Monday, October 18, 2010

Put it in a Pie

Lately, I’ve found myself attracted particularly to a certain arch-genre of recipes, no matter what kind of cookbook I’m browsing. Whatever ethnicity, lifestyle or philosophy lent its recipes to the pages, I’m always stopping to savor recipes for pies, tarts, turnovers, dumplings and the like. Whatever way you’ve come up with to wrap ingredients, sweet or savory, in pastry or bread and bake it until golden brown, I’m interested.

A few years ago, I tried a recipe published in the newsletter of our CSA for a winter squash empanada with leeks and sage. It was another, creative use of the mounds of lovely squash we get this time of year, and the fall leeks and sage fit in quite well. This year, I changed a few things and actually managed to write down the details to create an updated recipe.

You might be used to a different treatment of the dough and cooking procedure for a more authentic empanada, but I grew up in America’s pasty heartland, and the pastry in this recipe, which was more like a pie crust, put it into familiar territory for me. You can call this a pasty or a hand pie or a pocket full of pie, or whatever you like, but since the flavors are at least a little Southwestern USA, I’ll still call it an empanada as the original authors did. I also added a bit of seasoning to the crust, along with some cider vinegar, which takes it further out of the Cornish (or U.P. of Michigan) pasty category. I suppose the added Parmesan cheese (I prefer freshly-grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano), takes it out of all firmly-defined categories entirely.

The filling for these empanadas is partially cooked before being wrapped in crust, ensuring that you’ll have tender squash before charred crust. Partially cooking the squash also makes it easier to peel and chop. All the steps in the recipe definitely take at least their fair share time from your schedule, but they can be done in stages, some of them ahead of time, and the baked empanadas can be frozen to be reheated on another day when you don’t have as much time to cook.

I really like the sweet squash (I used a carnival squash, but you could use any sweet winter squash) with the aromatic, slightly garlicky leeks, and the sage adds a pleasant, earthy background. I suppose one could insert a treatise on umami as provided by the Parmesan cheese, but I won’t go there. It tastes really good in the pie, and that’s enough. You could use a different cheese if you want, such as an aged Gouda, Manchego, or even cheddar or Monterey Jack. I really don’t feel that there is any authenticity that needs to be obeyed in this recipe. You could use it as a model for any good ingredients that go well enough together to mix them up and put them in a pie.

Winter Squash and Leek Empanadas with Sage
Adapted from Featherstone Farm Newsletter

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
5 tablespoons (plus more as needed) ice water

1 medium winter squash (about 1 ½ - 2 pounds untrimmed)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large leek, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon coarse salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped sage leaves
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. To make the pastry, combine the flours, cumin, chili powder and ½ teaspoon salt in a medium-size bowl. Stir or whisk to combine well. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or knives or with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

2. Add the cider vinegar and ice water and mix with a fork to moisten the flour mixture. Add more water as needed to gather the mixture into a ball that just holds together. Form the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 30 minutes. (You can do this ahead or prepare the filling while the pastry is chilling.)

3. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 F until the squash is soft, but not completely cooked, about 30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool until easy to handle.

4. Peel the squash and cut into 1-1 ½-inch cubes. Set aside in a large bowl.

5. Place the sliced leeks in a bowl or sink full of cold water. Swish the slices around to remove all traces of dirt. Place in a colander and rinse well. Drain and set aside.

6. Preheat oven to 400 F. Heat the oil in a medium-size skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently until soft, but not yet browning, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the black pepper, red pepper flakes and sage leaves. Remove from heat.

7. Add the leek mixture and Parmesan cheese to the squash and stir to combine. Set aside. (The filling can be made ahead to this point, covered and refrigerated for a day or so.)

8. Unwrap the pastry dough and cut into 4 equal pieces. On a well-floured surface, roll the dough into an oval about 1/8-inch thick.

9. Divide the filling into 4 portions. Place one portion onto one half of the dough oval, leaving at least ½ inch border. Fold the other half of the oval over the filling. Seal the halves together by folding and pinching together, being careful not to stretch the dough.

10. Transfer to a lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough sections and filling.

11. Bake at 400 F for about 25 minutes or until the crust is browned and crispy. Cool slightly and serve or cool completely, wrap well and freeze in a freezer safe container or freezer bag.

Makes 4 large servings.

Other recipes like this one: Winter Vegetable Galettes withCheddar, Mustard and Caramelized Onions, Quinoa Stuffed Squash

One year ago: Apple and Cranberry Crisp

No comments:

Post a Comment