pulled pork empanadas

When your fridge houses a huge vat of slow-roasted pork shoulder bathing in its own fat and juices, it’s hard to think of anything else. While in the shower, in class, and in the midst of conversation with others, I mentally pored over my pantry ingredients and had a mild epiphany when I remembered the frozen pie crust I had stashed away in the freezer for, well, a pie. But one cannot be constrained by such silly original plans; this crust would serve a higher purpose – it would be the vehicle by which I would shovel more of that wonderful pork into my pie-hole.

If I were a better food-blogger and a worse student, I might have made my own dough; it’s really not as intimidating as you’d think. On this particular weeknight, this was not the case. But I will have you know that I do not haphazardly buy pre-made products; I researched this Trader Joe’s pie crust extensively on Chowhound.com (an excellent resource for home cooks). When I unfurled it from its package, I saw squares of butter dotting the dough. I took this as a very good sign of things to come. 

With a sprinkling of flour on my board, I rolled out the crust slightly since the it naturally puffs up to be rather thick and flakey – beautiful for a fruit pie, but potentially distracting for a pork and cheese filled pastry. 

Shredded pork shoulder - just as lovely as when I saw it last.

Enhanced with chopped cilantro, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, and fire-roasted green chiles.

I don’t own a ring mold, so I cut around a plastic cup that was about 4-inches in diameter (it was a Solo cup, in fact – classy).

Dolloped with a tablespoon of pork, dabbed with a bit of water around the edges, and sealed with the tines of a fork.

A light coating of egg wash and a sprinkle of salt before being baked on a parchment lined sheet.

A buttery pie crust always needs some acidity and brightness, whether it is from the fruit it covers or from a fresh lime-spiked pico de gallo.

Let’s call this one a method or inspiration, rather than a recipe. If your stars perfectly align, meaning you have leftover pork (or chicken or beef) and a handy pie crust, get creative with your filling additions. Throw in some potatoes, chopped hard-boiled egg, or your favorite barbecue or hot sauce.

I like to pretend that my portions are limited to what I lay out in pictures, but let’s be real here – I ate four of these for dinner.

pulled pork empanadas
serves 2 as an entrée, 4 as an appetizer
1 disc of frozen pie crust (the Trader Joe’s box comes with two discs)
1 cup of pork
3/4 cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or any kind you like)
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons of fire-roasted green chiles (also sold at Trader Joe’s)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 egg, beaten

Defrost your pie crust according to instructions, and preheat the oven to 400°. Don’t let the crust get too warm or it will be difficult to handle. Ideally, it should be cold, firm, but still pliable.

Mix the filling ingredients together – the pork, cheese, cilantro, chiles, cumin, and paprika. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  This may make more filling than you will actually end up needing for the empanadas, but I saved the filling for an omlette the next morning. I don’t really throw anything away, in case you haven’t noticed yet.

Making sure to flour your board, roll out the pie crust until its about 1/16” thin. Cut out circles with a diameter of 4 inches for 8 empanadas; bigger for a heartier empanada and smaller for a more snack-sized empanada.

For each 4-inch round circle of dough, dot with a heaping tablespoon of filling.  Using your finger, lightly wet the edges of the dough and fold over, using the tines of a fork to seal.  Lay empanadas on a parchment lined baking sheet, and lightly brush with the beaten egg. Sprinkle each empanada with a bit of salt.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden.


Isabelle @ Crumb said...

I never quite know what to do with leftover pulled pork (aside from reheating it with a little sauce to make more sandwiches) and we never manage to finish off an entire batch on the first go, so this recipe is totally going into why-the-hell-didn't-I-think-of-this-sooner pile. :)
Now I just need to decide when I'm going to make some more pulled pork, since we're all out of leftovers!

Anonymous said...

Wow I am going to try these tonight. Bought too much pie crust for Thanksgiving and have pulled pork in the freezer.