Sunday, August 28, 2011

Crab Empanadas

We made these tasty savory cuban pastries as an appetizer for our Hurrican Irene party.  Moist flavorful crab, scented with sherry encased in a delicate pastry crust.  YUM.  These are like a pastry-wrapped crab cake.  They can be eaten as is, or served with a simple remoulade or hollandaise sauce.

I used whole wheat pastry flour for the dough, but all purpose flour also works well.

Crab Empanadas
serves 8

Empanada dough
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all purpose flour)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sugar
8 oz. cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (room temperature)

Combine flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a sifter and sift into a bowl.  In the bowl of a stand mixer combine cream cheese and butter and mix until well blended.  Gradually add sifted dry ingredients and mix just until a soft dough forms.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.

While dough is chilling prepare crab filling:

Crab Filling
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped red bell peppers
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped white onion
2 cloves garlic minced
1 lb. lump crab meat
2 eggs
1 Tbsp dry sherry
1/2 cup bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil over high heat, then add peppers and onions and saute until onions are translucent.  Add garlic and saute an additional minute. Remove from heat, and add crab, gently fold into vegetables. season with salt and pepper to taste.   Allow to cool to room temperature.

Sauteed peppers, onion, garlic and crab...

Once crab mixture is cooled, combine eggs and sherry in a small bowl and whisk to mix with a fork.  Add egg mixture and bread crumbs to crab, and gently fold together.

Pre-heat oven to 400F.

Remove dough from refrigerator and gently roll into a log about 12 inches long.  Slice into 8 equal pieces.  On a lightly floured surface, roll each slice into an 8-inch circle about 1/8 thick (this will be rustic).

Divide crab filling equally among dough circles, then fold in half and roll edges to seal.  With your fingers make a decorative fluted edge. Transfer empanadas to an un-greased baking sheet.

Assembling the rustic empanadas...

Combine 1 egg and 1 Tbsp water in a small bowl and whisk to combine.  Brush egg wash over empanadas.  Bake 20 minutes at 400F.  Serve immediately with remoulade or hollandaise sauce if desired.

Mama Ozzy's quick and easy remoulade sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp coarse ground brown mustard
1 Tbsp hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl or ramekin, mix to combine.

Arroz con Pollo (Cuban Chicken with Rice)

This has been quite a week here in Durham, NC.  On Tuesday we had a rare earthquake, and then on Friday night hurricane Irene moved in.  Though we were too far west to feel much of the impact of the storm, that didn't stop us from having a hurricane party.  If you have never been through a hurricane, let me explain what its like.  Hurricanes always bring in a mass of moist tropical air and it smells like the ocean.  We only had 30 mph sustained winds and a few 50 mph wind gusts, and only about half an inch of rain.  All in all very mild.

All that moist tropical air put me in the mood for Cuban food.  We prepared Crab Empanadas, Dark and Stormy cocktails (black Bermuda rum and ginger beer with a squeeze of lime), and this dish, Arroz con Pollo.  This is an easy dish to prepare (which is a good thing when you have been imbibing rum drinks all day) and is the ultimate in latin comfort foods.  The rice is fragrant and rich, the chicken falls off the bone, and  though it has a lot of spice in it, it's not what I would consider "spicy".

A couple notes: 1) make sure to use bone-in skin-on chicken thighs, boneless skinless does not work at all; 2) Use a really "hoppy" beer like an IPA (I used Magic Hat h I.P.A.) to give maximum flavor; 3) do not skip the Bijol powder (also known as achiote or ground annato) which not only colors the dish but gives a very distinct flavor.  It can be found at any latin market and is absolutely essential to the dish ; 4) I like to serve the green peas separately because not everyone is a fan of peas, but I love the sweet burst of flavor they add.

Arroz con Pollo
Serves 8

6 strips of bacon
8 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs, seasoned lightly with salt pepper and ground cumin
2 cups chopped white onion
2 cups chopped green bell peppers
4 cloves of garlic. minced
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
12 oz. beer, preferably India Pale Ale (IPA)
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp Bijol powder (also known as achiote or ground annato)
1 bay leaf
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3 cups rice (I prefer basmati)
1 cup frozen green peas

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

In a large, heavy oven-proof skillet or paella pan, fry bacon over medium heat until crisp and fat has rendered.  Remove bacon and reserve.  Place seasoned chicken thighs in bacon fat, skin side down and increase heat to medium high.  Brown very well (about 10 minutes) before flipping chicken to brown the non-skin side.  Remove chicken from pan and reserve.

Add chopped peppers and onions and saute until onions are translucent, then add minced garlic and saute an additional 2 minutes.  Add bijol, bay leaf, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper and saute 1 minute.  Add rice and stir briefly.  Add beer and scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add tomato sauce and chicken stock.  Crumble bacon into pot and then return chicken thighs to pan.  Bring mixture just to a boil, then cover with a heavy lid, or aluminum foil, and place dish in the oven.  Bake 45-60 minutes until rice has absorbed all the liquid.  Serve with cooked green peas.
Before baking, the Arroz con Pollo looks soupy.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bánh Mì Sliders with Blueberry Chutney (Vietnamese Barbecue Pork Mini-Sandwiches)

I have been craving these spicy little sliders for the last several weeks and yesterday I couldn't stand it anymore and caved in and made them for dinner.  This is one of the most delicious things to come out of my kitchen in quite some time.  Bánh Mì are Vietnamese barbecued pork sandwiches.  They represent the classic fusion of southeast Asian and French cuisine (remember Viet Nam used to be part of the French colonial empire of Indochina until receiving independence in 1949).  You can taste the french influence in the pate and bread, and Asian influences in the spicy pickled vegetables and the fragrant barbecued pork.

Bánh Mì are classic Vietnamese street food.  There are probably as many different recipes for Bánh Mì as there are people who like to scarf them down. Traditionally they are served on a crispy french baguette that has been cut into 4-inch lengths, however I have "Americanized" them into slider form and like to serve them on soft potato dinner rolls.  The inclusion of pate is entirely up to you and I have listed it as otional since not everyone is a fan of pate, and these sliders are perfectly delicious without it.

The pickled carrots and radishes are absolutely essential to this dish because their tangy crunchiness is the perfect foil to the sweet velvety pork.  Even people who hate carrots and radishes love these vegetables and they couldn't be easier to prepare.

I also like to serve these with a schmear of Mama Ozzy's blueberry chutney which enhances the sweetness, fragrance and spiciness of the sandwich.  It is totally optional, but if you are trying to impress, make the chutney, you won't go wrong.

 Doug maniacally wolfing down a Bánh Mì slider

If you have a special guest coming to your home this summer and want to serve a really show-stopping meal without all the fuss, may I suggest the following menu?

Bánh Mì Sliders with Blueberry Chutney 
Cold and Spicy Thai Noodle Salad (See variations in Pot sticker Salad)
Dark and Stormy Cocktails (Black Bermuda Rum and Ginger Beer over ice with a wedge of lime)
Lemon Sorbet and fresh fruit

Bánh Mì Sliders with Blueberry Chutney  
makes about 12 sliders

1,  1.5 - 2 lb. pork tenderloin
3 Tbsp fish sauce (found in the asian foods aisle)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 walnut-sized piece of ginger, minced
1 scallion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Slice pork tenderloin into medallions about 1-inch thick.  Place 4 medallions in a large Ziploc bag, and with the bag unsealed, gently pound them to about 1/4 inch thick.  Repeat with remaining pork.
Gently pound the pork medallions flat in a plastic bag

In a medium bowl combine the remaining ingredients and stir until well mixed.  Pour marinade into plastic bag with pork, remove all the air and seal the bag.  Refrigerate for at least one hour or up to overnight (the longer these marinate, the more intense they will be flavored, but be careful not to go too long because the fish sauce is EXTREMELY salty... I find 3 hours is about perfect).

While the pork is marinating, make the pickled vegetables:

Pickled Vegetables:
1/2 lb peeled baby carrots
1/2 lb radishes (I prefer white Icicle [baby daikon] radishes, but any kind will work)
1 large chunk of peeled ginger
1/2 cup water
1 cup cider vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt

Cut the carrots and radishes into matchstick sized pieces.  Cut the ginger into very thin slices.  In a medium saucepan combine water, vinegar, sugar and salt.  Bring just to a boil and remove from heat.  Add carrots, radishes and ginger to hot vinegar.  Cover and allow to cool for 30 minutes before  transferring to refrigerator to chill.  Drain immediately before serving.

When the pork is done marinating, preheat your grill or a large non-stick skillet to high.  Cook the pork until it is well browned and caramelized.

Assembling the Banh Mi Sliders
1 dozen 2-inch square potato rolls
lettuce leaves
pate de campagne (country-style pate) *optional
Sriracha hot sauce

Cut open a roll and spread both sides with a small amount of mayonnaise.  Place a slice of pate on the bottom half and spread with a small amount of blueberry chutney.  Top with a lettuce leaf, a slice of barbecued pork and pickled vegetables.  Season the top bun with Sriracha if desired.  Serve immediately.