Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Chicken Chorizo Empanadas


Recently, good friends hosted our gourmet group and the theme was "Una Noche Española", a Spanish night.  Among other things, we enjoyed a wonderful seafood Paella, and this delicious appetizer, which was our assigned contribution to the meal.  See below for my first experience eating Paella :-)


An empanada is a stuffed pastry filled with a combination of meat, cheese, potatoes and other ingredients, which are either baked or fried.  Served in many parts of Spain and Latin American, the name is derived from the Spanish verb empanar, meaning to wrap. Hot pockets, Strudel, Knish, Calzone, Pasty, Pierogi, Samosa, Borek, Kibbeh, are just a few other names for similar recipes from various parts of the world. Some of you may know more examples to add to that list.  


Even though the entire recipe was received in our 'menu packet', I did quite a bit of research on dough recipes, empanada fillings and how to made the beautiful fold around the edge of the empanada (you can find a great tutorial here).  I wanted to 'lighten' the recipe just a bit and was able to find chicken chorizo sausage at a specialty poultry store nearby that makes a variety of sausages using fresh, ground chicken.

I had never made empanadas before so this was a delicious learning experience for me!  I made my own dough but you could certainly save a lot of time by buying pre-made empanada discs or refrigerated pie crust and cutting your own circles.
 

The blender avocado sauce that was included with our recipe was really delicious!  There is quite a bit of lime juice in it that so I think you could easily prepare it a day ahead.  It was very creamy and fresh tasting and would taste wonderful in many recipes.

If you feel like spending Una Noche Española, I highly recommend these empanadas!  There are many do-ahead components if you plan ahead.

Although I never had empanadas in Spain, it was where I first ate and fell in love with Paella and the first dish I learned how to make after a trip to the Costa del Sol a few years before I met my husband. Long ago :)  From top left, the beautiful hillside village of Mijas, the obligatory photo with a flamenco dancer in Torremolenos, overlooking a fountain inside the beautiful Alhambra in Granada, and a horse-drawn carriage outside of La Malaguena in Marbella. 


Chicken Chorizo Empanadas

Printable Recipe

Makes 12 Empanadas, which will serve 4-6 people as an appetizer. 

Dough:

Note: You may also use Goya pre-cut empanada dough or even a box of pre-made refrigerated pie crust purchased from your grocer if you need to save time.

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose sifted flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg
1/3 cup ice water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar or plain vodka

Place sifted flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender (or your fingers) until it resembles coarse the mixture resembles small, pea-size lumps.

With a fork whisk the egg, water, and vinegar or vodka together in a small bowl. Add this to the flour mixture, stirring with the fork just until incorporated.

Turn out dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press together. Gently kneed with heel of your hand two or three times to bring dough together. Flatten dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap or zipper bag. Chill at least 1 hour.

Dough can be made a day ahead.

When ready to made empanadas, roll out dough into an 18-inch rectangle.  Using a 3" round cutter, cut 12 discs from the dough.  Place on a baking sheet in a single layer, using parchment paper to cover and separate discs.

Filling:

1 tablespoon grape seed, corn or other neutral flavored oil
1/2 white onion, finely diced – about 1 cup
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced - about 1/2 cup
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 Bay Leaf
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lb. chicken chorizo, or pork, if preferred
12 ounces of grated Monterrey Jack or Mexican Blend cheese
4 ounces of crumbled queso fresco cheese

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Remove the chorizo from the casings and drop into the pan and separate with a wooden spoon while sauteing until cooked through and crumbled, about 10 minutes.  Remove the cooked chorizo from the pan with a slotted spoon as set aside.  Add the diced onion and red pepper and cook until they are soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, bay leaf, oregano and salt and stir to combine.  Add in the cooked chorizo sausage and stir together.  Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are blended.  Remove from heat and cool then remove bay leaf. 

This mixture can be made a day ahead and refrigerated, covered, until ready to assemble empanadas.

Mix the grated Monterrey Jack or Mexican Blend cheese with the crumbled queso fresco. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Can be made a day ahead.

Avocado Sauce:

3 ripe avocados
4 limes, juiced – a little over ½ cup of juice
1 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and white veins removed
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a blender; it helps the blending process if the avocados are in small chunks and the cilantro is lightly chopped. I also recommend crushing the garlic before putting it in the blender to ensure no one gets a surprise large piece of garlic.
Blend until you have a smooth sauce. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.
Can be made a day ahead.

Assembly:

Roll out dough as indicated in dough recipe above.


See this video for how to fold classic empanadas.

Preheat oven to 400F.

To assemble the empanadas, hold one disc in your left hand (if you are right-handed). Brush outer edge on the upper half of disc with plain water. Place a spoonful of the cheese mixture in the center of the disc and then top with a spoonful of the chorizo mixture. Fold the top and bottom edge of the gently and seal edges with your fingers. Twist and fold the edges with your fingers or use a fork to press down on the edges as you would a pie crust.

Chill the empanadas for at least an hour to help them prevent leaks.

When ready to bake, brush the empanadas with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve the empanadas with avocado sauce.

Adapted from Laylita, and Epicurious

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Chocolate Pecan Meringues with Easy Berry Sauce


Two words of advice - Valentine's Day. It's next Tuesday!  If you are looking for an easy but impressive dessert to serve your sweetheart, this is it. 


Only a few simple ingredients are needed to create these beautiful, swirled puffs of chocolate and cocoa.  The recipe calls for espresso powder which is easy to find at the store, but if you'd like to try making your own, I've included directions below.


The cool and dry indoor humidity of winter is the best time to make meringues. Shatteringly crisp on the outside but chewy and decadent on the inside, these are sure to impress.


Alone, these cookies are delightful, but if you wish, you can make a simple frozen berry sauce in less than 30 minutes.  Topped with a scoop of fine vanilla ice cream and berry sauce, you can turn the meringues into a spectacular dessert.  Be sure to use a very sharp serrated knife to cut the tops off of the meringues or they could shatter and break.  If you prefer, you can use the back of a spoon and make a shallow indentation in the top of the meringues before you bake them (think of the pre-made sponge shortcake indentation).  Or, simply fill an ice cream dish with ice cream and berry sauce and serve the meringue cookies on the side!


Speaking of hearts and love, I have been working on creating some special baby shower games using art that I purchased on Etsy from some very talented artists.  Good friends are expecting their first grandchild in June. Don't you love this baby fox with the heart on its chest?


Whatever your plan for Valentine's Day, whether it's spending time with your special loved one or by yourself watching a good movie with a bowl of meringue cookies, I wish you a very happy day!

Chocolate Pecan Meringue Cookies

Printable Recipe

3 large room temperature egg whites*
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup superfine sugar*
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped* (optional)
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons espresso powder
Pinch of salt

*Tips: Place whole eggs in a dish of warm water to get them to room temperature more quickly. If you have a coffee/spice grinder or a food processor you can make your own superfine sugar by pulsing several times. Roast pecans in a 350F oven for about 7 minutes. Allow to cool, then chop finely.

Preheat oven to 225F and line a 18 x 13 inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.

Place egg whites into a medium bowl and add the cream of tartar. With a hand mixer, beat the egg whites at low speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Turn the the speed up to medium and add the sugar while beating, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the egg whites are stiff and glossy. This will take about 1 minute.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the meringue and fold in gently with a spatula to incorporate. Only fold a few times, you want the the meringue to look marbled.

Spoon eight 1/2-cup mounds of meringue onto the prepared baking sheet. Using the back 
of a spoon, gently swirl the meringues into approximately 3 inch rounds, making a peak at the top. If desired, you can use the spoon to make an indentation in the top of the meringues if you wish to use them as a base for ice cream and berry sauce.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the meringues are firm on the outside but still chewy in the 
center. Cool completely.

Meringues can be stored in an airtight container, separating layers with parchment paper, for about a week.

Adapted from: Chocolate Chip Espresso Meringues from Food and Wine

Simple Frozen Berry Sauce

Printable Recipe

2 cups mixed frozen berries (organic preferred) such as strawberries, blueberries and raspberries
1/4 cup sugar or honey
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Place berries in a small saucepan. Over low heat, allow the berries to thaw and soften until they release their juices. Add the sugar or honey and turn the heat to medium low and simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust sweetness, if necessary.

Remove from heat and mash berries with a large fork or pastry blender. Add the fresh lemon juice and allow to cool.

Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to use. May be reheated gently in the microwave for about 30 seconds when ready to serve.

How to Make Your Own Espresso Powder


This makes about 1-1/2 tablespoons of espresso powder.

If you have an espresso maker at home, after brewing a double shot, save the grounds or ask your barista to give you the grounds after you order your next espresso drink at the coffee shop.

Spread the grounds on a small baking sheet and spread them out to dry.

Preheat the oven to 300F and place the baking sheet in the oven and allow the grounds to toast for 30 minutes.

Allow the grounds to cool and pulse them in a coffee/spice grinder until finely ground.