Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Tales from the Market Part 2: Swiss Chard, Cremini Mushroom & Pork Empanadas from Rice Farmer's Market

Last week I was invited to the Rice Farmer's Market.  The purpose of this visit to the farmer's market was not just to indulge in some chit chat with vendors.  I was brought along to write about my experience and to show people what could be done with ingredients bought at the farmer's market.  When I arrived I had some preconceived notions of what dish I might concoct.  I thought I was probably going to end up making a delicious salad with all the vegetables I was going to get.  But as I went along and started looking at all the different ingredients, I started to tinker in my mind and and come up with a world of possibilities, especially if I allowed myself some ingredients from outside of the market.  What I ultimately ended up deciding to make was a Swiss chard, cremini mushroom and ground pork empanada. The chard, mushrooms and green onions all came from Animal Farm Center and the ground pork from Shiner Pork and Beef.

My goodies from the Farmer's Market

Five buches of Swiss Chard

Two bunches for green onion

About two pounds of cremini mushrooms

Three cloves of garlic

A little over a pound of ground pork
As well as these ingredients I also used two sheets (one package) of puff pastry and about a 1/4 cup of egg beaters for egg wash.

Whisk the egg with about two tablespoons of water for the perfect egg wash.

First I prepared my vegetables.

Chop and wash the chard

Slice the green onion

Slice the mushrooms

Mince the garlic
Next in a large pan I added my ground pork to allow it to start browning.  Normally I would start with a little oil and saute my garlic until it was aromatic.  The pork however, had a good bit of fat, so I decided to let that render out, then add my garlic and let it cook in that fat.  I made sure my heat was not too high as I did not want my meat to burn before browning. I also added just a little salt and pepper to season the pork.  I was taught that when preparing a dish it is always good to season in layers.

Allow your pork to start browning on medium heat and for the fat to render out.

Add your garlic and let it cook in the pork fat.
Next I added my mushrooms and the white parts of the green onion.  The idea is once again to let the mushrooms and onions to cook in the fat of the pork.  I once again added a pinch of seasoning.

Add your mushrooms and whites of the onions.

Stir to make sure everything gets incorporated and cooks evenly.
After I let the mushrooms cook for a while I finally added the chard.  I let the mixture cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, so that the chard could also cook down.

Add your chard and allow it to cook down.

Mixture after stirring.
The last thing I did was to stir in the remainder of my green onions off the heat, taste it and adjust the seasoning.  After I tasting I decided that the mixture did not need any more salt, but a pinch more pepper. Then I let it cool off a bit.

Add remaining green onions and taste. Adjust seasoning accordingly
While I was cooking my mixture I made sure to pull out my puff pastry and allowed it to thaw out.

Thaw and stretch out your puff pastry.
While the mixture was cooling off, I stretched out my puff pastry and cut each sheet into six squares.

Tip: add a little flour to the surface you are cutting the pastry on so it does not stick.
Next, take I took a  couple of baking pans and sprayed them with cooking for baking spray.

This makes sure that the empanadas don't stick after baking.
I then lined the squares on the baking pans so I could make my empanadas.  I lined up the squares as evenly as possible.

Not the most even, I know.
Then I spooned about a tablespoon of the mixture into the middle of each square then I brushed the edges with a little egg wash. After that I simply folded the squares in half to form a triangle and pinched the edges shut using a fork.

Spoon about a tablespoon's worth of mixture in the middle of each square.
Fold each square in half and pinch the edges closed with a fork.
After the empanadas were assembled I simply brushed each one with egg wash before going into the oven.

Brush each empanada with egg wash before going in the oven.
Now all I had to do was bake my empanadas at 350 F for about ten minutes until the puff pastry was golden brown and puffed up.  Once they came out of the oven I let them cool down, then arranged them on a platter to look nice.

Bake until golden brown and puffed. Allow to cool and enjoy!
An alternative to using puff pastry is to use pre-made pie dough.  Since pie dough usually comes in circles, it would be a good idea to use a circle cookie cutter to cut the dough into circles.  Simply follow the same procedure as if you were making the empanadas with puff pastry.  The only real difference is that if you are using pie dough you need to poke small holes in the empanadas to allow steam to vent as they cook.

Made with pie dough instead of puff pastry.

My experience with making this dish was that since I was experimenting I did not have all the amounts perfected.  That being said, if you make these empanadas the way that I did be prepared to have plenty of leftover mix.  I had enough to make a dozen empanadas from puff pasty, about twenty from pie crust and still have some left over.  That is not necessarily the worst thing in the world to happen.  I will simply freeze what I have left over and use it again at a later date.  I hope this recipe inspires you to forge your own culinary masterpiece using your local farmer's market!

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