When Trent Marshall became interested in cooking, he turned to Ivy Ford, the woman who became his surrogate parent when his mother died young and unexpectedly. (The Empty Mint Mystery) As he became more adept in the kitchen, the natural curiosity that won him a Pulitzer Prize as an investigative reporter led him to want to know about the history of food.
Ivy was an accomplished cook and taught Trent well. From her he learned to prepare traditional Louisiana and other southern dishes. He wanted to know more.
Trent was fascinated to discover how many cultures have a version of the same dish. He also learned that many dishes were created for specific reasons. For instance, the humble meat pie.
Meat pies were traditionally working men’s food. Meat, chicken, vegetables, even fruit could be wrapped in a dough and either fried or baked. The worker would have a filling, nourishing lunch easily transported to the job.
As a Louisiana boy, Trent’s favorite was the Natchitoches meat pie. He had his mother’s recipe, which she had been given by Ivy. He loved those meat pies and made them from time to time. But he never shared the recipe.
He made them for Darcey. She didn’t ask for the recipe. If she ever got around to asking, Trent didn’t know how he would respond.
There are many other versions of the meat pie. In the UK’s Cornwall they are called pasties. They are pierogis in Poland.
Trent decided to try the empanada, the Latin American version of the meat pie.
He used ground pork in his empanadas. Beef or chicken work just as well.
Trent included cornichons in his recipe. The small, sour French pickles add a pleasant acidic quality. Feel free to use any other type of sour pickle or none at all, if you choose.
He also tossed in a little sugar. Ivy puts a pinch of sugar in everything she cooks. She told him sugar makes everything taste brighter.
You can make your own pie dough or use a good quality, ready made one.
Here, then, is Trent Marshall’s version of the empanada.
Trent Marshall’s Empanadas
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 roasted red pepper, chopped
1 pound ground pork
1 tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped cornichons
Saute the onion, roasted red pepper, and ground pork in the olive oil.
When the vegetables have softened and the pork is cooked through, add the tomatoes, parsley, sugar, and salt. Mix well. Remove from the heat and stir in the cornichons.
While the pork mixture cools, roll out the dough. Cut circles about four inches in diameter. Place some of the pork mixture in each circle. Fold one side over to create a half moon shaped pie. With the tines of a fork, crimp the edge of each pie so they hold together.
The empanadas can be baked in a 425 degree oven or deep fried. As the pork is already cooked, it’s only necessary to cook the assembled pies until the dough is browned.
As Trent would say, “Bon temps!”