incredibly late for dinner, here, and I was losing the daylight by which I wanted to shoot these--by the time I got these into the oven.

However, the venison and mushroom combination worked really well (my boyfriend bagged one for his lunch today), and I was fairly happy with the dough, too, although as I mentioned, I'll be making the dough a little more slack next time (and perhaps skipping the yeast, which was fairly pointless), and stretching it thinner.


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Just able to get back to reading eG again. Thanks to all for the wonderful posts and particularly to David Ross, our host, for his terrific photo tutorials.

I still have my potato/corn/poblano/black bean filling (now frozen) which is mixed with leftover sauce from the last Puerco Pibil feast. Alas! now I am stymied by a veritable overflowing cornucopia of empanada dough recipes and have to pick one to go with.


Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

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Who said yeast dough didn't count? I just said it doesn't belong in Empanadas. It's essential to Calzones!

Linda, I'll post the recipe along with how-to pics this weekend. It's something that kind of has to be seen to be learned properly.

No, I meant I didn't think yeast dough counted in this particular cookoff. If it does, wonderful!


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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Tonight I gave the not-exactly-empanadas another go, using the remainder of the dough from the other evening, but rolling it thinner (I added a little water to it, to see whether that would make it easier to roll out very thin). For some reason, the dough had become more elastic, and it was recoiling like crazy, so getting it to the proper thinness was something of a job. This time I made a spicy chicken filling (and remembered to shoot from far enough back that I could crop the images to something uploadable).

DSCN6847_2.JPG

Unfortunately, my decision to use yeast in the dough (it was a really tiny amount, I thought it would make for a better texture) made them puff rather grotesquely; these are not pretty (these are the most unattractive empanada-type things I've ever made; the ones made with pastry dough have always been so neat and perfect looking), but the flavour and texture were several orders of magnitude better than their looks.

DSCN6848_2.JPG

The takeaway from this entire experiment is that +oil is good, +yeast, not great. But I've pretty much nailed the crust texture I've been seeking; I just need to figure out what to call these things.

From the other night, the venison version:

DSCN6844_2.JPG


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Goodbye Joe, me gotta go, me-o mi-o....

Oops. Sorry. Disclaimer: I am not Cajun. I have never lived in Louisiana. But I've eaten crawfish all my life, and tonight, as the Independence Day weekend is traditionally the end of crawfish season, I decided I'd have myself some crawfish pie. Cue Hank Williams.

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I started out with four pounds of boiled crawfish from the crawfish truck that lives right out in back of the flea market and across the street from my favorite bar. I could've had andouille or boudin sausage to go with it, or potatos or corn. I opted just for the mudbugs, at $4.50 a pound.

006.JPG

Sigh. Four pounds of crawfish yields 7.5 ounces of crawfish tail meat, and a pair of sore hands that are burning from the cayenne-heavy boil.

I told you I wasn't Cajun. Proof positive is that I don't use the Trinity. I don't care for celery, and I loathe and detest green bell pepper (and will eat the red ones only when they're roasted). So my "Trinity" is Vidalia onions, chopped green onions, and a chopped green tomato. I swear. And it worked.

I forgot to take pics during the interim, which involved sauteeing the veggies, adding the tail meat and some stock made from the heads, into which I'd dissolved two tablespoons of flour. Then it went into a standard pastry crust. I had really planned to make individual hand-held pies, but by that time, I was tired.

Jambalaya and a crawfish pie, file gumbo....

011.JPG

013.JPG

Great start to a holiday weekend!


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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I'll submit the Empanadas de Verde I was talking about earlier for consideration. This is my first time using whole plantains in the dough - normally I just use the flour and some water. However, my friend Beatriz (from whom I got the dough method) has almost completely converted me to fresh plantains; the flavour is far superior. Traditional Empanadas de Verde are stuffed with queso fresco sauteed in achiote oil with fresh chopped cilantro; since my Dad's allergic to achiote we planned some other fillings instead.

Linda - here's why I couldn't just give you a dough recipe: all it is, is 4 plantains and 400g of plantain flour! It's the technique that makes the masa.

Masa Verde

4 green plantains - I used FHIA-23, because that's what the corner store had; any green plantain will work.

roughly 400 g Plantain flour (if you're scaling the recipe, use about 100 g of flour for each plantain)

Salt

Water to cover.

1. Begin by washing and then peeling the plantains (if you've never done this before, the easiest way is to cut both tips off, then slice a line through the skin and peel them by rolling the fruit off of the skin, as shown in step 2 of the first picture.) Then chop them into chunks, and put them in fairly salted water.

2. Boil until they're tender - they'll change colour. Raw plantain is pinkish, and soft-cooked plantain is yellowish.

3. Take out of the water and allow to cool. DO NOT THROW AWAY THE WATER. You'll need it later.

4. Once the chunks have cooled, break them up with your hands. Then, toss them in the food processor with a bit of the water you boiled them in, and give 'em a whirl. You're looking for a fairly gooey pinkish paste.

5. At this point, start adding the flour and kneading. This is an incredibly gooey job, but part of the fun. Use your hands to break up any large chunks of plantain that might still be in the dough. What you're looking for is a dough with a fairly firm hand but a soft consistency. The dough will have a grey-pink colour when it's done - not terribly appetizing to look at, but it does miracles in the pan.

DoughStep1.jpg

DoughStep2.jpg

Fillings

I prepared 4 based on Queso Fresco and fresh Mozzarella, and we used 3 of them. From upper left: mushrooms and red onion in spicy aji-paprika sauce with extra cumin; green tomatoes with red pepper in yellow curry with heavy amounts of oregano; shredded cold chicken with peas and carrots; plain QF/Mozza with parsley and oregano (the filling we didn't use - it got tossed onto an avocado salad instead).

DSCN6724.jpg

Toppings.jpg

Empanadas!

The masa is quite sticky and it's best to liberally flour your workspace before you roll it out; the best dough thickness I've found that preserves the covering capabilities while not overwhelming the filling is about 1/8." I made several shapes, of which the UFO rounds are shown (as they were the most successful). Once you've got the entire wodge of dough out and stuffed, put about 1/4" of oil in your skillet and fry 'em up. Beatriz swears that the only pans that should ever be used for frying empanadas are cast iron, and I tend to agree. Nothing sticks to 'em, and they hold the oil at heat with minimum gas consumption.

Assembly.jpg

Masa Verde has one excellent feature in the pan - it turns gold when it's cooked. This way you always know exactly when you've got perfect empanadas, every single time. It's also got a lovely flavour, which is currently defying my attempts to describe it. It's soft, not crunchy, and it's incredibly nutritious as well - apart from the bit of oil you fry the things in, there's no fat in the dough at all. Plantains are high in iron, calcium, and phosphorus.

Nom nom nom... Shown opened is a chicken filled example; the next time I make these I'll be going for exclusively the spicy mushroom filling (shown in the assembly step), which was my fave out of the three. However, that will be a while off - the recipe made about 5 dozen empanadas of various sizes, and we couldn't eat them all in one sitting. I'll post back with an open spicy mushroom later today - it's what's for lunch.

DSCN6766.jpg


Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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      eGullet Recipe Cook-Off Index

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      We've created this index so all cook-offs are easy to find and join in. We'll keep it updated.

      Here is the list:
      Cook-Off 1: Cassoulet Cook-Off 2: Char Siu Bao Cook-Off 3: Gumbo Cook-Off 4: Lamb Curry Cook-Off 5: Fried Chicken Cook-Off 6: Pad Thai Cook-Off 7: Moussaka Cook-Off 8: Pizza Cook-Off 9: Mole Poblano Cook-Off 10: Meatloaf and Burgers Cook-Off 11: Ice Cream, Gelato, Sorbet, and Sherbet Cook-Off 12: Composed Salads Cook-Off 13: Fresh and Stuffed Pasta, including Gnocchi Cook-Off 14: Bibimbap Cook-Off 15: Chili Cook-Off 16: Potato Pancakes Cook-Off 17: Sausages Cook-Off 18: Asian Noodle Soups Cook-Off 19: Eggs, Beaten, With Stuff In Them Cook-Off 20: Chowdah/Chowder Cook-Off 21: Risotto Cook-Off 22: Tempura Cook-Off 23: Crêpes Cook-Off 24: Kebabs, Satays, & Skewers Cook-Off 25: Tamales Cook-Off 26: Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao) Cook-Off 27: Daube Cook-Off 28: Mafé (Peanut Stew) Cook-Off 29: Posole/Pozole Cook-Off 30: Felafel/Falafel Cook-Off 31: Paella Cook-Off 32: Pickles Cook-Off 33: Cold Noodle Dishes Cook-Off 34: Ceviche Cook-Off 35: Pot-au-feu/Simmered Meat'n'Veg Cook-Off 36: Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Cook-Off 37: Croquettes Cook-Off 38: Feijoada Cook-Off 39: Tacos Cook-Off 40: Cold Soups Cook-Off 41: Jerk Cook-Off 42: Ratatouille Cook-Off 43: Braised Brisket Cook-Off 44: Ossobuco Cook-Off 45: Fries / Frites / Chips Cook-off 46: Enchiladas Cook-off 47: Asian Tofu Dishes Cook-off 48: Grilled Pizza Cook-off 49: Slaws Cook-Off 50: Lamb Stew Cook-Off 51: Chicken and Dumplings Cook-Off 52: Lasagna Cook-Off 53: Grilled Chicken Cook-Off 54: Gratins Cook-Off 55: Shrimp & Grits Cook-Off 56: Savory-Filled Pastry Cook-Off 57: Bolognese sauce Cook-Off 58: Hash Cook-Off 59: Cured, Brined, Smoked and Salted Fish Cook-Off 60: Banh Mi Cook-Off 61: Gels, Jell-O and Aspic Cook-Off 62: Squid, Calamari and Octopus Cook-Off 63: Summer Squash Cook-Off 64: Confit Cook-Off 65: Pork Belly Cook-Off 66: Rhubarb Cook-Off 67: Apples Cook-Off 68: Citrus Fruits Cook-Off 69: Beer Cook-Off  70: Shellfish Grilled Over an Open Flame Cook-Off 71: Winter Squash Cook-Off 72: Ramen 
    • By David Ross
      Welcome back to our popular eGullet Cook-Off Series. Our last Cook-Off, Hash, took us into a heated discussion of the meat of the matter--should it be chopped, hashed, sliced, diced, or chunked.
      Click here, for our Hash discussion, and the answers to all of your questions about this beloved diner staple. The complete eG Cook-Off Index can be found here. Today we’re launching eGullet Cook-Off 59: Cured, Brined, Smoked and Salted Fish.
      Drying fish is a method of preservation that dates back to Ancient times, but more recently, (let’s say a mere 500 years ago or so), salt mining became a major industry in Europe and salt was a fast and economical way of preserving fish. Curing agents like nitrates were introduced in the 19th century, furthering the safety and taste of preserved fish.
      Where I live in the Pacific Northwest, Native Americans have been preserving fish and seafood for millennia. While we are best known for our ruby-red, oily-rich, smoked salmon, other species of fish found in the Pacific and in our streams are delicious when cured and smoked including Halibut, Sablefish and Idaho Rainbow Trout. And don’t think that you can’t smoke shellfish, alder-smoked Dungeness Crab is a wondrous Pacific Northwest delicacy that evokes memories of crab roasting over a driftwood fire on the beach.
      Another method of preserving fish is to bath the beauties in a brine—a combination of water, sugar, salt and spices that adds flavor and moisture to fish before it is dried or smoked. And speaking of smoked fish, you can do it in a small pan on top of the stove, in a cast iron drum, a barbecue pit, an old woodshed or a fancy digital smoker. The methods and flavors produced by smoking fish are endless.
      Old-fashioned ways of preserving fish, (while adequate at the time), aren't always the best method today. Today's technology provides us with the tools to create cured fish that is moist, succulent, tender and with a hint of smoke. The Modernist movement has certainly played a role in bringing this age-old craft into the 21st century, so for the avant-garde in the crowd, show us your creative wizardry for preserving fish the "modern" way.
      Cured, Brined, Smoked or Salted, the art of preserving fish opens us up to limitless possibilities that transcend the boundaries of cuisine and culture. So let’s sew-up the holes in our fishnets, scrub the barnacles off the rowboat and set out to sea in search of some delectable fish to cure, brine, smoke and salt.
    • By David Ross
      Welcome back to a time-honored, cherished eG tradition, the eG Cook-Off Series. Today were venturing into a new world for Cook-Off's. Member Kerry Beal came forward with a Cook-Off idea we just couldn't pass up--Pork Belly--and inspired a new idea for future Cook-Off's. Knowing we're a community of great culinary minds, we'll be inviting the Members to send us ideas for potential future Cook-Off's, (more information to come later). Take it away Kerry and let's raid the larder and start cookin.
    • By David Ross
      Fall is but a whisper of the recent past--at least it is where I live in the upper reaches of Eastern, Washington. We had our first fluff of snow a week ago and a reasonable November storm is predicted for this weekend with temperatures holding at a chilly 18 degrees at night.
      Along with the rumblings of cold winter weather and Holiday feasts, we turn our culinary musings to time-treasured, comfortable dishes. And so I invite you to join me in another kitchen adventure--the inimitable eG Cook-Off Series. In 2013, we've tackled the tricky cooking of Squid, Calamari and Octopus and we made delicious dishes out of the humble Summer Squash.
      (Click here http://forums.egulle...cook-off-index/ for the complete eG Cook-Off Index).
      But today we're shunning all manner of counting calories, salt or fat content--for what is rich in flavor is good for the soul my dear friends. Please join me in crafting, nuturing and savoring a dish of Confit.
    • By David Ross
      Hello friends and welcome back to a time-honored tradition--the popular eG Cook-Off Series. We're in the heat of summer right now and our gardens are literally blooming with all manner of peak of the season ripe fruits and succulent vegetables. And there's no better time of year to honor a vegetable that is often maligned as not being as colorful or trendy as the chi-chi breakfast radish or the multi-hued rainbow chard.

      In addition to not always being recognized for it's looks, every August and September it becomes the butt of jokes at State Fair competitions across the country. If you can get past the embarassment of seeing the poor devils dressed up and carved into silly, cartoon-like farm figures or pumped-up with organic steroids, you'll find a delicious, low-calorie vegetable packed with potassium and vitamin A. Yes friends, your dreams have come true for today we kick-off eG Cook-Off #62, "Summer Squash."
      (Click here http://forums.egulle...cook-off-index/ for the complete eG Cook-Off Index).

      According to the University of Illinois Extension Office, summer squash, (also known in some circles as Italian marrow), are tender, warm-season vegetables that can be grown anytime during the warm, frost-free season. Summer squash differs from fall and winter squash, (like pumpkins, acorn and butternut squash), because it is harvested before the outer rind hardens. Some of the most popular summer squash are the Green and Yellow Zucchini, Scallop, Patty Pan, Globe, Butter Blossom and Yellow Crookneck.

      My personal favorite summer squash is the versatile zucchini. Slow-cooked with sliced onion and ham hock, zucchini is perfectly comfortable nestled on a plate next to juicy, fried pork chops and creamy macaroni and cheese. But the chi-chi haute crowd isn't forgotten when it comes to zucchini, or, as the sniffy French call it, the "courgette." Tiny, spring courgette blossoms stuffed with herbs and ricotta cheese then dipped in tempura batter and gently fried are a delicacy found on Michelin-Star menus across the globe.

      Won't you please join me in crafting some delicious masterpieces that showcase the culinary possibilities of delicious summer squash.
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