Savory & Sweet Grilled "Empanadas"
It's funny when inspiration will hit. I'm planning some mini-workshop events at The Village Potters that highlight my studio tag line of "homemade tastes better on handmade", and thinking about what homemade elements would work in a workshop setting.
My inspiration came in the form of a small bag of pizza dough, but not just any pizza dough. West End Bakery is now using flour from Carolina Ground L3C in some of their goods, and the other day they had bags of pizza dough for sale made with this flour and a local Stout beer (I regret I cannot remember which brewery, but I'll find out, or a trusty reader will fill it in!). I didn't know what would be in them, but I immediately thought about making something empanada-ish on my mini-Foreman grill in the studio.
We don't have a full kitchen at The Village Potters, so some pre-prep is necessary as the Foreman grill, a rice cooker, electric kettle, microwave, and a coffee pot are the extent of our cooking appliances. At home, a quick perusal of the fridge and counter found some left-over roasted chicken, sweet onions and sweet potatoes from Silas' Free Range Produce Truck, and a bit of leftover garbanzo salad. I caramelized the onions, then roasted the diced sweet potatoes with a bit of curry seasoning and packed that up with some of the chicken and garbanzos. I also had a little manchego cheese that originally was planned to be in this empanada, but that would soon change.
At the studio, I dusted my cutting board with a bit of corn meal and pressed out small rounds of the pizza dough with my finger tips. I basted the top of the round with a bit of the olive oil from the onions, then put together a small mound of each of my ingredients. As I was reaching for the cheese, I saw the bowl full of peaches, also from Silas' truck, ripening quickly and oozing all sorts of sweet juices. Another idea was hatched, and a second round of stuffed pockets was made with a bit of the cheese, a dice of the peaches, some lavender from The Village Potters' garden and a drizzle of balsamic.
Admittedly, grilling these little pockets doesn't make the most appealing presentation, but there is still something charming about them, and based on the responses from my studio mates, the content far outweighs the style. And they were very tasty little bites. Not an empanada dough - even thinned out, it's still pizza dough, but a mighty fine pizza dough that worked very well in this use. I brushed a bit of the extra olive oil on the outside of each empanada before grilling, letting the lid flatten each pouch until golden.
The savories had a little of each flavor in each bite, with the sweetness of the onions mingling with the sweet curry of the potatoes, and the dusting of cornmeal on the outside giving another nice element to the texture. The sweets were just sweet enough, with a little sharpness of the cheese giving its own nice, chewy texture to each bite.
All in all, good experiment results, although in order to do this in workshop, I think we're gonna need a bigger grill.
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