Pumpkin and Roast Pork Empanadas

Yes, it's a meat pie on the veggie blog. But it is half veggie, and if you don't eat pork, I bet it would be good with some sauteed kale instead of the pork. I think I like pies because they are a main dish that can incorporate lots of veggies, and you really don't have to think of a side dish - just a pile of fresh crunchy greens for contrast. I guess I like to not have to come up with more than one fabulous dish per meal. I like to make side dishes too, but then I don't have the energy to think of a main dish to go with it!

I was looking to use up a couple of Sweet Dumpling squashes I had lying around, and yesterday was a big day of roasting, so I cooked them up. They are much like acorn squashes only spotted and not pointed on the bottom. In any recipe that calls for pumpkin, it is safest to use canned pumpkin OR any type of winter squash - acorn, butternut, kabocha, sweet dumpling, delicata, they are all pretty much interchangeable . If you cook up an actual pumpkin, whether it's a big jack o' lantern or a little pie pumpkin, it releases a huge amount of water, and you have to be really careful to press all the liquid out until it is very dry. Winter squashes are grown in the summer, just like summer squashes (like zucchini or pattypan) - they are only called "winter" squashes because they will keep nicely all through the winter at room temperature or below.

This recipe is adapted from The Border Cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison, a couple of big New Mexico foodies.  An empanada is a little turnover, usually filled with some sort of sweet-savory meat mixture. This is a traditional filling from Espanola, NM.  The Golden Crown Panaderia (Mexican bakery) down the street from our house makes fruit empanadas, fillled with such delights as pineapple, apricot, blueberry, pumpkin, you never know what they'll have!  There is a special dough for the crust, but I just used frozen pie crust - this time I tried Trader Joe's, which comes flat, and it was pretty good.  Be forewarned that this recipe makes 16 pretty good-sized empanadas (enough to feed about six people!)

4 pre-made pie crusts

1 cup raisins
1/2 cup brandy
1 pound pork loin
1 medium onion, minced
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
2 cups water
2 cups canned pumpkin or baked acorn squash
1/2 cup pecans or pine nuts, toasted and chopped
1 Tbs minced fresh cilantro (optional, but next time I would use more!)
1 tsp red chile (next time I would use more!)
1 tsp ground allspice

1 egg
1 Tbs water

Combine raisins and brandy in a small bowl and set aside to soak.

Place the pork, onion, and squash (cut in half and lay cut side down) in a 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle the pork and onion with salt, and pour water over. Bake about 60 minutes at 375, until meat is cooked through and tender. Scoop the squash out of its shell and mash it up in a large bowl. Remove the meat (saving the stock) and shred it finely with a fork. I should have taken a picture of Dave doing this, but I forgot - sorry! You just hold the meat with one fork, and then scrape little shreds off with another fork.

Combine the squash, shredded meat, raisins (drained), and all the rest of the filling ingredients. Add stock to make the filling moist but not runny.

To make the turnovers, I cut each pie crust in quarters, put some filling in the middle of each triangle, folded them over into little wedges, then crimped the edges with a fork. At this point, you could freeze some to bake later! You don't have to thaw them, just plan on baking them a little longer. Brush the glaze lightly over the top of each empanada, and bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until golden brown.


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