Sunday, November 2, 2014

Empanadas Rusas from the Halloween Milonga

Brian Salibury, Daniel Diaz, and David Peterson trio!

By special request from Daniel Diaz, the bandoneon king of our Intermountain West: Version 2 recipes of the "Classic Argentine Empanadas Rusas" :)

Relleno de pollo

Whenever I tried to prepare trad relleno de carne, the results always came short of expectations.  I reasoned that it's hard to get Argentine-good results with American ground beef. You'd face the twin problems of grease and loss of tenderness if you keep the ground beef on the skillet longer to drain fat more successfully. The v.2 solution is to get rid of beef, or of anything ground - let's go with pre-fried chicken meat instead! Yes, the minced chicken turned out to be tender and juicy just like I wanted, and peas are a nice texture contrast to the meat!

24 oz boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 medium onions, chopped
8 oz frozen green peas
1 cup pre-cooked basmati rice
2 teaspoons ground cumin-coriander mix
Two dozen green olives.
Salt, black pepper, olive oil.

Remove fatty portions from chicken meat, season (using some cumin-coriander and leaving the rest for mixing in later) & pan-fry using small amount of olive oil, on high, them medium-high heat, until they thickest parts aren't pink on the inside anymore. Set aside, let cool until meat can be comfortably handled, and mince. Sautee onions on high heat till lightly golden brown. Mix meat, sauteed onions, dd remaining spices, rice, and peas (no need to cook them, they'll thaw in the remaining heat of the frying pan and that's all you need to do with them). The olives (small whole or halved) are added to individual empanadas during wrapping. Makes 30 small empanadas. 

Relleno de bananas

If you frequented Milonga Sin Nombre, then you may have witnessed the evolution of our banana empanadas. I started with oatmeal-thickened peach-banana "porridge" fillings, then learned to evaporate the juices & to thicken the fruit  on a large non-stick frypan, and then substituted passion fruit juice instead of lime juice. The latest iteration is an apple-banana-tropical empanada

4 apples, chopped in fine pieces no more than 1/4"
4 bananas, cut in circles
1 tablespoon of water
2 tablespoons of passion fruit juice
2 tablespoonful of sugar
A dash of olive oil

Steam chopped apples in a covered pan with oil and water for 10 minutes, add sliced bananas and sugar, open the lid and simmer down and until the juices evaporate. Add passion fruit juice. Makes 2 dozen banana empanadas

Relleno de espinaca

Taiwanese spinach works!
Makes 30 small spinach empanadas. Like the earlier version, this recipe doesn't actually contain any spinach. It isn't exactly the classic Argentine empanadas de espinaca, but we may consider it a spicier version. Regular spinach is substituted by amaranth (Taiwanese spinach) because it settles down less when it wilts in the heat. You'd need a much taller pile of fresh spinach to get the same end volume, and it may be too hard for me to stir enough of it to fill so many pastries!

Thumb-size chunk of ginger root
1 medium onion, chopped
24 oz Taiwanese spinach (amaranth, Amaranthus gangeticus), carefully washed and cut into half-inch pieces, stems and leaves but of course no roots. 
1/2 pack firm tofu, cubed (1/4-1/2 in pieces) (9 oz)
2 tablespoonfuls of extra light olive oil
two fits-sized spools of sweet potato thread noodles
sauces per description

Finely chop ginger, sauté until very lightly browned, add onions and sauté until golden brown, mix in tofu and amaranth, add soy sauce, and your fav flavorings such as oyster sauce, a couple drops of sesame oil, a few drops of Sriracha, and stir-fry for a couple more minutes until wilted. In the meantime, cover sweet potato thread "glass" noodle spools with boiling water in a pot, briefly bring to boil, drain, and chop with scissors. Mix undercooked chopped noodles to the spinach stir-fry and set aside for a few minutes. The noodles will soak all the remaining juices. A possible suggestion for the future is to add pine nuts to the recipe?

The secret of the dough

Like a properly lazy tanguero, I don't make dough from scratch. Yes, I buy frozen jumbo white rolls dough in a store. My fav brand is local, Terrel's Country Bakery. Set them on flour-dusted trays in a reasonably warm place, under cover such us cut-up plastic bags (to prevent the doughsurface from drying), for 2+ hours. Once they thaw and rise some, divide each roll into 4 parts for a small empanada (that's 3/4 of an ounce per pastry), or 3 parts for a biggie (an ounce per pastry)

Shape each piece into a ball and let them rise, on flour-dusted trays under plastic cover, for another half an hour. Now it's time to roll (palm size for smallies, two palms for biggies) and fill. Rope-pinch the edges and place on buttered baking trays with the rope-pinch edge facing up. For the bright golden color of the crust, brush them with egg yolk before baking (a yolk of just one egg, combined with two teaspoons of water and whipped in a cup with a fork, may be enough to "paint" up to 4 dozens pastries). Bake at 350 F. For a pliable crust, smear the empanadas with a softened stick of butter immediately after baking right on the tray, then transfer the still-hot pastries into bowls lined, and covered, by towels. The best way to reheat the pastries, if needed, is a few minutes in an oven (generally meat empanadas are the best when warm, but it may not be important for the dessert ones)

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