From across the world, I say – helloooo! See, right now, I’m sitting on my brother’s couch, writing this post at 11:23pm Saturday evening. But that’s not Eastern Standard Time, per normal. Nope, my brother lives in Hong Kong and I have up and transplanted myself here for ten days of vacation. I landed on Friday evening, so it’s been a laid back twenty four hours so far. Jet lag is kicking my ass and the weird, wild world of China is throwing my brain for a loop. Hong Kong has this beautiful sadness to it. It’s quite like Disney Land and Times Square, but then there’s so much pollution. In certain areas, the natural world literally collides with the metropolis.
February slipped through my fingers with no writing and only a small amount of cooking, leaving my baby [this site] neglected. Luckily, I have the March Vintage Recipe Swap to kick me in gear. Because even with crazy travel, I need to write. And share. And I was totally stoked for the recipe this month – pizza! [Is it weird that I use the word “stoked?” The nineties are back, in so many ways!] Pizza making at home is one of my favorite dinner activities. It’s like a game of Supermarket Sweep, but in my refrigerator. Four random hunks of cheese? Grab them! The end of a cured sausage, half a jar of tomato jam, a few slices of onions and a handful of fresh spinach? We have a pizza!
But I had portability on my mind, with office commutes and sixteen hour flights taking up a large amount of my time lately. So pizza transformed to calzones which then transformed to empanadas. Because, guess what, empanada dough doesn’t require yeast! Which was an absolute must, as my second rule for this recipe was avoiding a grocery trip. From the freezer, I dug out a box of chopped spinach, some green peas and a half pound of merguez, which is a spiced lamb sausage. From the refrigerator, butter, a can of beer, ketchup, tomato jam and hot pepper jam, one egg and some leftover parsley and scallions. And a few waxy red potatoes, garlic and flour from the pantry. More or less, this came together from the odds & ends of my refrigerator and freezer. Just like my routine for pizza. Heavenly.
The mixture comes together in one pot, with the fat from the merguez and the beer creating the start of a nice liquid. Once everything is soft [most importantly, the potatoes], adding some ketchup, hot sauce and tomato paste [or hot pepper jelly and tomato jam, if you happen to have the same canning larder as me] makes something delicious. I was looking for a more homogenous mixture so I used the immersion blender to break up and puree bits of the sausage and potatoes evenly. A potato masher and some elbow grease could easily be substituted.
And let’s talk about the dough. Some of us get flustered by rolling dough out. I have my moments. But the thing about empanadas? You’re rolling out small pieces. Small pieces move easily, and getting a thin circle of dough is way easier when it’s 6″ versus 16″ across. So while you have twelve pieces to roll out, it goes pretty easily. Using a fork to crimp these babies closed makes them even simpler. And before you know it, you’ll be an empanada pro.
These are perfect – there’s some heat and body from the sausage. The greens and potatoes are filling and healthy, a little saucy without being messy. The crust, adapted from this Smitten Kitchen recipe, is tender yet sturdy. They reheat perfectly and are great even at room temperature. They’re a great office lunch with some cauliflower soup. And of course, they would be an awesome airplane treat – IF you remembered to pack them, unlike a certain someone.
Potato, Sausage & Spinach Empanadas
- 1 1/4 cups [150 grams] whole wheat flour
- 1 cup [120 grams] all-purpose flour
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- pinches of paprika & black pepper
- 1 stick [1/2 cup, 4 oz] cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup ice water
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat and all-purpose flours, salt, paprika and black pepper. Whisk to combine and aerate. Add the cold butter and using your fingers or a pastry cutter, blend together until the mixture looks like medium-to-large pea-sized lumps.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, ice water and vinegar. Pour the egg mixture into the flour and using a fork, mix together until just combined.
- Using your hands, gently knead the dough in the bowl. It should only take a few turns to create a smooth ball of dough. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.
- 1/2 pound merguez sausage
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 tall boy beer [I used Tiger pale lager], or 16 ounces of water or broth
- 1 pound red potatoes, medium diced
- 1 box chopped spinach, thawed and drained thoroughly
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 cup frozen green peas
- salt and pepper to taste
- Using a medium to large saucepan that has a lid, heat to medium-high. Once hot, add the merguez links. Without moving, let the sausages brown for three minutes on one side. Turn and brown three more minutes.
- Turn down to medium-low and add the garlic, beer and diced potatoes and bring to a simmer. Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen up any stuck-on bits and add the drained spinach. Cook on low until the potatoes are tender.
- Add ketchup, hot sauce and tomato paste and stir well. Grab your immersion blender or potato masher and blend or mash until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Mix in the green peas. Taste. Add salt, pepper and additional ketchup and hot sauce as needed.
- 1 batch whole wheat-white dough
- 1 batch potato, sausage & spinach filling [you will have extra filling - you can double your dough and freeze extra or just eat the extra filling at another time]
- 1 egg, beaten
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Set up two plates, 12 squares of wax paper, one damp cloth and one floured work surface.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Place ball of dough on a floured surface and pat down to an even disk. Slice into 12 pieces - I like to cut it into fourths and cut each quarter into thirds.
- Place the disk on one of your plates and cover with one damp towel. [Always keep resting dough covered, from start to finish.]
- Remove one slice of dough from the disk. In the palm of your hands, roll the slice into an even ball. Place the ball of dough on the floured surface and roll out with a floured rolling pin. You want the final circle to be 5-6" across, but the thickness is key. 1/8" thick dough will create a perfectly tender final product.
- Place your rolled out circle on the empty plate and the cover with wax paper. Continue the rolling process, and stack your circles of dough sandwiched with wax paper until you have a dozen circles.
- Now, grab a circle of dough and put it back on your floured surface. Add two tablespoons of filling, or about 2 ounces, towards one side of the circle. Dab the edges of half the circle with beaten egg. Fold the dough over and crimp with a fork [or fold it like a Cuban grandmother, if you know how to do that].
- Place your folded empanadas on two parchment-lined cookie sheets and brush the rest of the egg over the tops of all twelve empanadas.
- Bake for 25 minutes, and then crank the heat up to 450 for five more minutes. Remove and let cool on the pans.