Hello, and welcome to another edition of Claire’s Cooking Corner™!*
(*By which I mean the first one ever.)
Autumn is upon us, dear friends, and that means two things: One, my crazy neighbor will begin his annual war with the wind, passing the leaves back and forth across his lawn with the leaf blower until either the leaves are gone or he goes firebug and burns them like a bunch of sacred texts in a Florida churchyard; and Two, it’s time to whip up some delicious treats!
To be fair, it’s ALWAYS time to whip up delicious treats, but Autumn is my favorite season, and with it comes one of my favorite ingredients: pumpkin. I do not attempt to make pumpkin pie, as my mother makes the most perfect pumpkin pie EVER (against which even the most robust attempt seems a sad and anemic slice from a five-and-dime countertop in Pigsnot, North Dakota). However, I do make a couple of pumpkin-licious specialties that seem to have a bit of a following with my friends and family. One is pumpkin flan, and the other is my pumpkin empanadas. In today’s post, I will share with you the recipe for my empanadas (along with another recipe for something not traditionally associated with Autumn, but nevertheless an Autumn/Winter treat for me). For those of you who are unfamiliar with emapanadas, think of a turnover, only much better. Scientists, using powerful university computers, have determined that the average empanada is approximately 10,000,000 times more delicious than its crappy turnover analogue. The word “empanada” comes from the infinitive “empanar,” meaning “to wrap or coat in bread.” They can be made savory or sweet (lamb and chicken empanadas are among the most sublime things a person can consume, as are the apple-cinnamon variation I make in the springtime), and both their exteriors and interiors vary widely across Latin America.
OK, OK, I know, you don’t want to be educated against your will, you just want a tasty treat. So, without further ado, I give you:
CLAIRE’S PUMPKIN EMPANADAS
YOU WILL NEED:
1 (15-20 oz.) can pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves (careful with this one, or your empanadas will be so clovey that high school theater kids will try to smoke them behind the gym)
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 (1/4 ounce) packages dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
2 generous pinches cinnamon
3 cups flour, divided in half
“Hefty” 3/4 cup shortening or (if you think you’ll live forever) manteca/lard
LET’S GET COOKIN’
For filling: Mix ingredients together and set aside, covering with a lid or plastic wrap.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine water, sugar, salt, yeast, baking powder, and cinnamon. Using an electric mixer, gradually blend in half of the flour. Add shortening/manteca and thoroughly mix, then gradually blend in remaining flour. There’s no need to beat it to death – you don’t want the gluten to stand up and make these guys leathery.
Divide dough into 4 equal parts, then shape each part into 4 dough balls. Slap the dough balls between the palms of your well-floured hands until flattened, then roll on a floured surface until the balls are circles approximately 4 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick (your mileage may vary).
NOTA BENE: There will be no jokes about ball-slapping. This is a family publication.
Put 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each circle, fold over, and seal edges by pressing lightly with a fork on both sides. Make sure to seal them, or it’s gonna look like you tried to make Totino’s Pizza Rolls in an old microwave.
OPTIONAL: Brush the exterior of the empanadas with butter and dust with a mix of cinnamon & sugar. Really, you can’t have enough cinnamon in my book (or my empanadas).
THROW ‘EM IN THE OVEN
Bake the empanadas on a well-greased cookie sheet 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown (no, you can’t go to the store, or watch TV, or refinish the upstairs floor – these are high-sugar, high-fat treats, and they will burn like nobody’s business if you don’t watch them like a hawk).
Makes 16 empanadas (approximately 4 of which will survive to make it to the table if you have relatives or nosy neighbors nearby)
The other recipe I wanted to share with you kids today is for Eggs Benedict. Now, as I said, I know this is not a food people associate with Autumn, but it is my absolutely favorite breakfast of all time, and although I only eat it once a year (on my birthday, in December), I think it is a perfect complement to the cooling weather, when mornings are characterized by brisk air and the scent of woodsmoke, and a bit of something buttery and delicious goes down really well with a giant mug of java or tea.
Also, my pal Annie was bugging me for the recipe. So, to wit:
CLAIRE’S EGGS BENEDICT
YOU WILL NEED:
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 TB lemon juice
1 pinch ground white pepper (or black pepper, if you’re not that “fancy”)
1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 cup butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar (don’t use cider vinegar. JUST DON’T.)
8 strips Canadian bacon (NOTE: International law prohibits more than one joke about Mounties per batch)
4 English muffins, split
2 tablespoons butter, softened
Waiver from your cardiologist for eating what is basically a fatwich dipped in butter
LET’S GET COOKIN’
Hollandaise Sauce: Fill the bottom of a double boiler about halfway with water (make sure the water doesn’t touch the top pan). Bring water to a simmer. In the top half of the double boiler, whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tablespoon water.
Add the melted butter to egg yolk mixture 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time while whisking yolks constantly. If hollandaise begins to get too thick, add a teaspoon or two of hot water (don’t let it get runny, though, because, y’know, EWW). Continue whisking until butter is totally combined. Whisk in salt, then remove from heat.
Put a lid on pan to keep sauce warm, then preheat oven, using the “broiler” setting.
Poaching Eggs: Fill a large saucepan with about 3 inches of water. Bring water to a slow simmer, then add the vinegar. Carefully break eggs into simmering water, and allow to cook for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Yolks should still be soft in center. CAREFULLY remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and set on a warm plate (I like to use two plates, with one as the “lid”).
While eggs are poaching, cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and toast the English muffins on a baking sheet under the broiler. The bacon should be a little crisp at the edges, but chewy in the middle. Spread the softened butter onto the toasted muffins, and top each one with a slice of bacon, followed by one poached egg. Place 2 muffins on each plate and drizzle (or drown, if you’re feeling lucky, punk) with Hollandaise sauce. Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve.
TIP: It’s usually better to add more pepper than less. The lemony zip of the Hollandaise can stand up to the bite of the pepper, and with all the creaminess going on, a little zing helps enhance the flavor explosion.
Makes four servings (so invite your lawyer and a notary in case you haven’t wrapped up your will before you dig in)
That’s it for now. Should you choose to whip up these recipes, I’d love to hear your feedback, dear readers! Until next time, remember what we say here at Claire’s Cooking Corner™: It’s not a mistake if it’s delicious.