Last night, John and I had a few friends over for a Latin/South American themed cooked out. The menu: Spicy Dark and Stormies Green Chile Chicken and Cheese Empanadas
Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Chimichurri, Spanish Rice and Grilled Vegetables
Dulce de Leche Ice Cream Pie
and of course a smattering of international wines as well...
I was able to prepare most everything in advance as we had to swing by another get together prior to our own. Also great because it meant less running around the kitchen and more cocktail time on the porch with our friends.
I started actually with the dessert the night before. I wanted to do something with Dulce de Leche, a staple in the world of Latin-American baking, but I wasn't really interested in taking 5 hours to make my own this time- so I decided to turn to my dear friend Haagen-Dazs.
I set two containers of Haagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche ice cream out to soften while I worked on the crust. I combined half a package of Nabisco Chocolate Cookies and 3 tablespoons of sugar in the food processor. I whirred it into fine crumbs and then added 1/2 stick melted butter down the tube while it was running. As soon as it came together to a moist sand-like texture, I pressed it into a pie plate to form a crust. I then baked it at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes. While it was baking, I melted one cup of semi sweet chocolate chips in a saucepan over med-low heat with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a tablespoon or so of Kahlua to give it a real Mexican chocolate flavor. I poured the melted chocolate into the bottom of the crust as it came out of the oven and let it sit for a few minutes to cool. I then added the ice cream, covered the whole thing with foil and put back in the freezer. Very very easy.
Saturday morning, I tackled the Empanadas. This was my first stab at empanadas and to be honest, I was a bit intimidated by the pastry dough. I did some google research to see if anyone had highly recommended short cuts such as store bought pie crust or pizza dough- but in the end, I decided to pony up and make my own. SO GLAD I DID!!! 1) It came together really quickly 2) the dough was very easy to work with and 3) the flaky crunchiness of the masa harina (corn flour) in the dough was the best part about them!
I used Tyler Florence's recipe- http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/green-chile-chicken-and-queso-empanadas-recipe/index.html- following the dough instructions exactly however I tweaked the filling a little bit. I purchased two rotisserie leg quarters from which I peeled all of the meat and then chopped it rather finely. I then added 1.5 cups of Harris Teeter brand Salsa Verde instead of making one from scratch. I frequently make Tyler's Green Chile Enchiladas as well and for that I always make the Salsa Verde myself so I can say honestly that Harris Teeter's is really very close to the real thing. I also used shredded monterrey jack cheese instead of queso fresco. I found that a tablespoon of filling was just right for each circle of dough and that once folded in half, crimping the edges with a fork worked just fine without the egg wash. The recipe made 28 or so empanadas total- perfect for a party of seven people. I arranged them on a buttered cookie sheet, covered with foil and refrigerated until right before our guests arrived.
Next I prepared the Chimichurri sauce. I actually watched Tyler Florence make this pork last week when I was catching up on some DVR'd Food TV and it inspired my Latin soiree idea. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/pork-tenderloin-with-chimichurri-recipe/index.html In the food processor I combined the garlic cloves, jalapenos, parsley, oregano, vinegar, lime juice, salt and peppercorns as he called for and actually added about 1/3 of a Spanish onion as well. I combined everything into a pesto looking sauce and then at the end- with the blade running- gradually poured the olive oil down the spout to be sure it emulsified well (the oil didn't separate). It smelled HEAVENLY, so I was really excited. I poured half of it over three trimmed pork tenderloins in a large, sturdy zip lock bag to marinate. I let it go about 4 hours and they were deliciously flavorful. Any longer and I'd be afraid the lime juice would start to pickle the meat. I then reserved the other half to serve alongside the grilled pork.
One more prep-ahead piece, the veggies. I had two bunches of asparagus, trimmed and two bell peppers (one orange/one yellow) sliced into 8 wedges each. I placed the veggies in a zip-lock and made a quick "dressing" for them. In a small bowl I mixed together 1/4 cup olive oil, juice of half a lime, pinch of salt, pepper, corriander, cumin and chile powder. I poured the dressing over the veggies and placed in the fridge.
Just before our friends arrived, I made myself a cocktail (very important step), put the empanadas in the oven and assembled the rice. In a medium size pot, I added 2 1/4 cups of water, 2 cups of basmati rice, and 2 cans of original Rotel. I let it soak for 20 minutes without any heat. I don't actually know why but Basmati rice instructions explicity include this step. I then turned the burner to high, brought it to a boil, turned the heat to simmer, covered the rice and cooked 15 minutes. Resisting the temptation to peak to see if it is done, I remove it from the burner and let it sit for 4-5 minutes, still covered before transfering to a serving dish. I kept it warm in the oven until we were ready to eat. My mother made this a lot when we were younger and I just love it. The rice is wonderfully moist and it has a nice heat from the Rotel. I like to kick it up even more with some Texas Pete while I'm eating it.
So back to the cocktail... as I mentioned a few weeks ago, our friends Tripp and Luci got us hooked on Dark and Stormies which are traditionally Myers or Gosling's run and ginger beer... dangerously delicious! John and I spiced them up this time with some freshly grated ginger and a wedge of lime- giving them a little extra zing. The cocktails went down rather smoothly alongside the empanadas, fresh out of the oven, and our friend Lee's prosciutto wrapped dates that were very tasty as well.
We moved on to dinner and of course wine. John grilled the pork to perfection, about medium, and the vegetables until tender and toasty but still crisp. I had about a cup of the chimichurri left over to pour over the sliced pork which was perfect. The bold flavors of the jalepeno the citrus and the fresh herbs were fantastic. The chimichurri sauce work really well on chicken, beef, shrimp and even the right kind of fish I would bet. Will definitely be adding it to the marinade/dipping sauce rotation.
Dessert was awaiting us in the freezer. As I cut and plated the slices, I drizzled each with some warm, store bought butterscotch caramel sauce. I can't take too much credit as the magic is really in the Haagen-Dazs ice cream , but the flavor of the Mexican chocolate crust added a little something extra and the presentation of the ice cream as a pie was of course a bit more elegant for a dinner party. Given that you could do any combination of flavors as an ice cream pie and it can be made ahead and ready to go, I'm already looking forward to experimenting with another ice cream pie creation soon!*really need to work on my food photography skills...
With dinner, dessert and beyond, we opened a number of wines courtesy of all of our guests, namely Tripp who rolled up with a box of about 9 bottles in tow. (As I've warned you, summer nights on our back porch have a tendency to go into the early mornings hours so I guess you could say he came prepared...) A few highlights, I'm sure I'm forgetting some of them: Spanish Las Rocas Grenache which was very yummy, also an Argentinian white wine that I recently discovered- Trivento 2007 Mendoza made from the lesser-known torrontes grape. It is very crisp and light, I just love it. Stuart and Lee added a Pinot Noir to the mix with an all time favorite, La Crema, and Tripp picked up some of the Dancing Bull Cab per my recent blog post as well!