Hors D'Oeuvres & First Courses The Book

73. Sherried Mushroom Empanaditas p.38

The recipe is a combination of this one for full sized Sherried Mushroom Empanadas, and yesterday’s tuna empanaditas. Of course the full sized empanada makes way too much filling, so you’d need to cut it down.

I made these for the same party as the tuna empanaditas. They use the same puff pastry wrapping, and have the same baking directions. The filling however is quite different, and I thought it worked much better than the tuna. The filling is made of sautéed onion, mushroom, and red bell pepper with sherry, prosciutto, parsley, and bread crumbs. The flavour combination worked really well, I though the sweetness of the sherry might be a bit strange but it melded nicely with the other flavours, particularly the mushrooms and prosciutto.

The main advantage this filling had over the tuna was moisture. You can see in the photo that I drastically overcooked them, and there were a few that got completely dehydrated inside. The larger ones managed to remain creamy, with a crisp exterior making for a very nice contrast.

The recipe calls for Serrano ham, which is very much like prosciutto, but a bit tougher in texture, more flavorful, and a bit less fatty. I couldn’t find any for this dish, or any of the other times I’ve looked. It must be available in Montreal, because it’s on the menu at tapas bars, but I don’t know what their source is. The recipe gives prosciutto as an acceptable substitute though.

I was in Spain a few years ago, and fell in love with Serrano ham. The bocadillo de jamon was my preferred lunch, or tapas treat. I had 40 Euros worth of it taken away from my be American customs officials on my way home. The injustice still rankles me. I was only connecting through Newark, my ham and I never left the airport, but they still took it away from me. I would have had to sneak it past Canadian customs to get it home, but losing it to them was a risk I was willing to take. Now whenever I go through the post 9/11 security theatre lines at an American airport I shake my head at the futility of taking my shoes off, and damn them for taking away my precious jamon.

This recipe suffered from the same baking issues as yesterday’s tuna, but I think a bit more monitoring could solve that problem. The flavour combinations were really good, creamy mushrooms, a bit of crunch from the peppers, salty chewy prosciutto, the smooth sweet flavours of the sherry, and even a little freshness from the parsley. The overcooking was a serious problem, so I can’t give it full marks, but there are a lot of things going for this recipe.

Hors D'Oeuvres & First Courses The Book

72. Tuna Empanaditas p.37

The recipe

These bite sized party favours are built with the duct tape of the home entertaining wold: puff pastry. A filling of oil-packed tuna, pimientos, capers, and onion is added to rounds of puff pastry, which are folded into semicircles and crimped. They can be frozen at this point, and baked whenever your heart desires.

The filling was very salty, and didn’t really taste like tuna. As I mentioned yesterday I don’t have much love in my heart for pimiento-stuffed olives, and they failed to impress me again here. The capers were really the saving grace, they contributed to the salt problem, but they brought a lot of flavour along with them. With more tuna, and better olives I think this could have worked out really well though. The ideas are sound, but I get the feeling they tried to make the dish too easy. Asking us to pit a quarter cup of olives isn’t an unreasonable demand, and they certainly don’t shy away from it in other sections of The Book.

The puff pastry section of the recipe was trickier than I would have guessed. The recipe calls for a round cookie cutter in the special equipment section. I didn’t have one and tried to make do with the edge of a wine glass. This isn’t a good idea, both because my glass couldn’t cut through and it took forever to go around the edges with a pairing knife, and because using a blunt instrument on puff pastry interferes with the puff. Puff pastry is made by layering butter and pastry, and when it hits the heat the water in the butter creates steam, thus puffing the pastry. Smooshing the pastry too much can compress the pastry layers, and displace butter messing with the puffing. In any case, this recipe makes 50 hors d’oeuvres, and the cutting, folding, crimping process takes quite a while. The recipe suggests it should take one hour active time, but I’m sure it took me two. I was quite late to the dinner party I was bringing them to, which is pretty bad form when you’re bringing the appetizers.

Before you’re ready to serve the empanaditas are baked on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees. The recipe says this should take 20 to 25 minutes. Mine were overcooked and dry within 15. As I was cooking these at a party, I had no way of checking that the temperature I set the oven to was really the temperature inside the box, but that’s a pretty big discrepancy.

In the end these didn’t come out too well. A few changes to the lineup in the filling, and more attentive baking on my part might have improved them dramatically. As is, mine were dried out and heavily salted. I like the concept of an empanadita, people might feel sheepish admitting it, but everyone likes mini versions of regular sized food. In this case the execution left something to be desired though.