Monday, February 4, 2008

Bittman's Empanada Dough

Every year my Super Bowl menu is dictated by the host city. That tends to keep the menu varied as it moves from city to city, plus it can be challenge to come up with foods that match the host city- Detroit anyone? We love Super Bowl Sunday- it definitely ranks right up there as a food event for us, and since it's technically the first real food event of the year, we like to put out quite the spread. This year, since the Super Bowl was in Arizona, the theme was easily Southwestern. We had another friend offer to make Rick Bayless's Smoky Pork Tacos, as well as a salad, so I needed to come up with something different. At first I was thinking of enchiladas, but we've been having those quite a bit, so I wanted to do something different.

I was already making a layered taco dip, Drunken Beans, desserts, and some hot wings, but I needed something that fit with the Southwestern theme, and in the end Mr. Bittman came to my rescue with his recipe for Bean and Cheese empanadas. Only I didn't want to stuff them with beans and cheese. I had it in my mind to make a chicken, corn and chipotle filling, so I started with that. The chicken was easy. I had a large roasting chicken that I cooked up for the previous night's dinner, so there was a lot of chicken leftover. I dug a chipotle chili out of the freezer, and opened up a can of corn. It was that easy. The chipotle I chopped finely, and then mixed with some tomato paste and a few ladle-fulls of freshly made chicken stock. Then I chopped the chicken finely and mixed in the corn and the tomato-chipotle mixture. Quick and tasty!

The empanada dough came together in a snap as well. I followed Mark Bittman's recipe and was mostly pleased with the results. I was out of shortening, so I opted to use the oil he suggested...I have to say, I think the shortening would have made a better result. The empanada dough made with the oil was greasy to work with- it still turned out fine, but I'd like to try it with the shortening to see how they compare. I also opted to make my empanadas smaller- I probably got about 20 out of one batch of dough. The flavor was great, and the only real changes I made to them was that I pricked them with a fork before baking, and I left off the milk at the end. They still turned out gorgeous and delicious.

So will I make them again? Oh yes, they are great, and the sky's the limit as far as the fillings are concerned. I really want to do a pork and chili verde filling, with lots of cilantro and queso fresco, they would be amazing! But I have to say this, it takes a bit of time to roll, fill, and bake 60 empanadas. It was a lot of work, so make sure you have the time available before tackling them.

Bean and Cheese Empanadas

from Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus a little more
1/2 cup masa harina, fine cornmeal or more all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening or vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups cooked and well-seasoned beans
2 cups grated or crumbled queso fresco, Monterey Jack, or coltija cheese
1/2 cup milk

1. Mix the flour, masa harina, baking powder, and salt together in the food processor and process for about 5 seconds. With the machine running, add the 1/2 cup shortening and process for 10 seconds. Then, with the machine running, add about 1/2 cup cold water, just enough for the dough to form a ball. Don't add more water than necessary; the dough should be fairly dry. Knead by hand until smooth, just a minute or so.

2. Divide into 12 pieces, roll into balls, and wrap in plastic or cover with a damp towel and let rest for at elast 20 minutes. (You can refrigerate the dough overnight; be sure to let it come to room temperature before proceeding.) On a well-floured surface, rolle ach piece into a 6-inch circle, adding flour as necessary.

3. Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Place a couple of tablespoons of the beans in the center of each circle of dough, followed by a sprinkling of cheese, then fold each circle overl seal the seam with a few drops of water and press with the tines of a fork to close. Put on an ungreased baking sheet and brush lightly with milk. Bake until the dough is golden brown and hot, and about 20 minutes. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

**The sky is the limit with these empanadas, they will take well to any filling, as long as the filling isn't too wet.


JEP said...

Mmm..the bean & cheese variety are for me!! Do you think I could make these & freeze before baking or would the beans & cheese get funky? Maybe just cut down the recipe before prep would be a more successful way?

Josie said...

Holy cow you are a motivated woman! Here I was proud of myself for making guacamole and cookies for the Super Bowl!!! :) The empanadas look awesome - I would love them packed with black beans, corn and tons of cheese.
Thanks for posting!!

Erika W. said...

Jep, I don't know about the beans and cheese, since I used the chicken, but I would think they would freeze okay. You might end up with a small texture change, but I don't think it would be anything horrible.

Josie- they were a little ambitious. I made them on Saturday ahead of time and then re-heated on Sunday. Seriously, they took me all afternoon. I'd made enough dough and filling for 3 batches, and halfway through the third batch I'd had enough and quit.

They re-warmed the next day beautifully though!