So I was on Amazon the other day spending some of my hard-earned kickbacks affiliate payments, and I took a look at some of what people were buying. All those of you who bought the Charlie Palmer book, good job. For whoever bought the Dungeons and Dragons books, don’t worry because (1) Amazon doesn’t tell me who you are and (2) I cannot judge you as harshly as I would someone who purchased, for example, a Rachael Ray book, as I have openly admitted in this very forum to having played Magic: The Gathering. I too have been intimate with a 20-sided die. (Although let’s be frank: I’m not still buying that crap.) But like I said, no judgment.
These empanadas have nothing to do with Dungeons and Dragons, unless you consider the fact that they’re so good that you could use them to distract a cerebral parasite from draining your psionic abilities. Well, at least momentarily. You know how focused cerebral parasites can be. Worse than a Type I Vrock*.
I didn’t want to make a classic beef empanada both because this is Cheap Ass Monday and because the idea of raisins mixed with beef makes me a little horky (cooked raisins in any form make me a little horky). Instead, I thought I would take the basic flavors of Bobby Flay’s kick-ass goat cheese and poblano vinaigrette and stuff them into some dough. A little pepper, a little onion, a little garlic, a little monterey jack and goat cheeses, some flaky dough and maybe a side of rice and beans, because I feel like I could really be passing more gas than I currently do. I’m sure my office mate will agree. You’re welcome, Heather!
Brian started the poblano rajas, the heart of the filling, while I was on my way home from work. Poblano rajas isn’t much more that roasted and peeled poblanos cut into strips and sauteed with olive oil, onion and garlic; here, I asked Brian to dice the pepper since it was destined to be stuffed into what is, essentially, a miniature Hot Pocket. This meant that Brian also had to take pictures of what he was doing, something he hates doing because they often turn out ever so slightly blurry because of a slightly shaky hand syndrome he developed after his Level 3 Elf had that run-in with Yeenoghu the Demon Lord of Gnolls. He remains, however, an expert rajas-maker. Seriously, he’s like a Human Mystic with 21+ Rajas-Making. Impressive.
*There may be a lot of words in this post that you don’t understand. Don’t worry: I don’t understand them either. I am guided by the magic of the internet. If you do understand them all: impressive. And also, you are a nerdlinger and around here nerdlingers get pantsed.
When I got home, the rajas was done, the house smelled great and I started the dough. Although the Latina grandmothers-by-proxy I consulted (i.e., y’all) told me to buy the pre-made dough rounds, I decided to make my own, partly because I don’t want to start cheating until after I try it myself once and partly because the dough is entirely made up of pantry staples so I wouldn’t have to count any of it toward my final meal total, which is good because it gave me a little extra cash to spend on the chevre that went into the filling. Also, it enabled me to purchase the slightly more expensive but tastier Goya yellow rice in a box instead of the more economical but sub-par Carolina yellow rice in a sack.
Since I’d largely conquered my fear of pie crust earlier this year – I swear, pie crust was like the Displacer Beast to my 5th level Human Sorcerer, even with my intelligence 19* – I thought I could hack it, especially since I wanted a dough to bake, not fry. I hauled out the FoPro and blitzed some flour, cold butter, an egg, a splash of white vinegar (Epicurious suggested it) and some ice water.
*Would you like to know what Dungeons and Dragons character you are? Take this lengthy, tedious and only occasionally humorous test! Don’t blame me if you end up a Chaotic-Evil Halfling with dexterity 2, though. Your motor skills are not my issue.
I probably added a leetle too much liquid; my dough was a little moist and not as “shaggy” as it could have been. This is usually my problem with crust; I always get nervous if it doesn’t look like it’s pulling together enough, and then I over water like some kind of demented Half-Orc. If there’d been a Dragon around to counter the Water Elemental that seemed to be inhabiting my dough I could have dried it out a little but there never fucking is, so I swathed my wet dough in plastic wrap and threw it in the fridge to chill while I cooked up some rice and beans.
Fucking useless dragons.
While I was doctoring my can of beans, Brian told me about an aspect of beans I’d not heard about before, an aspect that dovetails very nicely with the otherwordly overtones of this post: apparently, they’re not just beans, they’re a “musical fruit;” the Bard of the legume world, if you will. I’m sure we all know how daunting the requirements to become a Bard are (Wisdom and Charisma 15+? Jesus!), making this seemingly humble bean all the more impressive. Not only that: the more you eat, the more you toot. I know. I’m as shocked as you are.
It’s easy to fancy up a can of beans with herbs and spices that you should have around: garlic, cumin (and lots of it), a little Mexican oregano (which is an actual kind of oregano and not a kind of marijuana, as I once thought) and a pinch of cayenne, along with salt and pepper. A squeeze of lime juice is nice too, if you have limes on hand. Which I did not. But they were still good, and if my gastro-intestinal reactions post-meal are any indication, still filled with musicality.
I could probably have let the dough chill longer, as it was still a little too malleable when I took it out of the fridge, but I didn’t have a ton of time because Brian had to get to band practice. With his band that’s named after a Magic: The Gathering card*. Which makes me feel good, because then I am not the dorkiest person in the house even though I have a Discovery Channel special on the lost gospels on in the background as I type.**
I floured the board generously to make my under-chilled, sticky dough easier to roll out, rolled it to about an eighth of an inch (or something, it’s not like I measure this shit, and I’m not some kind of Druid so I couldn’t use any arcane divination to figure it out). What I do have, however, is a set of fluted cookie cutters. I used one about 5 inches in diameter to cut out my dough rings. I moved them to a silpat***
*If you care: Balance.
**Now I’m watching The Daily Show, so I’m definitely not the dorkiest.
***Which, interestingly enough, is actually the name of a Dungeons and Dragons character.****
****No, it’s not.
I added about a tablespoon of the poblano-jack-goat filling to each of the discs, moistened the edges with water to help the seal and crimped the edges closed with a fork. I was pretty sure they would still bleed out in the oven, but they looked pretty going in.
Some of them did bleed out in the oven, so I gave those to Brian and kept all the pretty ones to take pictures. Since this dish had a Latin flair, I used the cilantro trick instead of the standard chive trick to improve the photo. But then I ripped it up and mixed it into my beans and rice unlike the chives, which I usually remove because they literally serve not purpose other than adding another color.
This dinner was yummy. Yes, I know it’s a stupid word, not worthy of the intelligence 19 Human Sorcerer that I am, but it’s true. This was yummy.
Beans and rice are hard to go wrong with as long as you add enough salt to the beans, because they can suck up some salt the way a 3rd edition Rogue can deliver a sneak attack whenever an opponent loses his or her Dexterity bonus to Armor Class.* And the empanadas? Yummy. The dough was wonderfully toothsome and flaky. The poblanos – which are not a spicy pepper – have a lovely earthiness and sweet pepper flavor. The pepper jack added a little heat and creaminess, and the slight pungency of the goat cheese (It was a young goat cheese. Also a cheap one.) was a great counterpart. It’s good that I froze half the dough and only made 8 or 9 empanadas, because despite my intelligence I have Know When To Stop Eating Empanadas -6.
I want to thank my parents, god, the academy, and, most importantly, the astoundingly vast Wikipedia section on Dungeons and Dragons for all the names. Really, it’s quite comprehensive. Thank you and good night.
(I know I forgot the math, but it’s late and I’m fucking tired. I’ll provide it in the morning.)
*Seriously: What the fuck does that mean?
ONE YEAR AGO: You can’t beat this meat with a stick, part deux.
Poblano and Goat Cheese Empanadas
I’m not giving you a number of empanadas this will make because you can make them as big or small as you want.
For the dough:
3 c. AP flour
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1 tbsp. white vinegar
up to 1/3 c. ice water
pinch of salt
This is easiest to make in a FoPro or stand mixer, but you can also use a pastry cutter, 2 forks or your fingers to cut the butter into the flour.
For the FoPro version, put the flour, butter, egg and salt into the FoPro and pulse until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is pea-sized. Add the vinegar and 2-3 tablespoons of water, pulse a few more times. Keep adding ice water and pulsing until the dough just starts to pull together – you don’t want so much water that you end up with one big, wet dough ball. Dump the dough out onto your work surface and briefly knead/mush it around until it comes together. Flatten it into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes,
For the filling:
1/2 small onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 oz. monterey jack, pepper jack, or Mexican melting cheese of your choice
1 1/2 oz. goat cheese, the kind you get in little logs at the regular grocery store
1/2 tsp. salt
Roast the poblanos over a gas burner or under the broiler until they’re charred all over. Put them in a bowl and cover with plastic for 10 minutes; this will loosen the skin and make them easier to peel. While they’re cooling, finely dice the onion and garlic and heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
When the peppers are cool, peel them, remove the seeds and any ribs and dice the flesh. Add the pepper, onion and garlic to the skillet and saute together until the onion is limp and translucent.
Shred the jack cheese and crumble the goat. Mix the poblano mixture and cheese together and add the salt. Make sure everything is well combined.
Assemble and bake:
Pre-heat your over to 425.
Roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thick and cut out rounds the size of your choice. Add a spoonful of poblano mixture to the center of each round, moisten the edges with water and fold the rounds in half. Crimp the edges closed with a fork to seal.
Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Let rest for a few minutes before biting in because otherwise your tongue will feel like it’s been assaulted by a Fire Elemental.