I cook the way I write. Put a blank sheet of paper in front of me and I'm lost. But show me a writing prompt, like, "Create a poem with the Eiffel Tower, a clock, and the color burgundy," and I'm fine. It might not be the greatest poem, but I can do it. Likewise, I'm not a pantry cook. I can't open the doors, take a looksie and come up with some miracle dinner. But give me a prompt, a challenge, like, "Create a sweet or savory baked good with pumpkin," and the cogs start whirring. Brainstorming begins.
For this challenge, I knew I wanted savory. Sweet pumpkin baked goods are too easy. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies. Easy peasy. Pairing pumpkin with savory is much more of a challenge. What flavors go well with pumpkin? Sage, apples, sweet sausage. And so was born Pumpkin-Sausage Empanadas.
Pumpkin-Sausage EmpanadasMakes 10 using a 4 3/4-inch ravioli/pierogi/dumpling maker
2 frozen pie dough, thawed*
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 can pumpkin
2-3 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
Salt, Pepper, or Crushed Red Pepper to taste
1/2 a Granny Smith apple, chopped fine
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cook the sausage until done. Add the can of pumpkin, the sage, and about 2 swirls of maple syrup until heated through. Salt and pepper to taste. To assemble, roll out the pie dough using a rolling pin. Cut the empanada using a ravioli/pierogi/dumpling maker (I got mine from Amazon). Place the cut piece in the maker, floury-side down, and fill with 1 tsp of filling and a generous pinch of green apple. Fold over. Make sure edges are pressed together, and place on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes in a 450-degree oven until golden brown. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce - I made mine with hoisin, Sriracha sauce, and maple syrup.
These turned out great! Sausage and pumpkin go well together - the meatiness of the sausage plays against the sweetness of the pumpkin. The maple syrup brings them both together into one scrumptious bite. Like dipping breakfast sausage into your morning pancakes. I added some red pepper as well, so on first bite you get meat, sweet, spice, and the tang of apple to finish. The sweet-hot of the sauce just amplifies everything.
So, what did I learn? First off, I have tons of leftover filling. This made 10 empanadas from 2 pie crusts. Maybe I'll dump the remaining filling over pasta? Add a little parmesan and there's tomorrow night's dinner. In a pinch, prepared pie dough works great. Use it and you could whip these babies up on a weeknight. The apples didn't provide as much acid as I'd like. Next time I'll use pickled red onions instead. Or maybe lemon/lime zest? The dipping sauce wasn't right. I was trying to incorporate maple syrup into it, but it came out Asian-tasting, when I wanted more Italian or Mediterranean.
In any case, this experiment was a success. Tasty enough as a party appetizer.....maybe I'll have some with champagne to ring in the New Year...