Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Using up Leftovers Deliciously

The holidays are over, but some things still remain. Cookies - lots of them. I got crazy making cookies and now have a lot left. Thankfully I have a "sun room" which for all intents and purposes is now a walk in deep freezer. With temps hovering between -10 and -25 it is just plain frigid out there. Lucky for me, I have plenty of cold storage. But, cookies are not all that is left taking space in my actual refrigerator. 

My husband brought home some smoked pulled pork a week or more ago, and with everything else, it has mainly stayed in its bag. I ate a little once, but there were too many other things tempting. I also had pie dough in the freezer, left from Thanksgiving when I last made pies. I had made the pie dough using my even better Never Fail Pie Crust recipe with some new twists. I mentioned this in my blog post of December 11, 2013. I had been looking online for something, and as so often happens, stumbled upon an article in Food 52 about making pie dough in a slightly different way, and using vodka for part of the liquid called for. I have made pie dough twice now, using two different recipes and using these new updates and it works so wonderfully well. The pie dough itself is so lovely, with such great texture. The original idea came from Cooks Illustrated, but Food 52 is where I found it. Having made it for pies and for these empanadas, while the dough is grat and the texture is perfect, I dislike how the dough seems to lose all definition once baked. If I crimp a pie, when it comes out of the oven, the lovely crimped edges are just a blurred suggestion. While these empanadas came out tasting great, they puffed so the fork-crimped edges lost most of the indent. The dough has no rising agent, but it seems to puff while baking. In certain applications this would be wonderful. For me, not really working much... Meanwhile, here is my Never Fail Pie Pastry recipe:

Never Fail Pie Pastry 

Never Fail Pie Pastry for three 10-inch pies
Makes four single-crust 9-inch pie shells or two double-crust 9-inch pies, three single-crust 10-inch pies, or one double-crust 10-inch pie plus one single-crust 10-inch pie.

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1¾ cups shortening or lard
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon vinegar
½ cup cold water

Combine dry ingredients, then cut in shortening or lard until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine egg, vinegar and water in a small bowl; stir into flour mixture. Do not over mix. Divide dough into 3 or 4 equal parts, shape each into a ball and wrap tightly. Chill.

Roll each portion to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Place in a pie plate. Trim off any excess pastry along edges. Fold edges under and flute.

For a baked shell, prick bottom and sides with a fork and bake at 450 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. It is unnecessary to prick shell if it will be filled before baking.

NOTES: The pie dough may be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week, or in the freezer for longer periods. If freezing, divide the dough into 2 or 3 portions and freeze them separately in freezer zip-top bags.

As suggested above, lard is by far the best fat to use for this pie crust recipe, though shortening will work fine, and makes a very good crust. While butter will give lovely flavor, it makes the final product quite soft, with not much of the flakiness you will get when using one of the other two fats.

Larger-sized Pork Barbecue Empanadas
Getting sidetracked. I do that when I get excited, and that pie dough innovation was exciting.

So, there was pie dough in the freezer and pulled pork in the fridge. I got the pie dough (enough for a single-crust 10-inch pie) from the freezer and set it on the counter to thaw. It took about an hour to become usable. I also had some of my Sweet Tangy BBQ Sauce in the fridge. All set. I have been wanting to make empanadas, or little hand pies; whatever you call them, it is a filling encased in dough. Pie dough is great for this. The pulled pork was in large chunks or longer strands, so I chopped it far smaller before proceeding so it would fit in the small pies. The meat had been laying flat (not bulging full) in a quart zip top bag. I didn't think of weighing or measuring to see how much was in the bag. I would estimate about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups, total. I mixed the meat with a little bit of the BBQ sauce, just to moisten. I did not want it running all over in the oven. 

Making Pork Barbecue Empanadas
I wanted to try a couple of sizes of little empanadas. I used my 3-inch biscuit cutter for the smaller ones, and used a small dessert bowl with an opening about 4 1/4-inches in diameter for larger ones. Either size would be wonderful for use as a party appetizer. The larger ones give a few bites worth while the little ones give a couple of bites (I ate two of the larger ones as my dinner last evening). I cut out 8 larger rounds and 8 smaller rounds. If I had made all large rounds it would likely have made about a dozen; if making all small rounds it would likely have made about 15 - 20. Part of this depends on how thinly you roll the pie dough. Some of the first ones I cut were too thick. 

I did have a small amount of the pork barbecue mixture leftover after filling all the dough. For the filling, about 2 - 3 tablespoons filling went in the large rounds and a scant 1 tablespoon in the small rounds. I moistened the edges of the dough, set the filling slightly to one side, then flipped the one edge over to meet the opposite side, making little half-moons, and pressed down the edges to seal. I also used a fork afterwards to press indentations in the edges and help with staying sealed. I brushed the tops of the empanadas with light cream, poked them with the tip of a sharp knife to allow steam to escape and baked them for about 18 minutes at 375 degrees. 

Brushed with light cream before baking
The wonderful thing about a recipe like this is that most anything can be used to fill the dough. Scrambled eggs and bacon would make great breakfast treats - the bread is built in! A mixture of leftovers with gravy to moisten, such as turkey or roast beef are great ideas. More savory mixtures such as pizza sauce with burger and/or pepperoni or cheese and mushroom mixtures would be great. There is really no end to the possibilities for these little things, and as I mentioned earlier - they are great for parties as they are self-contained. Just be sure to keep the filling a bit on the dry side to prevent leakage in the oven. Here is a recap of the recipe:

Smaller sized Pork Barbecue Empanadas

Pork Barbecue Empanadas

pie pastry for one (10-inch) pie
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups leftover pulled pork
1/3 cup barbecue sauce (if the pork is without sauce)
milk or half and half for brushing

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Chop pork small for filling and mix with the BBQ sauce; set aside. Roll out the pie pastry to about 1/8-inch thick. Cut into 3 or more inch diameter rounds. Place a small portion of pork onto one side. Moisten the edges of the dough and fold one side of the dough over and seal on the opposite side, pressing well with fingers. Use the tines of a fork to make a decorative pattern that helps ensure the packets stay closed while baking. Brush the tops with milk of half and half and poke holes in the tops with a knife to vent. Set the empanadas on a baking sheet and bake for about 18 to 20 minutes, until browned and bubbling.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.