I’m willing to write off one out of every, say, twenty dishes I cook as a complete and unmitigated disaster. And usually, afterward, I understand why it happens. Botched technique, too much heat, (either in the “caliente” or the “picante” sense of the word) too little attention, or drastically misunderstanding the changes the food will undergo while cooking. We make a mental note, we salvage what we can, we do the dishes, and, if necessary, order up some Indian takeout.
But in that grey area between success and failure, sometimes we find moral victories. Dishes that, while disappointing, contain the critical insight as to how to improve them next time. This happened a couple of weeks ago when I made these little puff-pastry chorizo things for my tequila party.
I went through two sheets of pastry and wound up with only ten usable portions, the rest being burned, soggy, blistering from inappropriate payload-to-missile ratio, or just too funny looking to serve to guests.
Like I said, the problem was the puff pastry. I am, evidently, puff-pastry impaired. I followed the directions. I thawed but not overthawed, I cut straight down before twisting to not crimp the layers. I baked hot enough. But it just didn’t work. So I self-censored, forcing my guests to settle for only nine hand pies. Or my cupcakes or the chips and dip or the M&Ms I had lying around.
And as tempted as I was to just give up on the idea, I couldn’t help wonder how could I abandon this wonderful filling – this unctuous combination of smoke and and pork and fat and saffron and tomato and salt – I HAD to find another way to taste this stuff again.
So I improvised. The recipe for the filling I kept in tact (because it was awesome) but I just used my standard pie/pastry dough, which is the easiest thing in the world to remember, and not just because it sounds vaguely ribald.
A scoop (a generous cup)
A stick (cold and cut into little cubes)
A pinch (kosher)
A spritz (between two and four tablespoons of water)
You’ve done this before. Mix the salt with the flour, place in your food processor and add the butter. Pulse until the mixture resembles loose corn meal. If you grab and squeeze a handful with your (meticulously clean) paw, it should pretty much stay together when you let go. Add the butter and keep pulsing. Your dough should resemble wet sand.
Press into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour in order to let the dough hydrate.
So this filling.
Uhh, We all know what chorizo is, right? It’s a variety of Spanish/Mexican sausage distinguished by a high content of pepper. While there are several sub-varieties, most of what we find in the states is either Spanish or Mexican, mostly the latter. The Spanish variety is milder and typically seasoned with pimenton (smoked paprika, the MOST AMAZING SPICE EVER), but Mexican chorizo is typically hotter and fruitier. Both are quite good. You can find Mexican in many large grocery stores, either fresh or in the Deli Section (eg Hyde Park Kroger). Kroeger and Sons at the Findlay Market typically carries both varieties.
Now, look. If you and Mr. Vegan McWheatberries insist on purging the Earth of all that is tasty and pleasurable and INSIST on a vegetarian version, I suppose it can be done. You can ignore this filling and substitute your favorite combination of veggies and/or cheese, just remember to precook it thoroughly. And if you really want to break my heart, you can use THIS scary stuff:
Anyway, the filling is made as follows. Recipe is modified slightly from “Tequila: A Guide to Types Flights Cocktails and Bites”
1/2 lb chorizo sausage (Mexican seems more thematic), casings removed
1 onion, minced
2 peppers (one green and one red is more fun) chopped
3 cloves garlic, or more
3/4 cup chopped tomatoes, either fresh or canned – but if you use canned, drain away excess moisture
5T blanco tequila (do use blanco)
1t ground cumin
large pinch of saffron threads
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, peppers, garlic and a pinch of salt, stirring until soft.
Add the chorizo and cook, for about five minutes.
Add the tomatoes, tequila, saffron and cumin to the mixture and simmer, covered for ten minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until most of the moisture has evaporated.
Then, assemble your pastries.
Once your dough has hydrated, roll it out on a flat surface until it’s about 1/4 of an inch thick.
Use a small saucer to cut several circles in the dough. repeat until the dough is put to good use. I yielded four large pastries and one smaller one.
Scoop a couple of tablespoons of filling into the center of your pastry. Brush a little egg wash onto the “upper 180″, just along the edge, fold over, crimp, and dock the top with a fork.
Oven for 30 minutes.
Serve with sour cream.
You will need to find a use for the leftover filling. One suggestion, cook up a cup of lentils and make stew. Or just eat it with a spoon in front of the fridge at 2am. Up to you.