Empanadas Even The Pope Would Give His Blessing To

By Jean Redstone

By now probably everyone anywhere near Philadelphia — no. Everyone along the East Coast — has heard the news and seen coverage of the visit later this month by Pope Francis to the City of Brotherly Love.

Also by now, if you don’t already have travel passes and firm plans of where and how to witness the popular Pontiff’s public events, it’s no doubt too late to acquire them.

But you still can partake of a bit of the festivities right in your own home. Host a gathering, or bring a dish to a gathering that will be watching the proceedings on television or discussing the Pope’s public addresses. There will be many opportunities, be assured, of seeing and hearing him in broadcasts from various events.

This pope, the first from the Americas, grew up in Argentina and maintains a love for many dishes from that country. Here are two of his favorites, adapted to be easy to make and serve. The empanadas are a bit spicier than the Southwestern fare most people are used to, but super tasty. The dulce de leche, which translates as “sweet milk”, is, for my tastes, totally addictive. Serve this dessert in small portions so there’ll be more when the clamoring for seconds begins.

cooking empanadas webARGENTINE EMPANADAS

(Adapted from foodnetwork.com )

1 Tbls butter, lard or bacon fat

1 1/4 lb. bottom round or sirloin, hand-chopped or ground

5 to 6 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated

1/2 C seedless raisins

2 Tbls dry oregano

1 Tbls crushed red pepper

1 Tbls ground cumin

2 Tbls Spanish sweet paprika

Salt and pepper

2 roasted peppers, diced

10 green olives, pitted

3 eggs, hard boiled and sliced

Oil, for frying

Empanada dough discs*

In a large skillet, heat the fat. Add the chopped meat and white scallion slices, and sauté until slightly browned. Add raisins and spices and cook until meat is cooked through. Stir in green scallion slices and roasted peppers. Let mixture cool. Fill empanada discs with meat mixture, about 2 tablespoons, add 1-2 olives and 1-2 slices of egg. Leave a half-inch border to use to seal the empanadas with fork or pastry roller. Preheat oil in a deep pot. Heat oil until a frying thermometer registers 375 degrees F. Deep fry the empanadas in the oil for about 3 minutes. Fry a few at a time so as not to crowd the pot. Remove from oil with slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels. Makes 6-8 servings, depending on size of empanada shell. *See separate recipe, below. Also, discs are available frozen at specialty markets.

FAST, EASY EMPANADA SHELLS

2 (7.5 oz.) packages refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (not the layered varieties)

Cornmeal for rolling out dough.

Separate biscuits onto a cornmeal-coated work surface. Sprinkle with cornmeal as necessary, and roll each one into a 5 inch circle. (Before filling, dough “shells” can be frozen up to 2 weeks.) Makes about 15-20 empanada shells.

Note: If 7.5-ounce can of dough is not available, use a larger size, roll circles slightly larger and increase the filling proportion.

cooking dulce webNO FUSS DULCE DE LECHE

This heavenly confection is pronounced: dool-seh-deh-LEH-cheh

One 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

Pinch salt (or up to 1/4 tsp. for a salty caramel taste)

Hot water

Heat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Pour the contents of 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and cover tightly with foil. Set plate in a roasting pan and add enough hot water to the pan to reach halfway up the pie plate.

Bake milk in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes. Check water level and add more hot water, if necessary, to maintain level half-way up pie plate. Continue to bake 45 minutes more, or until milk is thick and brown. Remove pie plate from water bath and cool, uncovered. Spoon like thick pudding into small dessert bowls, a wide champagne glass or demitasse cups. Depending on your vessel, the irresistible caramel pudding can be layered with or garnished with whipped cream for a fancy presentation. Very sweet and satisfying, so a little goes a long way. Makes about 1 1/4 cups. Tip: Leftover dulce de leche will keep for a couple of weeks, refrigerated. It is quite flexible and is delicious stirred into coffee or cocoa, spread on toast, or warmed and drizzled on pancakes or ice cream. Try it with peanut butter on crackers or a sandwich.

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