Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Great Empanada Melee, plus Moliterno al Tartufo

I will not be bested by an empanada, I tell you. I WILL NOT.

Oh, I've made fancier food than you, you you turnover. I don't care how much cayenne pepper you have in you. I will prevail!

Every so often when I get new food magazines, I get inspired -- some might say I get a bee in my bonnet --about making certain things. This month it was empanadas. Turkey Empanadas, as suggested by Cuisine Magazine. They looked so simple -- like nice easy comfort food. Go ahead, Cuisine says, make this "quick bright tasting" Orange Poblano Mojo to go along with it. Just buzz everything in a blender til smooth. This refreshing slaw is perfect -- julienne the vegetables and toss the slaw with vinaigrette before serving. So simple, so easy.

Meanwhile, three and a half hours later...

Oh, it was tasty. Sure, yeah it tasted great, blast them. But here's how I would make these %^&!# empanadas --knowing what I know now.

Turkey Empanadas with Mushrooms and Mole

For Pastry:
2 1/4 cup flour
6 Tbsp chilled and cubed butter
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/3 cup ice water
1 egg

For filling:
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced garlic
2 tsp ground fennel seeds
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 lb ground turkey breast

2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
2 Tbsp chopped Mexican chocolate (Ibarra or Abuelita, e.g.)
1/3 cup dry sherry

1 can hominy, drained (15 oz)
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup pitted chopped green olives
salt to taste

1 egg beated with 1 Tbsp water
1/4 cup raw chopped pepitas
Paprika and kosher salt

First off, I would start this whole mess a day early. Save yourself hassle and give yourself a break. Make the pastry and at least chop the vegetables beforehand. As I discovered, this is not a recipe you want to be messing with while you're hungry -- that's when things start to get dangerous for all involved.

To make the pastry, mix the flour, salt and sugar together in a bowl. Add in the butter and cut it into the flour with a pastry blender, or two knives until it has the consistency of pea sized crumbs. (The original recipe called for 8 Tbsp of butter, but that made the dough SOOOO unpleasant to work with, so I've decreased the amoutn here.) Add in the egg and stir to form larger clumps, add in the ice water a couple of tablespoons at a time. Stir until you get a nice clump and then turn out on a floured board. Knead for a moment or two to combine and then divide the dough into six balls. Flatten each into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for a half an hour or overnight.

For the filling, saute the bell pepper, onion, garlic and spices in the olive oil for about 3 minutes. Add in the turkey and saute until browned. Stir in the mushrooms, chocolate and sherry and cook until the liquid is absorbed -- about 6 minutes. Turn off the heat and add in hominy, cilantro and olives. Cool, or refrigerate overnight.

To make the empanadas, preheat the oven to 400 F. Roll out the dough circles to about 7" disks. Put about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of filling in the center and fold in half. Trim the edges and then use a fork to seal them. Transfer the empanadas to a baking sheet lined with parchment, or even better, a silpat.

Brush the tops with egg wash and then sprinkle pepitas and paprika and salt on the tops.

Bake until golden for about 30 minutes.

Poblano-Orange Mojo

Okay, I'll include this one too, because it was really tasty and relatively easy to make. Do NOT make this one ahead, though, as the sour cream will curdle in the lime juice.

1 poblano chili
1 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 navel orange, with rind, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp. toasted pepitas
2 Tbsp water
Juice of 2 limes
salt to taste

Char the poblano chili over a flame or gas burner, until it's black on all sides. Put it in a paper bag for 15 minutes to cool, then peel and seed.

Put all the ingredients in the blender and blend til smooth. Done.

Here's what kept us from fainting as we made the empanadas. A bit of Moliterno al Tartufo, a lovely little sheep cheese flavored with TRUFFLES. Ahhh.. cut me another slice of that.

We liked it better even than the more popular boschetto al tartufo which is a lot milder.

While at the cheese counter, we were waiting for a sample of Moliterno, and another customer came over with a question for the cheesemongers.

"My brother sent me over here to look for an Italian cheese? He said it's got herbs and grass on the outside of it and tastes like wild cherries?"

Eric takes a moment to scan the case and picks up a wedge of Vento d'estate and hands it to him. "This is what you want."

I just look at him. Now I know that I'm not the only one who has mysteriously absorbed cheese lore by osmosis.

Got a cheese emergency? Cheese Doctors are here to help you.

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