Friday, April 29, 2011

Empanadas! Empanadas! Empanadas!
like delicious little doughy caves for rice and plantains to live inside until you devour the whole thing, you unfeeling monster

We're going to pretend that it hasn't been over a year since my last post because, quite frankly, there isn't time for any of that junk! No, not at all! We have to talk about empanadas! So urgent. You have already forgotten about my disturbingly lengthy hiatus for which there were perfectly legitimate grounds for that I just plain don't feel like/don't have time to elaborate on. Wonderful! Perfect. Let's begin.

I have learned all of this from Terry Hope Romero, vegan superhero deluxe. Her book Viva Vegan is a pretty crucial addition to your cookbook shelf/pile/collection. I will kindly throw the word "churros" around gratuitously if you are in disbelief of the necessity of the cookbook for some zany reason. I used her book's recipes for this, and doctored where I saw fit.

What you'll need for the empanada dough:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons chilled non-hydrogenated vegan shortening
2 tablespoons chilled non-hydrogenated vegan margarine
3/4 to 1 cup ice cold water

You prepare the empanada dough sort of like you would prepare any pie crust dough. In a food processor, pulse the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add in the shortening and margarine in small chunks and pulse until everything is incorporated and it's a soft sand-like consistency.

If you have ice cubes on hand, throw them in the water beforehand to get it as chilled as you possibly can. When you have the rest of your dough mixed up, add the water and mix it all up with your hands. Knead it briefly, and then divide the whole thing into two equal sections.

Flatten each, and wrap it with plastic wrap. Put them in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

The next day, when you go to continue on your empanada quest (riding a stallion/sheathed weapon at your side), you'll need to make the filling! I opted to fill them with "things I like," which feels like good if not perfect criteria, so long as everything included is both edible and somewhat appropriate taste-wise. Here's what I did, and feel free to add/subtract/multiply herein.

Empanada Filling:

olive oil for frying
1 cup white rice
2 plantains
2 cups black beans
3 cloves garlic
1 yellow onion
1 green pepper
2 roma tomatoes
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper
pickled jalapenos

Prepare your rice. You can certainly use leftover or flavored rice if you've got it! Cut your ripe plantains into half inch sections.

Fry them in olive oil and salt them lightly, until each side is golden. Drip off excess oil, and set aside!

Dice up your garlic and simmer it in oil, making sure to keep it moving to avoid burning. After a half minute, add your diced up onion, green pepper, and tomatoes.

Cook it all up until the onions are getting nice and transparent. Add your mushrooms and simmer a little longer.

Add beans and vegetable broth, and simmer until most all of the liquid has been absorbed, and the beans are soft. Add black pepper to taste.

As all the fillings cool, bring your chilled empanada dough back out. Get some wax paper and have it handy to put your rolled out dough circles on. Dust a rolling pin and surface with flour, and roll out each section of dough until it's about 3/8 inch thick.

Use a bowl (6 inches in diameter, or close to it), and with a knife, cut around the bowl to create uniform sized dough circles/empanada wrappers.

Keep cutting and re-rolling until all or most all of your dough has been used. The amounts in the recipe will make around a dozen rounds. Place each one on the waxed paper until all your dough is gone and you are ready to fill them.

Scoop some rice, beans&veggies, and plantains onto each round. Do whatever proportions feel right to you! Be careful not to overfill them, you'll get a good idea of the amount of filling you should be putting in them after you make a couple.

Fold the dough over onto itself to contain the filling and seal the empanada.

This should make a nice half-moon shape. With a fork, press down along the edges to crimp them and further seal the empanada together.

Once all of your empanadas are assembled and ready for cooking, heat up some oil! You're going to want an inch or so of oil so you can get the empanada buddies fried up evenly. The oil should be pretty darn hot, hot enough to bubble up around a piece of dough, frying it quickly. You want your empanada to cook nice and evenly without soaking up a lot of grease. Slide an empanada or two (or three or more: depending on the size of your pan!) into the pan and watch it fry!

Have tongs handy so you can check its status and flip it when necessary. You want your empanada to be slightly browned, a little golden. Flip it, cook it, and then set it aside to cool when it's done! Get really excited because you just made fucking empanadas!

You can also bake these little treasures, of course. To do that, preheat your oven to 375, oil a baking sheet, and put your empanadas on it. Brush the tops of them with oil and bake until their crusts are firm, golden, delicious. About 2o minutes, give or take. Just keep an eye on them! Serve piping hot!

Serve with mixed field greens, and garnish with avocado slices and pickled jalapenos, please. Also consider adding fresh or pickled jalapenos to your empanada filling! This specific jar of pickled jalapenos used on my batch was a birthday present from my friend Simon, but (poorly kept secret:) making pickled jalapenos is one of the my favorite things to do! A recipe for homemade pickled hot peppers (fermented using salt & natural chemistry! vinegar can take a hike) is a bunch of entries back in this here food blog if you're feeling like venturing into this territory or in case you come into an abnormally large quantity of fresh hot peppers anytime soon.

For funsies, why don't you try adding spiced and shredded seitan into the mix, or substitute seitan for rice! Or, try out sweet empanadas: saute some apples in butter, and then toss them in cinnamon and/or maple syrup. Fill the things, bake them, and drizzle with icing after they've cooled a little bit. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, serve with ice cream, and let your imagination run relatively wild with over-the-top shit like that. Because, let's get real. Life is too short to not be constantly thinking about the components of dessert empanadas.