I cannot put into words my distain for my neighborhood. Wait. Yes I can. I fucking hate my neighborhood. Ugh. And I HATE that I hate it. Look: I live in Manhattan. You either get space or location. Unless you’re Kelly Ripa or Sarah Jessica Parker. Then I guess you get both. But I’m not either of those [I’m sure] lovely women. I’m Jenny Lee Stern and I live in the ghetto. I am certainly blessed to have the top two floors of a renovated townhouse. But I live in the ghetto. The chicken bones on the sidewalk, babies screaming outside at 10pm, skunk weed wofting through my huge windows ghetto. Except to get on a train and go somewhere normal, I would never leave my house. I don’t belong here. I don’t feel safe or comfortable or like myself. There’s nothing of interest to me here. Or so I thought...
One day, while JAPily moping down the street, almost 6 months pregnant with my second daughter I smelled a smell unlike any I had smelled before. A savory, spicily delicious smell that seemed to be oddly coming from a bakery. A bakery with super cheesy wedding cakes in the window. I bakery I would never go into. I sugary, gritty icing kinda place. You know what I mean. Well, there on the counter was what I (well, my nose/fetus) had been drawn in by. The girl working there spoke about as much English as I spoke Spanish. Like 4 words. We worked together. We figured it out. She sold me 3 pastelitos. Pollo. For $1 each. And she did so for the next 4 consecutive days. Obsession. Basically a mini empanada. Basically a fried little pie filled with whatever (chicken, in this case) inside. I’m so white. So stupid. Like I discovered them. Gimme a break! I was pregnant and sad and it’s the one thing I had to hold on to in this God forsaken place. So, I decided (a YEAR later) that I would conquer these little mouth orgasms.”I will make my own empanada! And I will never have to leave my house again!” I proclaimed, arms raised like a carb-crazed, agoraphobic, half-Jewish Evita.
This recipe has duel purpose:
a)Make something intimidatingly ethnic.
b) Make good use of leftovers.
Jeremy and I hosted and EMMY party on Sunday in honor of our friend, Peter Dinklage who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. He’s on the HBO show “Game of Thrones.” So, keeping with the theme I set up a HUGE Medieval feast: stew, chicken legs, meats, cheeses, fruit. Well, in true “me” form I over did it. We raped Costco and had WAY to much left over. So since then I’ve been trying to come up with new and interesting ways to use everything up. Oh, PS: PETE WON!!!!! The EMMY! His brother and a bunch of friends were over and it was SO EXCITING! It’s an awesome show and hes phenomenal on it. Well, obvi, he won the EMMY. Anyhoo- back to the food:
1 large shallot (or onion or whatever. I happened to have 1 sad shallot laying around about to mold so I used it.) minced
Leftover hard salami, about 6 inches? (it was a combo. a little genoa salami, a little sopressata), diced
Chunk of smoked gouda about the size of your fist, shredded
Handful of baby spinach leaves, chopped
6 Goya discos (little frozen circles of empanada dough. In my neighborhood grocery store there’s about 1,000 different kinds to choose from. You may not find any. I can’t say for certain, but I’d be willing to bet pie crust cut into 5” circles would work just fine)
Throw shallots and salami into a pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook for a few minutes till shallots crisp up a little and salami renders out a bit. Take off heat and set aside. Roll out each disk a bit. Fill one side with meat/onion mixture, top with a bit of cheese and spinach. Fold over and crimp with a fork to seal. Nora’s toddler fork worked perfectly. In a second skillet, heat bout 3 “glugs” each of olive and canola oil over a medium-high heat. Drop a little shred of cheese in. When it starts sizzling drop sealed meat pies, 3 at a time into the hot oil. They will cook for literally a minute per side or till golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Pair with a classy can of Tecate or Modelo from the corner bodega(also left over from the party). Eat.
You can fill these little suckers with ANYTHING. Whatever you have. The dough is like $1.50 or less per package. Use leftover chicken, meatloaf, seafood, cheese, seriously anything. Your husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/lover will think you’re a total f-ing rockstar (a hot Latina rockstar), your kids will most likely eat in cause it looks like a hot pocket, and your friends will be surprised and impressed that you didn’t burn your house down.
So there, Sugar Hill, Manhattan, USA. Take that! If ya can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.