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.
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 I don’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 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 c butter, cold and cubed
1/2 c cold beer
egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 Tbl water)
For the filling:
2 Tbl butter
1 1/2 c onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 c plum tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 Tbl parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (or regular paprika, if that’s what you have)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground cloves
3/4 lb shrimp, finely chopped
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp 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 Saran Wrap and refrigerate while you make the filling.
Cook onions and garlic in the butter over medium-low heat until soft, about 15 mins. Add the tomatoes, parsley, paprika, cumin, and cloves, and cook until the liquid has evaporated, 15-20 mins. Add the shrimp, salt, and pepper. Cook just until the shrimp are done, 1-2 mins.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface 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 mins.
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. Put them on a baking sheet, and when they’re frozen, store them in a plastic bag. Put them frozen into the oven and add another 10 mins to the cooking time.