End ’07 with a south-of-the-border dessert
I was reading an article the other day titled “2007, Year in Review.” The magazine was Food Arts, and their claim is “at the Hotel and Restaurant Forefront.”
In addition to lists of what was hot and what was not, they had little bits of news that had occurred throughout the year in the food business.
For example, the Chinese Food and Drug Regulator who had been in office since 1994 was executed for approving fake drugs and accepting bribes. How do you suppose our guys would fare?
Even more startling was a piece on biofuels that involves the recycling of used cooking oils into useable energy. You’ve probably heard about buses in Manhattan whose exhaust smell more like French fries than diesel fumes as a result of this technology.
Turns out that in addition to the recycled oil, a significant portion of U.S. corn production is being diverted to biofuel, 25 percent in 2007 up from 5 percent just a few years ago.
This in turn drives up the price of corn used for feeding chickens and livestock and subsequently the price of pretty much everything we eat. Hardest hit according to Food Arts – pizza because of its dependence on meat, cheese and wheat, which didn’t do so well this year, either.
On a lighter note, today’s recipe is for empanadas, the little fried (or baked) pies that are popular in Mexico and almost every country to the south. The filling can be almost anything from fruit for desserts to meat, cheese or vegetables for a savory appetizer or main course.
For today’s dish we are using the apple compote that we paired with the pork last month. Just bump the sugar up to 6 tablespoons since we are using it for dessert.
The important thing is the dough. It is easy to make and handle and can be made up to a day ahead and stored refrigerated until ready to assemble. Just stack the rolled discs with a piece of wax paper between each one.
The other important thing to consider is moisture in your filling. The more the moisture the sooner you need to cook them after assembly. A juicier filling will interfere with the flaky quality of the dough if allowed to sit too long.
Finally the question of whether to bake or to fry. I know that fried foods are part of the nutritional “Axis of Evil” along with white sugar and butter but, hey, don’t eat them every day. For those who value longevity of life over indulgence, I’ve included how to bake them.
Happy New Year.
By the way, Del Rio will be closed for the month of January to relax, retool and refresh. See you in February.
• Brian Shaw and his wife, Ardie, own the Cafe del Rio, 394 S. C St. in Virginia City.
Apple Empanadas with Cinnamon Ice Cream
For the dough:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup hot water
1 batch Apple-Chili Compote (see below)
2 egg yolks for egg wash
oil for frying
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add the shortening and rub it into the flour until the mixture resembles course meal. Add the water and mix until the water has been absorbed. Knead the dough in the bowl, adding a little more flour if the dough is too sticky. Cover with a clean damp towel and let rest for 15 minutes. Divide the dough into eight even-sized pieces.
Roll into balls on a floured surface then cover and let rest for 20 minutes. Roll out each ball on a lightly floured surface to a circle of about 6 inches. At this point you can stack them between layers of wax paper and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
To assemble, beat the egg yolks with a tablespoon or two of water. Paint the outside edge of each ring with egg wash. Place 1/8 of the cool apple compote on the bottom half of the disk. Bring the upper, empty half of the disk over the apples and press the edges gently to seal. Press the sealed edges with a fork or make overlapping folds to complete the seal.
If baking, eggwash the tops and bake on a cookie sheet for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees or until golden.
For frying, heat about an inch or so of vegetable oil to 350 degrees. An electric skillet works well or a heavy bottom sauce pan and a thermometer. Gently lower the empanadas into the oil 2 or 3 at a time. Fry until blistered and golden brown, turning once if necessary. Drain on paper towels. Allow to cool for a couple minutes then dust with powdered sugar.
makes about 3 cups
2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
1 cup dry white wine
6 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons red chili puree
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 small cinnamon stick
For puree: Remove stems and seeds from 5-6 dry Ancho chilies. Soak them in hot water for about 15 minutes. Place the chilis in a blender or processor and puree. Use just enough of the soaking water to facilitate blending. Strain the puree through a tea strainer. Store covered and refrigerated.
Place all the ingredients in a medium sauce pan, stir to combine and place over medium heat. Partially cover the pot with foil and cook until the apples are tender, stirring occasionally. You want it to be a little soupy when it comes off the stove because the apples will soak up a lot of the juice as they cool. Taste for salt. Store refrigerated.
For service gently warm the compote adjusting the consistency with a little water or even better, apple juice, if necessary.
Cinnamon Ice Cream
makes about 6 cups
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon plus 1 cup sugar
9 egg yolks
In a heavy bottom saucepan combine the milk, cream, ground cinnamon and stick, and one tablespoon of sugar. Bring to a simmer stirring occasionally then remove from heat.
Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and one cup of sugar in a stainless steel bowl and whip until pale yellow and thick, ribbon stage as the French would say.
Temper the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks by adding it a cup at a time, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Return the mix to the sauce pan, and cook over low heat, stirring with the spatula, until thickened sufficiently to coat the spatula.
Do not boil.
Strain the custard and cool completely. Place in an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instruction. Decant to an airtight container and keep in the freezer.
Tip: Gottschalks and Target had Rival ice cream makers on sale.