Pumpkin Onion Empanadas

This recipe is part of pumpkinpalooza 2012.  It's a smashup of so many sources, but the dough is straight from Smitten Kitchen. It is perfectly crispy, tender yet sturdy enough to keep the filling inside where it belongs.

Don't worry if you don't have the exact ingredients, this filling is the sort of recipe where you can use up all sorts of odds and ends. I realize you may not have rendered lard recently so may not have on hand a bag full of cracklins. Feel free to substitute bacon, shredded pork or chicken. Black beans would also be very nice - I will be adding them next time.

Also, you will have more dough than filling, so you can either double the filling or do like I do and fill the rest with pie filling or jam for a nice dessert.  Beats those Hostess fruit pies any day...

Dough ala Smitten Kitchen:

4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I substituted 1/2 cup with whole wheat flour)
3 teaspoons salt
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large eggs
2/3 cup ice water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Whisk flour with salt in a large bowl. Blend in butter with fingertips or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-sized butter lumps. Beat together eggs, water and vinegar and add to flour mixture stirring with a fork until just incorporated. SK says the "mixture will look shaggy".

If your bowl is large enough, you can do the next step in the bowl: gather dough together and knead gently with the heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring the dough together. If you don't have a large enough bowl, simply turn out onto a lightly floured surface and do the same.

Form dough into two flattened rectangles, wrap separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, up to 6 hours max.

Filling:

1 pound-ish cubed, peeled fresh pumpkin
2 tablespoons olive oil, lard or strained bacon grease
2 medium onions
2 large garlic cloves,  chopped
2 chopped, roasted poblano peppers (or substitute your favorite. Poblanos add a subtle, smoky heat I happen to love)
3/4 pound cracklins, cooked & drained bacon, cooked shredded pork or chicken or cooked sausage - this is a good place to use leftovers.
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Peel and cube (1/2-inch) the pumpkin and place on an oiled or parchment-lined baking sheet. In a 350F oven, roast until tender, about 20 - 30 minutes depending on the size of your cubes. Remove to a large bowl and mash, keeping a chunky texture. (If using beans, I would drain and mash with the  pumpkin) The goal is to not make a puree, but to keep some chunkiness to the texture.

Cut the onions in half lengthwise, then slice halves about 1/4-inch thick.

In a heavy skillet, gently sautee onions, peppers and garlic in the oil, lard or bacon grease until soft, but not browned. Add the spices, vinegar and cracklins and warm through. Add your onion mixture to the bowl of pumpkin and mix gently until just combined. You want the flavors to marry, but you don't want your filling to become a paste.

Set filling aside to cool - the flavor only improves from a night spent in the fridge, so feel free to prepare ahead.

Assemble your empanadas:

Place racks in upper and lower thirds of your oven and preheat to 400F. Divide the dough - read carefully here; I screwed this up - using one full rectangle and one half of the second, divide the dough into 18 pieces and form each into a flattened disk. Keeping unworked dough refrigerated, roll each disk on a lightly floured surface into a 5-inch round, approximately 1/8-inch thick. Lightly flouring the rolling pin as you work keeps things from getting sticky. Don't get worked up trying to make perfect circles - round-ish works well enough.

Spoon about 2 tablespoons of filling into the center and fold your dough circle in half, enclosing the filling.  Press edges together to seal, then crimp decoratively with your fingers or tines of a fork.  Transfer empanada to a baking sheet (I line mine with parchment).  At this point, the empanadas may also be frozen to store and bake at a later date. They will be good for several weeks.

Repeat to make 17 more, arranging on 2 baking sheets. Bake about 25 minutes at 400F, switching racks halfway through.  Transfer empanadas to a wire rack to cool - at least 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. A bit of tomatillo salsa, Indian cilantro chutney or other spicy green sauce is a perfect dipping sauce; for perfection, add a dollop of sour cream too. Yum!

Note: this dough technically makes enough for 24 pockets. You can store the remainder in the freezer for future use, or do as I do and fill with jam or pie filling and use the whole recipe.  When you are going free-form and using up leftovers, the volume of filling may vary. Not to worry, it all works out in the end : )







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