Monday, June 22, 2009

Cultural exchange

A couple of weeks ago I read Cheryl’s 5 second rule post about empanadas. I must have eaten an empanada at some point in the 20+ years since I started broadening my culinary horizons (although I have no vivid memories of doing so), but I had never really given them much conscious thought before. As I read, I had one of those culinary eureka moments where you suddenly slot something into its proper place in the food universe (or is it just me who does that?): in a flash of illumination, I grasped that empanadas are, basically, a savory turnover--a Spanish version of Cornish pasty or Italian calzone or Indian samosas (although the latter are deep-fried instead of baked). Reading through the instructions, I realized, furthermore, that they met the main criterion for Roving Lemon’s Leftover Rule of Thumb: cooking a major ingredient (the filling) two different ways in rapid succession.

QED: another method for using up leftovers to add to the (ever-growing) list—and one that is not only particularly versatile (can be meat or veggie! can adapt to a variety of cuisines!) but is also convenient (can be made ahead!) and portable (lunchboxes! road trips! plane trips!).

The idea of the savory turnover, having taken up residence in my brain, refused to be dislodged, and this weekend I found myself with the following items in the fridge: a large lump of pastry dough (extra from making yet another bacon and egg pie) and a container of leftover beef stroganoff that was more than one but less than two servings. What better time to experiment?

Savory continental turnovers
The idea came (to me) from Spain; the pastry is from France; and the filling is from Russia. How’s that for a cultural exchange?

This recipe is based upon what I did with what I had available. The possibilities for amount, size, and filling are endless. I’m already plotting what I can cook extra of next so I can make more of these.

For the dough
1/3 portion pâte brisée
1 egg mixed with 1 Tbsp milk, for egg wash

For the filling
9-10 Tbsp beef stroganoff*

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Roll out the pastry as you would for a pie. Cut squares or circles approximately 4in/10cm in diameter. Place about 1.5 Tbsp of beef stroganoff in the center of each piece, then fold over, crimping or pinching the edges to ensure a tight seal.**

Brush the turnovers with the egg wash, and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Eat hot, warm, or at room temperature.***

Makes 6.

* Ie sautéed onions and mushrooms, paprika, strips of steak, sour cream; if you need a recipe, this one looks good, and similar to mine (but personally, in the spirit of this endeavor, I’d rather you used something else that’s patiently waiting its turn in your fridge).

** As you can see from the picture, I didn’t do this thoroughly enough, so there was some bursting. Looked messy, but didn't adversely affect the taste.

*** I was planning to make something else for dinner last night, but when DP saw these, he said, “Why don’t we just have those?” So we did: two apiece, plus some salad and bread, made for a simple, filling dinner on a wet, chilly night.


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