Tuesday, March 27, 2012

.beef and cheese empanadas.

I love empanadas but have never made them before. I'm always looking for new things to make because I get very bored with the same ol' same ol'. I hardly ever cook with hamburger, yet I had a pound in the freezer that I wanted to use up. Taco salad? Nah. Chili? Nah. Empanadas!

These little hand held pockets are so delicious. They're a little time consuming to make, but well worth the effort. Mine aren't very traditional, but they were exactly what I wanted. My kids ate them up!

Here's what I put into my empanadas:

Ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno, seeded and fine diced
salt and pepper
garlic powder
chili powder
approximately 2 cups grated monterey jack cheese

Heat 3-4 Tbsp oil in a skillet and saute the onion, garlic, and jalapeno until fragrant. Add the ground beef and cook until done. Add 2-3 tsp chili powder and cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Add more seasoning if needed.

Remove from the heat and add the cheese. Stir in until melted and coated.

Make the empanada dough --

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup masa harina
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup water (plus or minus 1 tbsp)

Mix together dry ingredients. Using a fork, mix in the butter and distributed within the flour. Slowly add water, carefully mixing with the fork until it begins to pull together. Form into a ball and wrap with saran. Pop in the fridge and hold for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into approx. 1 ounce balls (think ping pong ball size). Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a circle. Spoon filling into the middle.

Now here's where you can decide how to close the pocket. Traditionally, you are supposed to braid the edge, but some people use a fork to crimp it closed. Personally, the braid/twist thing is MUCH prettier and it isn't very difficult to do. I found a very handy YouTube video showing you how to fold the edges to give it the braided look.

Once your empanadas are made, cover and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes.

There's one final decision to be made. Fry or bake? They can be cooked either way. We fried ours because I think they looked better that way. Plus, I didn't want a super hard crust from baking, know what I mean? (Not saying they would, but my husband was pushing for fried)

If you use the oven, preheat to 375* and bake for 25-30 minutes.

If you're frying, heat your oil to 375* and fry for approximately 5-6 minutes or until the empanada is beautifully golden brown on both sides. Remove from the oil and sit on paper towels to drain.

Serve with fresh guacamole, salsa, and sour cream.

Friday, March 9, 2012

.irish soda bread.

I adore bread and I especially adore Irish Soda Bread. It's made more like a big giant biscuit - using no yeast for leavening, but with, strangely, baking powder. The recipe I use comes from a book I picked up years ago called 100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood. I have tweaked his recipe a little bit, but it's one that we like.

In a large bowl, mix together:

4 cups bread flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt

Cut in 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter until the mixture is nice and crumbly and no big pieces of butter remain.

In another bowl, add 1 cup buttermilk, 1/3 cup milk, and 2 eggs. At this point, if you want golden raisins and/or caraway seeds, add them now. About 1 1/2 tsp of caraway seeds and 1/2 cup raisins. Whisk and add to the flour mixture. Using a fork, mix the wet into the dry until a dough begins to form. Using your hand, continue to work the dough until it pulls together and there's no more flour in the bottom of the bowl.

Dump contents onto a lightly floured counter. Split the dough in half and form into a nice smooth ball. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place each ball of dough on it. Take a sharp knife and score the tops of each mound with a criss cross.

Let sit for 20 minutes then pop into a well preheated 400* oven and bake for 30-40 minutes. The top of the bread should be beautifully browned. Remove from oven and let cool before serving.

Monday, March 5, 2012

.roasted pork tenderloin with apple-fennel garnish.

I admit that I am a friend of pork. Bacon, pork shoulder, pork tenderloin, chops... I'm not picky! This recipe was inspired by an episode of Top Chef or one of those shows. It was a couple years ago because this isn't the first time I've made this dish.

Not only is it easy to prepare, it's delicious and something you can impress your guests with.

Here's what you need:

1 - 4lb pork tenderloin
1-2 granny smith apples, cored and sliced (no need to peel!)
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
salt, pepper, and celery seed
1 bottle hard apple cider

Season your tenderloin with salt, pepper, and celery seed. Heat a little oil in a dutch oven. Pan sear all sides of the tenderloin to lock in moisture. When all sides are browned, top with the apple slices, onion, bay leaf, and pour the hard cider over the top. Cover and pop in a 350* oven and roast for about an hour. You want to pull this out when your thermometer reads 145* because pork tenderloin has very little fat so you don't want to overbake, otherwise you're left with really dry meat.

Remove the pork from the dutch oven and set aside to rest (cover with foil). While it's resting, make the sauce. Dump all the cooked apples and onion into a seive and strain the liquid (make sure you set the seive on a bowl so you save it because we need that liquid for the sauce.

Remove the bay leaf and put everything in the blender. Add a little bit of the liquid to the blender to help smooth out the sauce. Taste and re-season with a little salt, if needed.

Now before you actually pulled the roast out of the oven, you want to make the apple-fennel garnish.

Cut one granny smith apple into matchsticks. Thinly slice one fennel bulb. Heat a saute pan and melt 2-3 Tbsp butter. When hot, add the apples and fennel and saute quickly. Season with salt and pepper. (I sprinkled a dash of celery seed in here, too)

Make sure you saute close to the end of the roasting time, or do it while the tenderloin rests (that's what I did).

To assemble, spoon some of the sauce onto the plate. Put a slice of tenderloin on top and spoon some garnish on top. To make it extra fancy, put a little fennel frond on top.