What do you do with brie? You eat it, right? Put it on a cracker, maybe. Smoosh it on some French bread with a few apple slices, some honey mustard. Maybe you'll trim off the bloomy rind when your kids whine, "We don't like the white part!" or maybe you'll just say, "Suck it up and eat it."
So when I got my sample of Ile de France brie, it weighed on me. What the hell was I going to do with it? I'd already made an apricot paste for their Saint Andre, already tucked their goat cheese into a mess of spring vegetables. And now this brie. Honestly, my creative juices were out to lunch.
But I did have to test some empanadas for a tapas class (more info soon). Now empanadas are Spanish. Brie is French. I'm not saying it made culinary sense, but I killed those two birds with one big fat stone.
Martha Stewart saved my ass with her shockingly easy empanada dough, and an apple, some frozen spinach, and a few raisins came along for the ride. Look, if France and Spain can touch each other, no reason brie and empanadas can't do the same.
Recipe for Spinach, Brie, and Apple Empanadas
You can fill empanadas with anything from chicken and beef to chorizo and shrimp. Or you can go vegetarian like I did with this spinach, apple, and brie version. The dough recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres Handbook (Clarkson Potter, 1999). I only used about 1/2 the dough (I saved the rest), so you'll have plenty left over for future empanada escapades.
Makes 12 to 16 empanadas, plus plenty of leftover dough
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons shortening
12 tablespoons cold butter, diced
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup minced sweet onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Fuji apple, cored, peeled, cut into small dice
1/2 cup (packed) spinach leaves, rough chopped (you may use frozen, but defrost first and press dry)
4 ounces brie (or other cheese), diced
1/4 cup raisins, plumped for 5 minutes in boiling water, drained, and pat dry
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash
In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Add the shortening and butter and pulse about 20 times until sandy. Turn the machine on and add the water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream. Then pulse in short bursts about 25 times until the dough pulls clean away from the sides and begins to form a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic, press it into a disk, and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until softened, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes. Raise the heat and add the apple and saute 4 minutes longer, or until apple softens and begins to turn golden. Add the spinach and wilt for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in the cheese and raisins, season with salt and pepper, and refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the empanadas, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out one half of the dough (freeze the rest) on a floured board until about 1/8" thick. Stamp out rounds with a drinking glass or a 3-1/2 inch cutter and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle. Dip your finger in the egg wash and run it around the perimeter, then fold the empanadas in half, enclosing the filling. (Make a little decorative fluting or scalloping around the edges, if desired.) Brush the tops with more egg wash.(You may need to refrigerate the dough circles or empanadas if the dough has gotten too warm.)
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the empanadas are golden. I blasted mine under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes at the end to get some nice color on the top. You may want to do the same.