About Mastering and Enjoying Home Cooking. Drink, Cook, and Live Well!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bocaditos and Empanadas

Empanadas1 first appeared in a Catalan cookbook (from Catalonia) back in the 1500s. It is believed that they originated in Spain and Portugal, and like the Italian calzone, it’s thought that empanadas were derived from Persian meat-filled pie (samosa dating back to prior to the 10th century.) Empanadas also exist in the Hindi culture where they are also served with chutney. In Malaysia, these may be filled with vegetarian curries.

Each country makes Bocaditos (morsels or mouth bits) a little bit different. The same is true for Empanadas. There are recipes from Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Colombia, Argentina, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rico, Columbia, Brazil...

Either Costa Rican empanadas are filled with seasoned meats (pork, beef or chicken) or cheese, beans, cubed potato stews. These empanadas are normally made with corn dough and fried.

In Salvadorian cuisine, plantain dough is stuffed with a thick savory paste of re-fried black beans, then fried and served with a chile salsa.

Savory bocaditos and empanadas go well with a slightly sweet dough. You made add a little sugar to sweeten the dough (1~2 tablespoons sugar per 3 cups masa or dough). If frying empanadas, omit the egg and roll the dough slightly thinner.

Plantain Dough

Start with 3 pounds of ripe yellow plantain with black blotches. Wash plantains thoroughly. Trim ends from bananas and quarter the sections. Cover the sections with water and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes until tender. Drain well, Peel bananas, and place peeled sections in a food processor. Processes in pulses until smooth. Cool dough refrigerator before using. Make empanadas with a thick dough less they come apart. Fry 5-7 minutes per side. In many countries, plantain empanadas are often served as a sweet.

Flour Dough

3 Cups all purpose flour
½ Teaspoons salt
1 Teaspoons baking powder
1 Large egg
4 Tablespoons Cold butter
4 Tablespoons rendered lard
5 or 6 Tablespoons ice water

Place all ingredients except water in a food processor. (Use the dough blade if you have one.) Pulse to cut up butter and mix in lard. Then add a little water at a time, pulse until dough forms. (Knead until smooth.) Rest dough in refrigerator 60 minutes to fully hydrate before using. Roll out dough on a floured surface as needed.

Masa Harina Dough

2 Cups masa harina2
2 Teaspoon kosher salt3
2 Cups warm water
1 Tablespoon of sugar if making savory empanadas
Dissolve salt (and optionally, sugar) in warm water. Place masa in food processor using dough blade. Pour salted water over masa pulsing until smooth. Empanada dough can be made several hours in advance. Let dough rest in a covered bowl 60 minutes to fully hydrate. Divide the dough into 2-tablespoon-size pieces and roll into balls. Place a ball of masa between two plastic sheets (I use plastic report covers.) and press with a tortilla-press to flatten.


Filling are best at room temperature except if using plantain dough, which is more fastidious. Practically anything can be used as a filling including but not limited to:
Any stew but not excessively runny
Cooked vegetables but not excessively runny
Pork, Beef, Chicken dishes
Catalan potatoes with chorizo
Carne asada
Roast chicken with rosemary red potatoes
Carnitas and roasted poblano peppers
Apricot Pineapple preserves
Camembert cheese and Apple


Empanada Maker

Tortilla Press















  1. Empada, in Portuguese.
  2. Masa harina is a very finely ground corn flour made from slaked corn that has been dried, cooked, ground up and dried again.
  3. Kosher salt typically a course salt that contains no additives or iodine


Monday, October 8, 2012

Pesto Crescent Rolls or Breadsticks

Using commercially available crescent rolls or breadsticks and the Savory Spice Shop’s Parmesan Pesto Sprinkle, a savory-salty accompaniment to a meal or a salad course is easily created. The pesto blend is made with Romano and Parmesan cheese, garlic, and both California and imported basils.

Pesto Crescent Rolls

Preheat oven to 375 F (For convection-oven, use 350 F.)

Parmesan Pesto Sprinkle used as directed
1 Tube of Crescent rolls
1 egg with beaten with 1 teaspoon of water (Optional egg was)

Open package following package directions. Unroll each triangle, one at a time, placing the triangle flat on parchment paper. Sprinkle one side heavily with pesto, Press the sprinkle into the dough surface. Turn it over, sprinkle top-side heavily with pesto again pressing the sprinkle into the surface. Roll the wide-side the triangle towards its pointy end to form the characteristic “croissant” shape. Place roll on an ungreased baking sheet. Bend the two ends of the roll towards the center to form the crescent shape. Repeat the process for balance of the rolls. Leave space between rolls for expansion.

Egg Washing (optional)

Make an egg wash by whisking an egg with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl until very smooth. Before baking, lightly brush a little wash on each roll, then sprinkle with more pesto.

Bake 11 minutes, then start checking for doness every minute thereafter. They are done when golden brown. The croissants are best served warm.
Baked Pesto Breadstick
Baked Breadsticks


















Pesto Breadsticks

Preheat oven to 375 F (For convection-oven, use 350 F.)

Open package following package directions. Separate dough into individual breadsticks, placing the strips flat on parchment paper. Sprinkle first side heavily with pesto. Pat the sprinkle into the dough surface. Turn it over, sprinkle top-side heavily with pesto again pressing the sprinkle into the surface. Twist 2-3 times and place on an ungreased baking sheet, while pressing the tip of each breadstick to the pan firmly. This prevents untwisting while baking.

Bake at 375° for 9 minutes then start checking for doness every minute thereafter. Bake until golden brown. Serve immediately.

If you are a place without an oven, you can fry the breadsticks in some olive oil. In this case, do not twist them.

Fried Pest Breadsticks
Fried Breadstick

Friday, October 5, 2012

Catalan Potatoes

The belly rules the mind. ~Spanish Proverb
Spanish Potatoes Aborregas (shepherd's potatoes) are similar and adds 1 ½ teaspoons pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika). Catalan cuisine is a Mediterranean cuisine from Catalonia, Spain. Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and the capital of Catalonia.

4-6 Yukon Gold potatoes
¼ Cup salt pork
½ Cup sliced Spanish onions or shallots
½ Cup green onions, chopped (optional)
2 Cloves minced garlic
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Sprig fresh chopped thyme
1 Teaspoon summer savory (optional)
2 Sprigs flesh chopped rosemary
Handful freshly chopped parsley
1 ½ teaspoons pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika) as in Aborregas Spanish Potatoes
Add aji Ancho and aji Amarillo chili powder to taste
Add a handful of cherry tomatoes (optional)

Boil potatoes in their skins until near fork tender. Drain and cool potatoes. Slice potatoes 3/8 inch thick and set aside.

Cut salt pork into 1 inch by ¼ inch bits and place in 4 cups of cold water and bring to a simmer, continue simmer another 5 minutes. Drain, pat dry.  Sauté salt pork in olive oil (and optional paprika) until they just begin to brown.

Add sliced onions (or shallots) and cover until tender. Add garlic, salt and pepper and potatoes. Toss and turn these as they cook. Add thyme and rosemary and other seasonings Cover and cook over moderate heat for 10 minutes. Toss and turn allow the potatoes to brown lightly. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with a handful of freshly chopped parsley.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Jerked Chicken, Grilled

This is a very easy way to prepare chicken with minimal effort. The chicken is moist spicy and delicious. Whole chickens are split down their middle, rubbed, and allowed to rest ½ hour before grilling slow on the upper rack of your grill. I set two burners on low, which is just right for keeping the grill at 350 F when the lid is down. If your grill runs hotter, prop the lid a little open to allow some heat to escape. Cooking low insures that 80-90 minutes is enough to cook the chicken through. (The chicken is done when the juices run clear.)

       3 Tablespoons Jamaican Jerk Seasoning1
       2 Chickens, split into halves
       1 Teaspoon or more ground allspice
       1 Teaspoon or more ground cloves

Mix the seasonings in a bowl. I like the extra flavor of more allspice and cloves, which you may or may not omit.  Split the chickens with a cleaver. Rub both sides of each piece with plenty of the rub. I like to use the Extra Hot version of the seasoning. Once cooked, the chicken is not as spicy as one would imagine.

1. Jamaican Jerk Seasoning is made by the Savory Spice Company. This blend contains toasted onion, salt, garlic, sugar, allspice, Mediterranean thyme, chives, black pepper, nutmeg, Saigon cinnamon, sage and habanero chilies. Other companies also make a Jerk Seasoning but are not as tasty. McCormick’s version does not list habanero chilies, garlic or cinnamon. Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning  does not list sage, garlic, chives or cinnamon. Garlic, allspice and habanero are mandatory for a true Jamaican jerk seasoning.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sweet Potato Fries with Pearl Street Plank Rub

Allow a sweet potato per person.

Sweet potatoes
Peanut oil
Pearl Street Plank Rub1

Mix Pearl Street Plank Rub with salt until it is just salty.

Preheat enough oil (1 ½ Inches) to cover a handful of fries to 370 F.  Use a pot with high walls to prevent splashes.  Peel outer skin from potatoes peeling down to the red flesh. Cut potato down the middle to get a flat side. Now slice with a chef’s knife to get even slices about 1/8th of an inch thick. Now batch cut a stack of slices to make individual fries. Try to make them uniform so they all cook about the same time.

Fry sweet potatoes until they visibly darken and are crisp. Turn out on paper towels and immediately dust with rub/salt mixture. Turn fries, dust again. Serve as you would regular fries or as a appetizer. There are great!

1. Rub is made by the Savory Spice shop. (Pearl Street Plank Rub invented by Dan Hayward, Savory Spice Shop Owner, Boulder Colorado.

Most Memorable Breakfast

One of the most memorable breakfast I can remember was a particular dreary cold morning at Ostiabeach, outside of Rome, Italy.  A group of us decided to go to the beach on Saturday.  Paul and I decided to go out early the night before.  We pitched our sleeping bags on the beach, had a few beers, and soon fell asleep. Some half an hour before daybreak, all hell broke loose.  Gunshots were heard.  Pellets were landing near by. We could see fires a along the beach. Can you picture us crawling off the beach on our bellies like GI’s on a beachhead? When the sun finally did come up a half and hour later, the hunters packed up their gear and left having had their chance at the uccelletto (little birds). Apparently, many of the birds of Europe migrate in the spring and autumn in generally North/South movements. Large numbers spend the winter in Africa and fly north to Italy for the breeding season.

Paul and I were shivering as we were ill prepared for the cold. We climb into our sleeping bags dozing for a hour. Having been rudely roused from slumber suddenly we were both ravenously hungry. Not like today, back in the 60’s there was nothing in Ostia other than the ruins. Certainly no place to eat. We saw a fisherman so we helped him pull his wooden boat to the sea. He said come aboard and help him pull in his nets. Therefore, we did. He was amused by our utter lack of preparation and for arrival on this beach in the middle of bird season. From the net, as it was drawn in, he put a small ray into my hand and the subsequent electric shock damn near knocked me overboard. By American standards, the fish were small and the quantity of the catch small too. Upon our return to the beach, he offered us breakfast.

He cooked some of the shrimp in garlic and olive oil. We had some crusty Italian peasant bread which help soak up the golden precious dripping on the plates. I remember how wonderful the shrimp was and how nice it smelt on that cold morning.

Later that day, the group showed up. We came back to thank the fisherman but he was gone. We left all the leftover beer we had on his door step.