Sunday, January 10, 2010

Enwraptured: The Filling Tale of Two Dishes and a Salad

Buffalo. Junior Chef #1 asked me to make buffalo recently. Yes, our junior chefs are experienced and relatively adventurous eaters, so this request didn't catch me too much by surprise. We bought a pound of grass-fed ground buffalo, and I began to think about how best to prepare it. An obvious choice: Buffalo Empanadas. (Only obvious if you know that I've been planning to make empanadas for a couple of weeks, and thought to substitute buffalo for ground beef.)

But there were gorgeous oyster mushrooms on offer at the farmers' market this week. I had to buy a pound. While they would keep a couple of days in the fridge, I decided to make the for dinner, too. The question was, how?

We tend to overbuy food for the holidays. Generally, most of our families join us here for the week of Christmas. And to feed the multitudes, we make sure the pantry, fridge, and freezer are well-stocked. I had intended to make a couple of pots of blackbean and turkey chills to feed the ravenous throngs, but we had more than enough other food. The turkey remained unused in the freezer. Then there were the leftover crepes from our Gateau de Crepes, which have set atop several other items in the freezer - longing to be used. 

A vision. Turkey and oyster mushrooms wrapped and baked in crepes - a savory, mild counterpoint to the spicy empanadas.

... and a salad from the lovely OPO offerings this week.

It was the best of menus.

The Method (Buffalo Empanadas)

Every culture has its version of travel-friendly food.  While living in Africa and traveling through southeast Asia, I sample many interesting items - perhaps most interesting was "mbewa pan ndodo." (A quick Google search of the individual words will reveal more than you'd like to know about that culinary treat.)

The empanada takes various names and forms around the world. But the notion of stuffing breads with meats is familiar. Think of burritos and sandwiches. The calzone takes this to a larger scale. Alternate starchy coverings give us sushi/sashimi, the corndog, and meat-filled crepes in the night markets (pasar malam) of Malaysia. 

Here, I offer spicy buffalo in a crispy, buttery pastry.

The Crust

  • 2 1/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick butter, chilled and cut into tablespoon pieces
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 egg
  • ice water (about 1/4-1/2 C)
  • 2 egg whites (reserve for filling the empanadas)
  1. Mix the flour and salt.
  2. Cut in the butter using a fork or pastry knife  until the consistency is like cornmeal
  3. Beat together the egg, vinegar, and 1/4 C of ice water.
  4. Mix the liquids with the flour and butter until the dough just begins to hold together. (It should be very flaky and loose.)
  5. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and press it into a mound. (Add a bit of ice water if it's too dry.)
  6. Knead the dough quickly and gently. You want it to just hold together.
  7. Press the dough into a disk-shape about 1/2" thick.
  8. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1+ hours. (This allows the butter to firm up and the gluten in the dough to relax.)
The Filling (while the dough is chilling)
  • 1# ground buffalo
  • 2 TB canola oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2-3 chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp Adobo seasoning
  • 1 TB tomato paste
  1. Saute the onions and garlic in the oil over medium-high heat until lightly browned.
  2. Add the ground buffalo and cook thoroughly.
  3. Stir in the chipotles, Adobo, and tomato paste.
  4. Simmer 5 minutes.
Creating the Empanadas
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Remove the dough from the fridge. 
  3. Roll the dough until it is about 1/8" thick.
  4. Cut out circles of dough about 5-6" in diameter. 
  5. Brush one half of each circle with beaten egg whites.
  6. Add 2-3 TBs of filling.
  7. Fold the dough over the filling and seal the edges using a fork.
  8. Brush with egg white.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes.
The Method (Turkey and Oyster Mushroom Crepes)

Crepes freeze very well, so we used what was on hand along with a few newly-made. They are simple to make from scratch - and quick, apart from the one hour rest period for the fresh batter.

The Crepes

  1. Whisk together until smooth: 3/4 C flour, pinch of salt, 1 C skim milk, 1 egg, and 1 egg white.
  2. Chill covered for one hour.
  3. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high.
  4. Spray with cooking spray.
  5. Remove the pan from the direct heat.
  6. Tilt the pan toward you. (Far end from the handle is higher.) 
  7. Pour about 1/4 C batter into the far end of the pan.
  8. Tilt the pan until the batter covers the bottom. (This should be a thin layer with a lacy appearance around the edges.
  9. Cook 1 minute.
  10. When the underside is lightly browned, flip the crepe.
  11. Cook 30 seconds.
  12. Remove to a plate. 
(If you choose to freeze crepes, separate them with waxed paper.)

The Filling

The filling was more involved, but still uncomplicated.

  • 1 TB butter
  • 1/2 C onion, thinly sliced
  • 4-5 C oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 TB flour
  • 1 1/2 C chicken broth
  • 2 TB sherry
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1# ground turkey
  • 1/4 C Grana padano cheese, grated (Parmesan or Asiago would substitute.)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Brown the turkey in a pan with a little butter. Set aside until you fill the crepes.
  3. Saute the onion in butter over medium heat until softened.
  4. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and thyme. Cook until mushroom release their juices, 5 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle flour over the mushroom mixture and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Slowly add the broth and sherry.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Return mixture to a boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the sauce thickens. (But don't overcook the mushrooms; they should retain some firmness.)
  9. Remove from heat.
  10. Reserve 1/2 C of the sauce.
  11. Stir the cooked turkey into the mushroom sauce.
  12. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.
  13. Add 1/3 - 1/2 C of the turkey and mushroom mixture to the center of a crepe.
  14. Fold one side over the mixture, and pull it tight against the filling with your fingers - holding the filling tightly under the flap.
  15. Fold the second side over the first to create a sealed "tube" containing the filling.
  16. Place the filled crepes in the baking dish with their seams on the bottom. 
  17. Cover the crepes with the reserved mushrooms.
  18. Sprinkle with cheese.
  19. Bake for 15 minutes.

The Results

We savored this meal in three courses beginning with a crepe apiece. These were soft and creamy with a meaty, earthy flavor from the mushrooms. The turkey contributed a firmness that offered nice contrast.

The salad was an inspired creation from our CSA share - and definitely worth a few notes here. We placed a small head of loose-leaf lettuce (variety?) on each plate. We then sprinkled chopped arugula around and over the lettuce. Next came layers of grated carrots, raw turnips, and radishes. We added sprigs of shunkigu (edible chrysanthemum) and a dressing concocted by Senior Chef #2, which was purposefully sweet to balance the strong spicy and bitter flavors of the greens. (Brown and yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, canola oil, garlic powder, and brown sugar)

We concluded with the empanadas. Dense, crunchy, and full of hot, peppery meat! They were entirely different from the crepes in almost every way. (I would roll the dough more thinly next time, and add a bit more fat to the buffalo meat.)

The meal, divided in three parts, was thus enjoyed by us one and all.

(Although there is plenty of both for a second meal.)

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Kudya Bwino Bwino (Eating Well) © 2009