Make Ahead

Sweet Potato Empanadas with Peas, Rice and Collards

April 28, 2011
Author Notes

I have been debating all week whether or not I was going to enter this weeks contest, no reason really other than time constraints, and honestly I didn’t have any idea what to enter. Now the week has progressed and here it is Thursday night. I have spent much of the week thinking about what recipe I would want to be remembered and quite honestly I am still not certain. The few answers I did come to terms with were personal and frankly nothing I would go into and bore you with here. What I will talk about is what, as a cook, chef or foodie, the things for which I would not want a recipe to be remembered. You know what I am going to take that back. I will talk about the things for which I, in a dream world, would want a recipe to be remembered. While I love food and everything about food which might make you think I would want to be remembered for some Grant Achatz Thomas Keller style dish but really, to answer that briefly, no. No because the reality is 99.9 percent or more of the world will never eat at a restaurant like either of these. In fact to be able to eat at one of the worlds great restaurants is truly a privilege, it puts you among the elite. It is exactly this word elite, or elitism, that has been tossed around a lot lately in the foodie community and in all honesty most recipes I create probably fall into the elitist category. I am not ashamed , nor do I have any regrets about that, but at the same time I am also one who is passionate about down home, rural and an of the people style of cooking. The kind of cooking that for generations has fed the world and kept countless numbers from being hungry at night. It is food made with inexpensive readily accessible ingredients. Food that for generations has been nutritious and not detrimental. In short it is not fast, prepared out of the box food. So when I started to look at what was around and I was thinking about how most people in the Americas might eat, and then it came to me that the Caribbean might just be the central spot, the funnel, where many of the different cultures have passed and then filtered into and onto the Americas. I got to thinking about Jamaican food. I was thinking about how when I lived in Brooklyn how the corner bodega sold peas and rice and curried goat and how much I missed that dish. Then I thought about my youngest daughter and her heritage and the many ways in which food is a building block of culture and how much I hope to provide her with an understanding of her cultural heritage. In the end I was still confused as to what to enter. Well, my wife Amy has been moving toward a vegetarian diet and on many nights I try to make things vegetarian and then add some sort of protein for me and the girls. Tonight though I got a burr up my crawl and decided to make sweet potato empanadas. The dish makes 9 empanadas, they are small-ish but in the end I think you would have enough for lunch the next day. So the question still persist, what dish do I want to be remembered for? Well I decided this is as good as any. - thirschfeld —thirschfeld

Test Kitchen Notes

Everything in this three part meal was delicious. Homey and satisfying with just a whisper of the exotic. The coconut oil added intriguing flavor to the rice and peas. The collards were classic braised collards, fantastic and certainly worth the hour of cooking time. Plus you can use that hour to prepare the rest of the meal pieces. The flavors in the empanadas were wonderful, the combination of sweet, savory, and aromatic was as brilliant as the orange color of the sweet potato. The dough was also remarkably easy to handle and roll. This is definitely a meal with a lot of hands-on time from all the vegetable slicing, the empanada dough making, and the empanada rolling and filling. But, it's just the sort of thing you would want to make for your family to show them you love them. - fiveandspice —fiveandspice

  • Serves 4
  • Empanada Dough
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup masa harina
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup ice water
  • For everything else:
  • 3 smallish sweet potatoes, baked until tender
  • 1/3 cup shallots
  • 1/3 cup apple, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons hulled pumpkin seeds, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 bunches collard greens, stems trimmed, washed and chopped into 1 inch strips
  • 1 smallish onion, peeled and julienned
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dried black eyed peas, pigeon peas, or sea island red peas, cooked until tender in water with 2 teaspoons of extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1 cup long grain brown rice, or rice of your choice, cooked and kept warm
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
In This Recipe
  1. Pre heat the oven to 300 degrees. Place a Dutch oven over medium high heat and add 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of oil and when it gets hot add the onion and saute until it becomes tender. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes. Add the collards and turn them until all the ribbons are coated in oil. Put the top on the pot and slide it into the oven. Let them cook for one hour stirring them a couple of times.
  2. To make the dough combine the flour, masa, salt and baking powder in the bowl. Add the butter and oil and stir with a sturdy wooden spoon until you have cornmeal looking flour. Add the water and stir until the dough starts to come together. It should be a fairly dry dough. Need the dough until it becomes smooth. Cover it and let it rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Cut the sweet potatoes in half and scoop the flesh of the sweet potatoes into a bowl. In a small saute pan over medium heat add a bit of oil to coat the pan and then saute the shallot until it becomes tender. Then add the raisins, apple, cumin and curry. Saute until fragrant and then add the sherry to deglaze the pan. Add the pan ingredients along with the pumpkin seeds to the sweet potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.
  4. Cut the empanada dough into 9 equal parts. Flatten each ball and then coat them with a dusting of flour. Roll each ball out into a 6 inch circle. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons onto the circle. Then fold over the dough and either crimp with a fork or do the empanada rope roll. Place them on an ungreased sheet tray.
  5. Once you have assembles the empanadas wait until the collards are done. Remove the collards from the oven. Leave the collards to rest with the lid on they will stay plenty hot. Turn the oven to 400 degrees. Once it is to temp, brush the empanadas with milk and bake them for 20 minutes,
  6. Combine the hot rice with the beans and stir in the cilantro. Taste and adjust the seasoning adding more coconut oil if necessary to give them a nice coconut flavor. Taste the collards and adjust the seasoning. Plate it, platter it and serve it with hot sauce.

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Father, husband, writer, photojournalist and not always in that order.