Monday, September 19, 2011

Chilean Independence Dinner

Chi-Chi-Chi! Le-Le-Le! Viva Chile!

Chilean Independence Day is the 18th of September.  You can read all about it here, here, and here.  I'm not a historian (an?), I'm just here for the love of food.  :-)  But I do love all things Chile and miss it dearly so we could not let the 18th go by and not celebrate in our own little way.  Veganized meals!  No need to spit on our shoes, we're just enjoying it with you all!

Above: Dinner!
Below: Dessert!

Pastel de Choclo, Empanadas de Queso y Alfajores.

The inevitable question arose last night... "What does that mean?"  As in, translation, not the origin of the meals.  I guess you can roughly translate it to Corn Cake or Pudding, but that's not really accurate.  Corn Pie?  Eh, maybe... That's a tough one.  Pastel pretty much means cake, so it would be on the savory end of the spectrum, like a veggie cake of some sort (I'd say crab cake, but I've never had one so I can't vouch for the similarity).  You do sprinkle sugar on top of the Pastel de Choclo so there is definitely some sweetness to it.  Sigh.  I give up.  Empanadas de Queso are Cheese Empanadas, and with empanadas being the national food of Chile... well, you get the picture.  Alfajores are cookie sandwiches with manjar (a type of caramel) in the center, and usually they are coated in chocolate that was just asking too much now.  I don't know if that link will work for you... it's just a picture of the someone else coating an alfajor in chocolate.  The manjar link's recipe is pretty much what I made except that I used vanilla extract and scaled the entire recipe way down for just three.  Most of the pictures I found though didn't have the chocolate coating so I wasn't too far off!

Today I'll just post one recipe, surprising you with the other two later this week ;-)  Circumstances, folks!

By the way, this is my Mom's butter tray (or margarine tray these days).  We call him Camote, after our beloved tubby beagle in Chile who used to lay like that.  Love you Toto!

EMPANADAS DE QUESO (the "easy" way)
Roughly 4 servings, but you could probably make a lot more if you play with the measurements.

I say "easy" because working with phyllo dough can be extremely challenging, but it's worth it for that crispy exterior.  You can make your own simple dough with flour/water/salt/oil which I'll do next time just to provide a recipe for it.  Apparently, with the right kitchen gadgets you can make phyllo dough. Hmmm....

1/2 box of phyllo dough, thawed according to package directions or 6 minutes in the microwave under the 'auto defrost' setting because you didn't remember it had to thaw overnight...
2 cups of cheese, a white cheese like mozarella is preferred.
Water for working with (1/4-1/3 cup)

1. Take out a few sheets of phyllo dough.  Anywhere from 4-7 per empanada is good.  Heat oven to 375F.
2. Measure a half a cup of white cheese in the center and fold up.  This is the difficult part to explain in words and I was unable to take pictures because my hands were wet and gooey.  So, here goes:
To fold (using the above picture as a reference):
- fold the left side over the cheese.
- fold the right side over the dough that's over the cheese.
- wet your fingers and paste that side down so they stick together.
- pick an open end, say the side closest to you and roll once, using water to moosh it together.
- roll again and use water again to stick it all together.  Twice was enough for me.  Don't be afraid to use enough water too, it'll only help.
- repeat with the last side, using water to keep it together.
- dip your fingers is the water and run them over all the folded sides so it all pastes together.
3. Repeat this process with the remaining dough and cheese until you are happy.
4. Pop those fellas in the oven at 375F.  Bake about 30 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and let them cool.
Totally awesome.
I include the above picture again to point out that yes, vegan cheese does indeed melt and stretch.  We're badass cholesterol free freaks!

In the middle of cooking, Sage made her presence known... 
She's quite the comfortable cat.  She spent most of the cooking session rolling onto different positions on her back.  I have yet to capture her when she is completely horizontal, her head back and her paws curled like above over her chest.  Ah, life is difficult...

When I returned home, I was working on stuff and Stitch decided it was time to go to bed...
Please note that she is using my touch pad as a pillow.  I tried to type around her head, which worked actually.  A few spelling errors but nothing I couldn't handle.  Plus, every time I would pause and then type again, I would feel her paw curl up like a pseudo-knead on my leg.  Cutie pie.  Cat 1, Human 0.  Ok, ok, Human 1 also!

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