Sunday, August 12, 2007

Empanada de pescado

An empanada is a meat pie. The best empanadas I have ever had, bar none, were the ones I used to buy from a bakery in Ponferrada, a town along the Camino de Santiago in the northwest of the province of Leon. I lived in Ponferrada for five months, and I would frequently stop by the bakery close to the apartment where we lived with a local family and buy empanadas, either of chorizo or tuna. These empanadas were as big as a plate, with a delicious, savory Galician-style crust, more like bread than the puff pastry shell that is common in Madrid.

My empanadas are based on a recipe I found 20 years ago in a cheap paperback cookbook I bought in Segovia called Cocina facil para todos los dias. Cocina facil calls for merluza (hake), but I usually use canned tuna (believe it or not) and have attempted it with all kinds of fish, with varying degrees of success. Frequently, when we have fish, if there's enough left over I'll use it in empanada: halibut (which my sister brought back from Alaska), salmon, tilapia, snapper. I think it works best with the tuna, because the flavor doesn't get drowned out by the tomato sauce. Tonight I tried it with left over tilapia, and it turned out well, but since tilapia is a mild fish that tends to take on the flavor of whatever it's cooked with, I found that the flavor got buried by the other ingredients. However, I recall attempting an empanada once with leftover orange-glazed salmon, which did not turn out good at all. So, strong-flavored is good, but wrong-flavored won't work.

For the crust, I usually use pizza dough (1 pound), but I've also used puff pastry and even those canned croissants you get in the dairy section of the supermarket. Tonight I used puff pastry.

Empanada de pescado
1 package puff pastry
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 6 oz. can of tuna
red pepper flakes (optional)
1 hardboiled egg, diced

1. Thaw the puff pastry according to package directions.

2. Saute the onion and bell pepper in the olive oil until the onion is transclucent. Add the tomato sauce and simmer uncovered for a few minutes, then add salt to taste and a dash of sugar to bring out the tartness of the sauce.

3. Stir in the tuna, crushing slightly with the spoon so it is well integrated into the sauce. Add a dash of red pepper flakes, if desired.

4. Remove from heat and add the hardboiled egg.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

6. Place one sheet of puff pastry on a baking sheet and spread the tuna mixture evenly over it. Lay the other sheet of puff pastry over the top, crimp the edges with a fork and place in oven.

7. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool on wire rack, and serve.

This can be eaten hot or cold, although I prefer it at room temperature.

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