I took some time off cooking and blogging last week. I didn’t take a complete hiatus–between leisurely activities I cooked a dish or two. I spent the day on the coast again last Thursday so I returned home with two bags of baby artichokes which lasted all of two days. I have shared two artichoke recipes here so far and the simplest, by far, comes to the blog this week. Dare I say that a vegetable that I have never felt particularly excited about has now turned into one of my top three favorites.
My backyard has captured my attention, too, these last few days. Summer is knocking on our door so we’ve been getting the yard ready. We’ve taken the seat cushions out of storage, fertilized the citrus trees and have been re-potting our overgrown succulent plants. We’ve also noticed that the irises have all but taken over some parts of our yard. We started with a dozen bulbs about 10 years ago and each year their number has doubled. They’re beautiful and more importantly, they’re safe from the deer but I’d like to make room for more lavender and tulips for the next season.
I’ve been catching up on some reading, too. I try never to leave the house without a book in my purse but I will admit that I’ve not had much time to mentally relax and sit down for a good read. When I’ve tried recently to just sit and do nothing, my to-do list would pop up in my head making me feel guilty for that hour of inactivity. But when my new Kindle reader arrived at the door this weekend, I made time to enjoy it. I uploaded some previous purchases that never got my attention and made a couple of new ones. It’s smaller and sleeker than my old Kindle and it has been attached to my left hand all weekend.
I spent all of Saturday afternoon in my backyard–from 1 pm until 4:30 pm–reading. Pure bliss. I forgot about the bathroom drawers that I’ve been meaning to organize and the guest bedroom closet that I need to clean out.
We even squeezed in a movie after our day on the coast but even the afternoon trips to the coffee shop with my husband have been fun. Relaxation was the theme of the weekend and I took full advantage of it.
By the time Sunday rolled around, I was ready to pick up where I left off the previous week. Following the success of this recipe, I wanted to experiment with a new filling. The dough needs no improvement at all. How lucky was I to come across a recipe I would love the first time around! But really, the empanada dough recipe from America’s Test Kitchen is the best. Flaky without being greasy and it bakes wonderfully each time. I’ve pre-assembled previous batches of empanadas and frozen them and they’ve come out of the oven just like they were prepared the same day. I did wonder if freezing the dough first would affect its quality when defrosted and rolled out much later.
Well, I needn’t have worried. Even after being frozen for a week, the dough was as good as new after being defrosted overnight. This new filling I prepared was a simple combination of chicken, mushrooms, olives, raisins and onions. I added some heat with hot paprika but what really elevated this filling was the splash of rosé and caramelizing the mushrooms and onions until most of the liquid had been cooked out of them. Even using boneless, skinless chicken breast meat yielded flavorful results. Next time I’ll try a chorizo version or maybe an all-vegetable filling.
If you like empanadas but have been intimidated by the process, don’t be. I was in your camp at one time but once I got the hang of things, I found that it’s really easy. The dough takes just a couple of minutes to put together and the process can be broken up in steps. You can make the dough and filling separately, assemble them another day and freeze. They come in handy when unexpected company comes–all you do is pop them into the oven and you’ve got something good to serve in less than a half hour. There’s no reason not to try it!
The blog is getting a makeover and I can’t wait to unveil the new look this week. Stay tuned!
- For the Dough (Makes 14-16 empanadas):
- 3¾ cups (18¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1 /2 teaspoons salt
- 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubs and chilled
- 1¼ cups ice water
- 1 large egg, beaten
- For the filling:
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced small
- 6 - 8 ounces mushrooms, diced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- ¼ - ⅓ cup pitted green olives, chopped
- ¼ - ⅓ cup golden raisins
- 1½ teaspoons hot paprika
- Few tablespoons olive oil
- Splash of wine (I used rosé)
- salt, to taste
- To prepare the dough: Using a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt about 6-8 times until combined. Add the butter pieces and pulse again (about 16 times) until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal and butter pieces are about the size of peas.
- Transfer the mixture to a large bowl then add ¼ cup of water at a time, stirring it in using a rubber spatula. Press the mixture against the sides of the bowl to form a dough until no small bits of flour remain (you may not need all of the water).
- Turn the dough out on a clean work surface and divide in two. Form each dough into a ball then flatten to a 6-inch disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (up to 2 days) before using. * You can also freeze the dough and defrost overnight before rolling it out.
- To prepare the filling:
- Sauté the mushrooms and onions in about two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add a pinch of salt and cook for 5-6 minutes until the mixture is caramelized. Add the splash of wine and deglaze the pan. Add another tablespoon or two of olive oil then add the chicken, paprika, raisins and olives. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Turn off the heat and wait until the filling cools to room temperature before using.
- To Assemble the Empanadas: Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Roll out one of the refrigerated disks of dough on a lightly floured surface into an 18-inch circle about ⅛ of an inch thick. Cut out 5-6 inch disks (I used a bowl) and transfer them to the parchment-lined baking sheet. I got about 8 rounds from each disk–make sure you cut the rounds carefully since you won’t be able to re-roll the scraps to make more rounds. Repeat with the remaining disks of dough.
- To fill the Empanadas, place 1 tbsp of the meat mixture on the dough then fold one edge of the dough over to create a half moon. Crimp the edges with the tines of a fork. The empanadas can be refrigerated up to 3 days (or frozen up to 1 month) before baking.
- To Bake the Empanadas, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Brush the tops of the empanadas with the egg and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. If frozen, it may take about 25 minutes. (If using the convection feature of your oven like I did, I baked mine for 21 min at 400 degrees F.