Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ground Bison Empanadas with Fire Sauce and Cilantro Cream

Dear Lauren,

Dad bought ground bison at Costco. Then he just left it in the freezer. I'd say, hey, do you want a bison burger? And he'd say, no. So one day I decided to make some bison empanadas. They were fantastic. The only thing that went wrong with them is the time of day I made them. I'm a daytime photographer. Give me natural light and I can usually make your mouth water. But, I made these at night and I had one chance to take a photo or two before these empanadas were completely gone! What I am saying is, the photos might not make your mouth water, but the empanadas really are incredible. 
Ground Bison Empanadas with Fire Sauce and Cilantro Cream

This recipe requires preparation and planning. Read the entire recipe through and develop your plan of action and complete your mise en place! First, you will make the empanada dough. Then you will make the bison filling and fire sauce while the dough chills. Next, you will make the empanadas and while they bake you will make the cilantro cream. The cilantro cream can be made up to 3 days ahead. The empanadas can be made to the point of baking and frozen for future use*. Once you make the empanadas, expect all of them to be eaten! They are delicious!

Empanada Dough
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon Slap Ya Mama Hot
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick very cold butter cut into small pieces**
1 egg
1/3 cup ice water (more or less)
1 Tablespoon white vinegar

Whisk together the flour and seasonings in a bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour mixture. You can use a food processor if you pulse, but I think it's easier and definitely less of a mess to use the pastry cutter. Your choice. Use the method that makes you happy. You've succeeded in cutting in the butter when your flour mixture has small but visible pearls of butter. Set aside.

Whisk together one egg, ice water and vinegar. Add this to the flour mixture and stir a few times. If the dough seems too dry, add a tiny bit more water until the dough will come together, but is not wet. Dump the mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form a disc. Wrap it up and refrigerate it for an hour.

**This is how I cut my butter into small pieces for this dough, for biscuits, for any other dough recipes of this kind. I cut the stick of butter into thirds on the long side. I lay the three planks flat and then I cut each plank into thirds on the long side again. Then I make 1/4 inch cuts on the short side from one side to the other. I end up with 1/4 inch cubes. Then I freeze them right on the cutting board for about 20 - 30 minutes before I need to make the dough.

Emeril's Southwest Seasoning
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons paprika
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano

Mix together. You will not need all of this mixture for this recipe, but isn't that great? Use it in other recipes.

Cilantro Cream
1 cup Greek yogurt (can use sour cream or crema fresca or a mixture of any of the three, whatever is on hand)
cilantro, chopped (I used  1/4 cup or thereabouts, you use to your taste)
juice of one lime
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
salt and pepper to taste
water to loosen, if necessary

Mix all ingredients together and adjust ingredients until the flavors are how you like them. Can be made up to 3 days in advance. Serve with empanadas. There is room for improvising in this mixture. For example, some limes are juicer than others. Use your taste buds! If you find this is too limey, add a little salt, maybe even a little more. Keep tasting.

Ground Bison Filling with Fire Sauce
1/2 pound bison, ground (you can use whatever you want: beef, chicken, whatever you like, ground or finely diced)
1 Tablespoon Emeril's Southwest Seasoning (recipe above), divided
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 ears fresh corn off the cob, cobs discarded :-)
1 chopped poblano pepper, or other pepper you choose
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (use less if you'd rather have less heat)
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 minced shallots
3 cloves minced garlic
2 cups beef stock
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 egg
2 Tablespoons water

Sprinkle the meat with two teaspoons Southwest seasoning and mix together with hands so the seasoning is evenly distributed.

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Add the olive oil and meat mixture and stir fry briefly, until you see some color on the meat. Add all ingredients through and including the garlic and stir fry for about 1-2 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups of beef stock to the skillet and while it comes to a boil, whisk the remaining 1/2 beef stock and cornstarch in a bowl. Add stock/cornstarch mixture to the skillet and stir thoroughly. Cook for a few minutes until you can see the liquid has turned into a slightly thickened sauce. Don't reduce the sauce too much.

Remove skillet from the heat. Drain the sauce into a small saucepan and cook for a few minutes over medium. Turn to low and keep it warm until ready for serving.

Put the remaining meat filling into a bowl. Cool until about room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375°F .

Whisk the egg and water in a bowl to make the egg wash. Set aside.

Roll out the empanada dough (if it is too cold to roll smoothly, wait a few minutes and try again) to 1/4-inch thickness, adding flour to keep it from sticking when necessary. It might crack a little here and there, just smooth it with your  damp fingers, it will be fine. Decide on the size of your empanadas. I cut little 4-inch ones with a biscuit cutter, but you can divide the dough in quarters and just make 4 large ones in a more rustic shape, it's up to you and your needs and creativity. Discard extra dough.

Brush the tops of the rolled and formed empanada dough with egg wash. Do not overfill with the meat filling. Fold the dough over the meat filling and crimp with a fork. Brush the tops of the empanadas with egg wash and place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake until the edges are browned. Baking time will depend on the size of the empanadas. Mine took about 13 minutes, larger ones could take up to 30. Just watch them and use your eyes and nose!

Place empanadas on a plate, drizzle with fire sauce, and serve with cilantro cream.


*P.S.  Having empanadas in the freezer, ready to use whenever the mood strikes, is such a wonderful gift to yourself or someone you love. Try it.