Thursday, March 13, 2014

Empanadas to Pair with Malbec

April 12th is the date of the upcoming Winefest Rennaisance Wine-tasting event for the benefit of the Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen. I will be hosting a wine rating and food pairing in one area, in order to try and help people better pinpoint what they like or dislike in a wine, and to see what a correct food pairing can do with the flavor of the wine. Many people like wine, but know little about it. Many will blacklist a whole grape varietal on the basis of tasting a wine made from one vintner's interpretation. Others will believe a Riesling is synonymous with "Piesporter" - one very tiny area - knowing nothing of the grape and its possibilities. I try to rectify these misapprehensions wherever I go.

For this wine tasting event, I will have six different wines, from all over the world. I have fairly well made decisions on the foods to pair with each of these wines.
  1. Prosecco from Italy will pair with Smoked Salmon Mousse atop a Savory Hazelnut Blue Cheese Wafer
  2. Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc) from France will pair with Individual Chicken Artichoke Cheese Balls atop baguette slice
  3. Conundrum White blend from California will pair with Chicken and Raisin Samosas
  4. Pinot Noir from California will pair with Chicken, Pear and Onion Tartlets with Chevre Cream
  5. Malbec from Argentina will pair with Smoky Beef & Currant Empanadas
  6. Port from Portugal will be paired with a dark chocolate, still undecided in form. 
I had recently made the Chicken, Pear and Onion Tartlets, (see my blog of February 24, 2014) to pair with a Chenin Blanc. In this case these same flavors will pair as well with a Pinot Noir, so I have that recipe already, with the flavors well paired in my mind. The two wines causing more angst over the pairing were the Conundrum and the Malbec. I decided to try the empanadas first. A little while back (blog of January 7, 2014) I made empanadas with leftover Barbecued Pork, and using puff pastry as the dough. While these tasted wonderful, there was too much pastry dough-to-meat-ratio. At the time I filed that concept for later. Yesterday I finally got around to checking out other possibilities.

Smoky Beef and Currant Empanadas
The particular Argentinian Malbec's flavor profile is "smoky, rich with black fruits, cocoa, hints of tobacco and leather. . . fat, layered and boldly rich." I read in many places how Malbecs go exceedingly well with sausage and richly spiced foods. At first I thought of creating my own sausage, but as usual, my ideas morph continually over a period of days as my mind cogitates. What I ended up deciding on was using my own "Sweet Smoky Cocoa Rub" with an extra dose of Smoked Paprika to really pick up on the smoky aspect as well as the cocoa flavor. I added currants to the flavors to bring in a subtle sweet fruitiness. I first thought of using pork, changed to pork and beef, and then, finally just beef. 

Sweet Smoky Cocoa Rub 

Makes 1 1/3 cups rub mix

¾ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon paprika, preferably Spanish
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1½ teaspoons smoked paprika (Pimienta de la Vera)
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons ground coriander seed
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder, or more to taste
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon chipotle powder, optional
¾ teaspoon ground cumin

Mix all ingredients until thoroughly blended. If storing, use an airtight container and keep in a cool, dry place away from heat or light.

I had no real empanada dough recipe, so I looked online and found an Argentinian woman's site with recipes for real Argentinian Empanadas and the dough. I am not using the filling recipe in any way, shape or form, but the dough recipe intrigued me. Not a yeast dough, yet kneaded for 10 minutes to build the gluten. I know my way around yeast doughs, but had rarely seen a dough where kneading was so important without yeast. The closest thing to this idea is when making pasta or noodle dough. I had to try it out. The woman's recipe was in Spanish (see her site here), but as I spoke Spanish very fluently for a good 10 years, I had no difficulty with that part. Her measurements were in grams and milliliters, so I weighed and measured it to cups and ounces.

Empanada Dough

enough for about 40 or more (4 - 5 inch) rounds

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (use an extra 1/4 cup aside if needed)
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
1 egg
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons milk
2/3 cup lukewarm water

Left, sealed edge; Right, folding and crimping
Left, sealed edge; Right, folding and crimping
In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer, place the flour and salt. Add in the butter pieces and with a pastry blender or whisk attachment, cut in the butter. Switch to a dough hook (or use a spoon if by hand) and mix in the egg, starting from the center, as when making noodle dough. Add in the oil and milk and continue to mix. Begin adding the warm water. When the dough comes together, if kneading by hand, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. If using a stand mixer, allow the dough hook to knead the dough for 10 minutes. Once kneaded, set the dough aside in a bowl, lightly covered, and set in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

When ready to work with the dough, I found the dough to be very elastic, which made it easy stretching it over the filling without holes. Roll the dough thinly. Being so elastic, after cutting 5-inch rounds, they shrunk back to about 3-inches. After cutting out all the circles, I rolled each one individually to about 5 inches before filling. Exact roundness is unnecessary. Moisten all around the edge of the dough, place a rounded tablespoon of filling in the center, then stretch the one side over to completely enclose the filling, pressing very firmly to seal. 

After sealing, begin folding and crimping the edges, again pressing very firmly, creating an almost braided appearance. I had never done this before, so it wasn't until about my 30th empanada (out of 38) that the folding process began to be remotely even. The empanadas can be baked or fried. I prefer baking. Brush the tops well with one beaten egg. Prick the tops with a knife in 3 or 4 places. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for approximately 15 minutes, until golden and glossy.

Smoky Beef & Currant Empanada Filling

Enough for about 38 empanadas
Smoky Beef & Currant Empanadas, out of oven
Smoky Beef & Currant Empanadas, out of oven

2 tablespoons bacon fat or other oil
1 1/2 pounds sirloin, cut into very tiny cubes
1 teaspoon salt
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced or through a garlic press
3/4 cup currants
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon bacon fat or other oil
1 large onion, chopped finely
1 can (8-ounces dry weight) mushroom stems and pieces, minced
2 tablespoons Sweet Smoky Cocoa Rub, above
1 tablespoon Smoked Paprika (Pimenton de la Vera)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Dry the meat well on paper toweling. Heat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the first 2 tablespoons of bacon fat and then the meat. The meat will begin to leach out a lot of liquid. Generally this is to be avoided, but I wanted enough of the liquid to soften the currants later. Sprinkle on the first teaspoon of salt and cook the meat until there is just a little bit of liquid left. Add in the garlic and toss well, then the currants, cooking until the liquid has evaporated. Remove the mixture to a bowl. 

Add the tablespoon of bacon fat to the pan with the onions and cook, stirring frequently until the onions begin to look golden, but not browned. Add the finely chopped mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms and onions start to brown. Return the meat mixture to the pan, along with the Sweet Smoky Cocoa Rub, smoked paprika and the 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss well to combine. Remove from heat and allow to cool to at least lukewarm.

Fill the empanada wrappers with this mixture; seal, crimp, brush with egg wash, prick with a knife and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 15 to 20 minutes.

These empanadas came out far better than I even hoped. The flavors are spectacular, and I can easily (in my mind) taste the flavors with a Malbec wine. The use of bacon fat to fry the meat and onions was to incorporate more of the smoke and sausage idea. All the flavors married perfectly. My crimping may be pitiful, but the flavors were precisely right.

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 and Marketplace, 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.