Sunday, September 13, 2009

Empanadas for Justice Sotomayor
What’s cooking? Shrimp Empanadas

This week, I hosted my book group – an eclectic group of women ranging in age from late 20s to early 60s. Many of us know each other exclusively through these meetings, so the conversation tends to be well focused on the readings; and most either are now or have been professionals of some stripe, so opinions are strong and vocal. Needless to say, these are lively evenings.

September’s selection was The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, by Jeffrey Toobin. It’s a fascinating overview of the workings of the Supreme Court in general, and the justices who’ve made up the Rehnquist/Roberts courts in particular. Warts and all, as my grandmother would have said, but I am nevertheless impressed with the thoughtfulness and intelligence of at least most of the justices, and once again persuaded that the system will keep us moving forward in spite of ourselves. Not all of my group loved the material, but even those who didn’t admired the writing, and the majority thought Toobin did an outstanding job of weaving character analysis and personal histories of the justices with clear explanations of the major cases before them.

In honor of the newest member of the court, I screwed up my courage and tackled shrimp empanadas a la Culinary Institute. Empanadas are the Latin answer to Hot Pockets, and can be filled with just about anything; and while the recipe says you can fry them or bake them, those of you who’ve read earlier entries on this blog know that the Kitchen Goddess doesn’t do frying. Also, they’re a bit large for hors d’oeuvres, but what the heck – they’re delicious. For a smaller version, I’m thinking of trying the filling in pre-baked tartlet shells, with a sprig of cilantro on top.

Chef had told us we could use Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts, but I was intrigued by the beer in the dough recipe, so made my own. (Ok, ok, so I forgot to buy the ready-made stuff. Whatever.) In any case, the dough was really easy to assemble in the food processor, and not nearly as sticky as cookie dough, so the rolling out part was also pretty simple. Sort of the consistency of soft Play-Doh. Of course, I also forgot to buy a 4-inch biscuit cutter, and had to fall back on the top to my coffee canister, but it worked fine. It’s always something. And if you drink the rest of the beer while you cook the filling, it really takes the edge off the process.

Shrimp Empanadas (Makes 20)

For the dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup butter, cold and cubed
½ cup cold beer
egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water)

For the filling:
2 tablespoons butter
1½ cups onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup plum tomatoes, chopped
1½ tablespoons parsley, chopped
½ teaspoon smoked paprika (or regular sweet paprika, if that’s what you have)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ pound shrimp, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

For the dough, combine the flour, salt, sugar, and butter in a food processor, pulsing until well mixed. Add the beer and pulse until the dough forms a ball in the bowl. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the filling.

Cook onions and garlic in the butter over medium-low heat until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, parsley, paprika, cumin, and cloves, and cook until the liquid has evaporated, 15-20 minutes. Add the shrimp, salt, and pepper. Cook just until the shrimp are done, 1-2 minutes.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface to pie crust thickness and cut into 4-inch rounds. Brush one side with egg wash, fill that side with a tablespoon of the shrimp mixture, and pinch closed. (You’ll have a little shrimp mixture left over for the chef to nosh on. Yum!) Bake at 375º for 12-15 minutes.

Kitchen Goddess Tip #1: Truth be told, I bought the small (51/60) pink shrimp already cooked, chopped them up, then cooked them another minute with the filling.

Kitchen Goddess Tip #2: These freeze – uncooked – really well. Freeze them on a baking sheet, and once they’re frozen, store them in a plastic bag. You can put them frozen into the oven; just add another 10 minutes to the cooking time.


  1. But the big unanswered question is...
    Were you ready when the group arrived?

    Sounds delish and I'm impressed.

  2. As it happens, I was ready 10 mins ahead of time -- never before, and possibly never again. But good thing, because the first member showed up 5 mins early.