Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pork, Potato and Smoked Paprika Empanadas {Using Up My Leftovers}

We're gearing up for spring break here in our house.  I'm super excited for the trip we have scheduled for next week.  Mainly because it involves two of my favorite things- food and gardens.  We're headed to Belgium and The Netherlands and I have packed our itinerary full of waffles, french fries and chocolate eating as well as tulip fields as far as the eye can see in all their blooming glory.  If any has ever been to Bruges or Amsterdam and has specific recommendations on great places to eat, I'd happily take them.  I've got a little list going, but the more options the better in my book.

Sounds idyllic, doesn't it?  I promise loads of photos when we get back.  It's supposed to be a bit rainy, but I imagine the bright colors of those tulips and the canal-side homes in Bruges will make up for the gray skies. Can't!  Wait!

It's a good thing there's a vacation at the end of this week because one of the most stressful things I do around here is prepare for our trips.  Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but I certainly can't be, right?  It's exhausting- all the google searches on what I need to have in my car to drive through Belgium, all the laundry that needs doing before we get going, the food shopping for snacks and breakfast stuff that we can take along with us, stressing about how we're going to pack everything we need into the car.  And the worst of all- how to use up what I've got in my fridge so that what's in there doesn't go to waste and I don't have a fridge full of gross-ness awaiting me at the end of an awesome vacation.

This is one of the best ways that I know to use up leftovers.  And they've graced our table this past week to the delight of all but my picky little man (sigh).  My husband is very much an "I need meat at dinner" kind of guy and he's not a big fan of poultry, so we tend to eat a lot of pork around here.  Pork tenderloin is one of our favorites (especially this one), but we go for good old fashioned roasts as well as big, thick chops on the grill.  There are always leftovers because I don't know how to cook for less than an army of people (thanks to my Nana for that one!).  My family has come to expect these great little empanadas within a few days of the first dinner.  They never, ever disappoint.  Serve them up with a big salad and you've got one great dinner.

One less leftover in the fridge- check!

Pork, Potato and Smoked Paprika Empanadas
Makes about 15 empanadas.  Dough recipe from the sadly no-longer-in-print Gourmet magazine.
For the printable, click here.

This really is a favorite here in our house.  I've been using the same dough recipe from Gourmet magazine for years and it's pretty fool-proof.  I've been guilty over over mixing and re-rolling the scraps maybe one time too many and the empanadas are always tender and flaky.  I haven't changed a single thing from the original, though I do occasionally use apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar depending on what is the closest to me when I'm working.  The filling is pretty flexible.  You can use whatever leftover pork you have and it will work just fine.  If you don't have thyme or smoked paprika you can go in another direction and be just as satisfied.  Maybe some cumin, chili powder and roasted chili peppers for a bit of a Tex Mex flavorMushrooms and tarragonYou could even swap out sweet potatoes for the yukon golds.  The possibilities are endless.

For the dough:
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 stick (1/2 cup or 8 tbs) cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup ice water
1 tbs white or apple cider vinegar

In a large bowl, blend together the butter, flour and salt with your finer tips or a pastry blender until the butter pieces are about the size of peas.

In another bowl, mix together the water and vinegar.  Using your hands or a fork, stir the liquid mixture into the flour and butter until you have a shaggy dough.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it two or three times just to bring the dough together.  Shape the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

*I've also made the dough in a food processor with no problem.  Follow the same steps, pulsing the processor blade to do your blending.

For the filling:
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 medium waxy potato (such as yukon gold), diced
1 cup leftover pork, shredded or diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 sprigs thyme
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 cup low-sodium or home made chicken broth, divided
1 tbs flour

1 egg for egg washing the empanadas

Saute the onion in 1 tbs olive oil for 2-3 min or just until softened.  Add potatoes and stir with the onions for another minute.  Add 1/4 cup of the chicken broth and bring to a simmer.  Simmer, uncovered, until the pan is almost dry to par-cook the potatoes.  Add the pork, garlic, the rest of the broth, thyme and paprika to the pan and stir just to warm through (about 3 minutes).  Sprinkle the flour over the pan and stir, cooking for another minute to thicken the pan juices.  Set the pan aside to cool COMPLETELY before proceeding.

To assemble:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with with parchment or a nonstick liner.  In a small bowl beat the egg with 1 tbs of water and set aside.

Roll the dough out into a circle about 1/8 of an inch thick.  Cut into circles using a 5 inch diameter cutter.  Place 1 heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each circle.  Brush the edge of the circles with a bit of egg wash and fold the dough to form a half-circle enclosing the filling.  Press the edges with your fingers and crimp with a fork to ensure a tight seal.  You can re-roll the dough scraps and cut out more empanadas.

Place the empanadas on the prepared baking sheets.  Brush the tops with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle with a bit of smoked paprika.  Bake for 22-25 minutes until the tops are golden brown and the empanadas are puffed.  Cool slightly and serve warm.

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