Empanadas, finally…

Oh empanadas, I so wish you were pretty. You are just so beige.

empanadas!

But you deserve so  much more! I want you to be as fantastic on the outside as you are on the inside! I know it’s the inside that counts, but still, it doesn’t seem fair…sigh.

I made these for the first time at least six months ago, and they really are some of the most delicious things I have ever made, but I have been hesitant to share them with you because they really aren’t very pretty. Mostly my fault, as crimping empanada dough is apparently my kryptonite and they just end up looking so haggard all the time, but also because their natural hue is kind of yellowish and the lighting in my house does them no favors. Same could be said for banana bread, which I can not manage to get a good picture of…working on it.

The recipe is initially from Gourmet, but I discovered it on Smitten Kitchen. She made these back in 2007 and at the time said they were one of the best things she ever made, which I figured was saying a lot. They did not disappoint. Empanadas are Spanish, and the guess is that they were an adaptation of the samosas brought to Spain by the Moors. They then made their way to South America, and that seems to be now where they are most enjoyed. They can be filled with anything, but often they include olives and raisins, which are a interesting and delicious combo of sweet and salty. These have olives and raisins, as well as chicken and chorizo and a lot of onions.

filled

The chicken gets browned and then finished in with the rest of the filling which gets quite saucy. The chicken gets shredded and the finished filling is a delight.

filling

My issues come with the forming of the empanadas…I can not get them to look good. Crimping dough is the worst and I just can’t do it so they look pretty. It’s annoying. The dough itself is great, butter, flour, eggs and vinegar. I, taking Deb’s advice, sub in some whole wheat flour and have really liked the results.

There’s really not much else to say about these other than they are just SO good. They freeze well after baking, and they are good room temperature, but better warm. They are great for parties, or watching games, or bringing in for lunches or pretty much any time. They do take some time to make and put together, but they are so worth it. Make them. Make them now, or as soon as you have a couple of hours. Seriously. You will be very popular.

heaven

Some thoughts for a Sunday:

1. ARNOLD! What. The. Hell? You know what I would be angriest about? Not that it happened in the first place (though, also, yes, potential future husband, I WILL be mad if it happens in the first place) but that he supported the kid for MORE THAN TEN YEARS without telling her, and then, AND THEN, only when it would no longer hurt his political career did he mention it. Ultimate worst husband ever.

2. Watching The Social Network. Armie Hammer is cuuuuute.

3. Trying to trade out my summer and winter clothes even though it’s May and it’s 50 degrees. Why do I live in Boston?

4. I finished Freedom. I liked The Corrections better.

5. Did I mention the headwear when I was discussing my desire to be British? Because that’s really the best part. The hats and the polo. I need hats to be a thing here, and pronto.

6. I’ve never had a banh mi sandwich and I would like to change that…there might be a lunch adventure in my future, I’ll have a do some research and find out where to get a good one.

7. I need a visit to San Francisco stat. It has been way too long. Being there recharges my batteries.

Empanadas with Chicken and Chorizo (makes 2 dozen)

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Gourmet

Dough:

4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (sub in 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour if you’d like)

3 tsp salt

2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 large eggs

2/3 cup ice water

2 tbls distilled white vinegar

Filling:

3 whole chicken legs, including thighs (2 to 2 1/4 pounds total)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

4 1/2 tbl olive oil

2 large onions, halved lengthwise, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California

1/3 cup finely diced Spanish chorizo (cured spiced pork sausage; 1 1/2 oz; casings discarded if desired)

1/2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika (not hot)

1/4 cup chopped pitted green olives

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

Egg Wash:

One egg, beaten

1 tbl water

Make Dough: Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.) Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into two flat rectangles and chill them, each wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour. Dough can be chilled up to 6 hours total.

Make Filling: Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken, turning over once, about 6 minutes total, and transfer to a plate. Sauté onions, garlic, and bay leaves in fat remaining in skillet, stirring frequently, until onions are softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add chorizo and paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add olives, raisins, wine, and broth and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits. Return chicken to skillet along with any juices accumulated on plate, then reduce heat to moderately low and simmer chicken, covered, turning over once, until tender, 25 to 30 minutes total.

Transfer chicken to a clean plate. (Sauce in skillet should be the consistency of heavy cream; if it’s not, briskly simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.) When chicken is cool enough to handle, discard skin and bones and coarsely chop meat. Stir chicken into sauce and discard bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper, then cool filling, uncovered, about 30 minutes.

Fill and Bake: Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 400°F. Divide the dough into two dozen equal pieces. Keeping remaining pieces covered, roll out 1 piece on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 5-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick).

Spoon about 2 tablespoons filling onto center and fold dough in half, enclosing filling. Press edges together to seal, then crimp decoratively with your fingers or a fork. Transfer empanada to a baking sheet. Make the remaining empanadas the same way, arranging on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets.

Lightly brush empanadas with some of egg wash and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer empanadas to a rack to cool at least 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

delectable

Chicken with Caramelized Shallots: In which I share my first installment…

Weeknight chicken vol. I

So I had this idea. As you may have figured out, my ideas often stop there, so I won’t make any promises, but I’m hoping to start some kind of regular (meaning weekly? I know! It would be unbelievable!) weeknight chicken posts around here. I eat A LOT of chicken, and I suspect a lot of other meat eaters do too. Chicken is popular, not fussy, easy to find, cheap compared to other animal proteins and so amenable to variation. I find, in theory, chicken bores me a little, probably for all of the aforementioned reasons, but in practice, I love it, probably for all the same aforementioned reasons…

I almost always have chicken in the freezer. I buy chicken legs or chicken leg quarters in bulk and freeze them in pairs so that I have them whenever I need something. Whole Foods has very convenient perforated packages of two, or if they are having a sale on bulk wrapped, I just bring them home and separate them. And I definitely prefer chicken legs and dark meat to breasts. They don’t dry out as easily and have way more flavor.

I am always on the look out for easy but delicious sounding post-work chicken options, the orange chicken is one, the chicken dopiaza qualifies too. I’ve mentioned chicken and leeks on here, and I will definitely blog about that one day, and I have a couple other recipes that I am excited to share with you that would fall into this catagory too. A couple caveats: easy weeknight chicken, in this case, doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to be on the table 15 minutes after you get home, but I would count it as easy weeknight chicken if it can be on the table (or coffee table, or tray table or lap) in an hour, and you are not chained to the stove for that entire hour. Recipes that you can easily consider making after work, that don’t require hours of free time on a Sunday to prep and then cook…a couple of them might require some quick prep the night before for marinating and what not, but it only counts if that is minimal too. Those are my guidelines…if your guidelines for weekday meals are different, take this with a grain of salt (or a take out menu or a box of pasta or whatever you have time for after work!)

This one came from David Lebovitz (of the ice cream fame and I just noticed when I went back to find that link that I totally spelled his name wrong…sorry David, I was a young naive (and apparently rude) blogger…my sincerest apologies!) If I wasn’t sold when “caramelized shallots” was right in the name of the recipe, the fact that the recipe included soy sauce, the holy grail of condiments, closed the deal. Also, that it looked so easy – one pan, not much to clean up – SOLD.

The recipe calls for a whole chicken in eight pieces. I used chicken legs and since it was just for one, I cut down on the other ingredients too – not by half, because I wanted lots of shallot-y goodness, but by about a third. It initially calls for four large shallots. I am not sure what they mean by large but we get some doozies around me. They are more like small onions than shallots, if you ask me. Big. I used three for this, and there were a lot of them.

Anyway, the shallots get minced and mixed in the bottom of a baking pan with oil, vinegar and soy sauce, and then the chicken gets tossed with that mixture.

extra shallot-y

At this point it goes into the oven for 20 minutes, after which the chicken gets flipped over and it cooks for another 20 minutes while the chicken cooks through and the shallots get very soft and delicious. And that’s it!

I served with pearl couscous that I cooked and then sauteed quickly in a little bit of brown butter, and miso-glazed carrots, which also couldn’t be easier, just carrots simmered until cooked through, then miso and butter gets added to the remaining cooking water and it reduces for another minute or two until carrots are glazed and tasty. Easy!

glazed

Leftovers are great, and I used two chicken leg quarters and a box of pearl couscous and got dinner and three lunches out of it. (I used four carrots and got two servings out of those…) I would say a whole chicken would easily serve four, though I suppose if there are some very hungry individuals in that group they might disagree with me.

weeknight dinner is served

1. So I have taken to drinking my gimlets out of mason jars.

sample in a jar

I don’t know if it’s cute in the manner of Coastal Living, or if it is so twee that I deserve a face smash. Please advise.

2. When is it going to get warm here? It’s mid May…I’m ready.

3. I made something RI-donculous this weekend. Leek and lobster bread pudding. Are. You. Kidding. Me. Add it to the list of things I need to tell you about…

4. There are days that I wish that the only thing I had to accomplish was reading my book. Today is one of those days. (My book right now is Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. It is a monster. I think I am loving it?) Related: I am having a hard time switching exclusively to Kindle, both because I really love books, and because of the number I books I have to read at home already that aren’t on my Kindle. It may be a long transition, though my New Yorker subscription is on it, so it gets some love every day too.

5. Music recommendation of the day: Neko Case. Anything she does is great. I love her voice. (Eek! She’s coming to Boston. Yay!)

Chicken with Caramelized Shallots (serves 4)

From David Lebovitz

3 tbls olive oil

3 tbls red wine vinegar

1 tbl soy sauce

4 large shallots, peeled and minced

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

One whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces (or eight of your preferred chicken pieces)

A handful of coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC).

In a baking dish that will hold all the chicken pieces in a single layer, mix the olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce, shallots, and some salt and pepper. Toss the chicken in the mixture, so they’re completely coated with the shallots. Turn the chicken pieces so they are all skin side up.

Roast the chicken for about twenty minutes, until it starts to brown on top. Turn the pieces of chicken over. Scrape any juices and shallots over the chicken that may be clinging to the pan, and bake for another twenty minutes, or until the pieces of chicken are cooked through and the shallots are well-caramelized. Remove from oven and toss in the chopped parsley, then serve.

Miso Glazed Carrots (serves 2)

(I got this idea from somewhere, couldn’t begin to tell you where…)

4 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal into half inch rounds

2 tbl butter

1 heaping tbl white miso

pepper to taste

Put the peeled carrots in a small saucepan with about 1 1/2 cups water, and simmer, over medium heat, until carrots are almost cooked through (the water will have reduced significantly, you still want some in the pan to make the sauce though, so if you need to add more, do.) Add the butter and the miso to the still simmering water, and stir until both are incorporated into a sauce. Continue cooking until carrots are cooked through and sauce is reduced slightly to a glaze. Add fresh pepper and serve.

In which I loooove garlic…

Scampi to take away the weird taste leftover from my dental visit...

So the name Shrimp Scampi irritates me, because I feel like the word scampi is actually referring to the shrimp, which would make Shrimp Scampi redundant and silly. That is sort of true. Scampo (plural: scampi) is actually a Norwegian lobster which is similar, but smaller I think, than an American lobster, and in some languages/countries, etc, scampi refers to large prawns or shrimpish creatures. The way these things were traditionally prepared, it seems, was with garlic, which which is why it is called Shrimp Scampi when shrimp was prepared that way even though technically, in the original prep the scampi WAS the “shrimp.” At any rate, the dish has become an Italian-American staple called Shrimp Scampi, so I guess that is what I will call it even though it doesn’t sound right.

Scampi is basically shrimp cooked with a lot of garlic, butter and oil and served over pasta (mostly, but I have also seen/enjoyed it over rice.)

The trick, I think, with this dish, is getting the flavor from the oil and butter, and creating a good sauce, without being greasy or oily. Ratio of pasta to sauce helps, as does adding wine and/or lemon juice (I do both.) The lemon, in particular, also adds a brightness which is lovely against the richness of the oil and butter.

There really is nothing to this. You want to prep all your ingredients ahead of time because it cooks quickly, and you definitely don’t want to overcook the shrimp. They’re the star and overcooked shrimp are the worst. Mince everything, boil the water and then drop the pasta in as you melt the butter and oil together and you should be in good shape. When the butter is melted, add the garlic, shallots and red pepper flakes and cook until they start to soften, one to two minutes. Add the wine and turn up the heat to let the wine boil and reduce a bit, another one to two minutes, add the shrimp, the lemon juice and zest and cook for another one or two minutes until the shrimp is almost cooked through. Add the cooked pasta and the parsley to the shrimp and sauce  and toss together to finish cooking and coat the pasta. Voila! Dunzo! Scampi deliciousness in about 20 minutes!

This is perfect if you are craving quick pasta, but don’t feel like vodka sauce, again, if you went to the dentist to get a crown that morning and the temporary cement they use has left a metallic potpourri taste in your mouth, if you are trying to impress someone with something that feels fancy but is actually super easy (but not on a date, please, this stuff is potent) if you need some comfort food as you are watching your infuriating Boston Celtics forget the basics of rebounding and ball possession…really, it’s an all occasion pasta…

mmmm...garlic.

Thoughts:

1. The Celtics are bumming me out. 

2. Also bumming me out? Maria and Arnold splitting up…that’s a weird one, I know, but true. It’s been 25 years! They seemed to really like each other, in spite of their weirdness as a couple. Sad.

3. It’s softshell crab season! WHEEE! I made this the other night. And it was so delicious (because how could softshell crab be anything but…) that I went back last night to try to get another one and the ladies were out…boo. Patience, young jedi.

tempura softshell, homemade tartar sauce, hot dog bun, perfection...

4. I have been dying to share empanadas that I have made several times with you all because they (and I quote) “might be the best things you’ve ever made…” but I have been hesitant because apparently crimping dough is my kryptonite and they look ridiculous when I make them…I finally said forget it and took pictures anyway, so you’ll get to see them at some point. They really do taste awesome.

5. I made my buttermilk cake the other day for Mother’s Day and accidentally doubled the butter. Still delicious! Less healthy.

6. I have a rando cleaning tip that I need to share because it would be cruel not to…Lestoil. This stuff is AMAZING. You can get it in the supermarket near the old fashioned stuff like Borax, and I vow NEVER to be without it. I discovered it in high school when some jack wagon threw an open permanent marker at me, and I asked one of our art teachers if he knew of anything that might get it out, he recommended Lestoil AND IT WORKED. Permanent marker! PERMANENT. Completely gone. And then last night I had a minor (or maybe not so minor) panic attack when I was sitting on my couch and didn’t realize I had dropped an open roller ball pen onto my light colored couch and a black ink spot was rapidly forming in a prominent location. Broke out the Lestoil. It is totally gone. Seriously. Get this. It’s cheap and amazing, and also works to clean floors. Mego’s tip o’ the week.

7. From one of my favorite websites The Hairpin - thoughts about what your American Girl doll from your childhood says about you now (I had Kirsten, not sure why I ended up with her, you’ll have to ask Ma Dukes – I wanted Samantha Parkington because she was sooooo pretty)…

“Kirsten Larson:
You probably got Kirsten because she was blond, or because you read a lot of Little House on the Prairie books. (It definitely wasn’t because of her “St. Lucia Christmas Outfit” … yikes!)…

You therefore grew up to be a bit more thoughtful, a bit more reserved than your peers. You also find yourself inexplicably drawn towards crafts like knitting, jam-making, and quilting. You secretly suspect that you’d manage just fine in a post-Apocalyptic setting, should things come to that. You were surprised and delighted to see some of Kirsten’s outfits come back into style in certain enclaves of Brooklyn.” 

HA. (Incidentally, if any of you out there also had Kirsten, did you suffer through the tragic discovery that taking her hair down from the braids and brushing it out like it was pictured when she was wearing her nightgown in the catalog made it impossible to get her hair back up in the braids EVER again? And did you cry about this as you were wearing your super cozy real-girl sized MATCHING Kirsten Larson flannel nightgown? No? Just me? Or…errrr, I mean, just somebody that I knew? OK.)

8. Music recommendation of the day: Josh Ritter. I am particularly enjoying “The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter” right now.

9. Farmers’ markets start in the next two weeks around here. Yippee! I think I am going to try canning stuff this year. Because canning stuff will absolutely add to my cool quotient by a factor of ten, amiright?

Shrimp Scampi over Linguine (serves 2)

1/2 lb dried linguine

2 tbl olive oil

3 tbl butter

pinch of red pepper flakes

2 tbls finely minced garlic (about four large cloves)

1 tbl finely minced shallot (about one small)

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tsp lemon zest

juice of half a lemon

1/2 lb medium or large shrimp (not small, and not too large or there won’t be enough of them – I used 21-30 size)

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

chopped parsley to serve

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook linguine until just al dente. Meanwhile in a large skillet or saute pan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat until butter is melted. Add red pepper flakes, garlic and shallots and cook until garlic and shallots are soft, stirring to prevent burning, about two minutes (lower heat if it seems garlic is cooking too quickly.) Add wine and bring to a boil. Let simmer and reduce for a minute or two, then add shrimp, lemon zest and juice and cook shrimp, turning occasionally, until almost cooked through, about two minutes. Add the cooked linguine to the shrimp and butter, toss to combine and finish cooking, adding a splash of the pasta cooking water to make a bit saucier if necessary. Remove from heat, toss parsley with the pasta and serve!