Organic bacon, fennel, and apple empanadas with sage

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Hey all, did you know that this week is National Organic week? So why not take this opportunity to swap out any generic food favourites for an organic alternative?

When most of us think of organic foods, the first thing that tends to jump to mind is fruit and veg. But did you know meat can be organic too? This week I have partnered with duBreton, North America’s largest producer of organic and certified humane pork to create a delicious, freezer friendly recipe: Organic bacon, fennel, and apple empanadas.

An empanada is a typical South American hand pie, made with a flaky, pie-like crust and stuffed with any number of meat or veggie fillings.

For this recipe, I channelled the classic flavours of fall: bacon, sweet onion and fennel, and of course some crisp fall apples. In my opinion, the best thing about empanadas (other than their deliciousness; of course!) is their freeze-ability and portability.

Sure, making an empanada is sometimes a bit of an undertaking. I will be the first to admit, that it can be time-consuming to prepare the dough, create the farce and then assemble. But, if you are willing to make the effort, you can make a huge batch and freeze them, and simply pop them into the oven when you need a quick snack.

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That being said, you can always purchase premade empanada dough and save yourself a step – buy hey, that’s not as authentic, now is it?

Once you get the basics down, the flavour combinations are endless.

In this very Canadian and very autumnal iteration, I relied heavily on the delicious smokiness and beautifully rendered bacon fat from duBreton’s organic black forest smoked bacon. The fat helps the flavour to go a long way and provides a beautiful moist filling.

Enjoy these empanadas on their own, or pair with a seasonal salad to make a full meal.

Organic bacon, fennel, and apple empanadas with sage

Prep time: 1-4 hours (including resting dough)

Cook time: 45 minutes

Serves: 12

Ingredients:

Basic Empanada Dough :

4 ½ cups (1000 ml) all-purpose flour, sifted (plus more for dusting)

1 Tablespoon salt

1 cup (250 ml) chilled unsalted butter – cut into small cubes (store in refrigerator after cutting until ready to use)

2/3 (150 ml) cups of ice cold water

3 eggs, 1 set aside for assembly

2 Tablespoons (30 ml) of white vinegar

2 Tablespoons (30 ml) water

 

Filling

16 slices of duBreton organic black forest bacon, bacon fat reserved

2 cups onion (500ml), sliced into ½ cm discs

2 Tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil, divided

2 Tablespoons (30 ml) unsalted butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup fennel (250 ml), finely minced

2 cups apple (500 ml), peeled, cored, and cut into ½ cm cubes

2-3 Tablespoons (30-45 ml)(stock chicken or vegetable)

2 Tablespoons (30 ml) fresh sage leaves, minced, plus extra whole leaves for garnish

1 Tablespoon (15 ml) freshly cracked black pepper

Pinch of salt

Method

Begin by preparing the empanada dough.

Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl.

Incorporate the chilled butter using fingers or pastry blender. At this stage, it's important not to overwork the butter. The mixture should be mealy with some generous lumps of butter remaining.

Whisk 2 eggs, chilled water and vinegar together and add to the flour-butter mixture, mixing sparingly with a large fork until just combined (or on low in a food processor). At this point, the mixture will look uneven and not completely combined; fret not, it will come together.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently (about five to ten times) until the mixture just comes together. Form into a ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour, up to four hours.

Prepare the filling

Preheat oven to 400F. Arrange the bacon on a large foil-lined baking sheet; ensuring the foil comes up the sides of the sheet, providing full coverage.

Roast the bacon for 15 minutes. It should be cooked but soft; remove tray from oven. Let bacon cool slightly then chop into rough 1-inch pieces; set aside. Very carefully, pour the rendered bacon fat from the sheet into an ovenproof dish; set aside.

Set a Dutch oven or other large pot over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil and then the onions; sauté over medium heat until the onion are just softened. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue to stir and cook the onion until caramelized, about 30 minutes. Once the caramelized colour is nearly achieved add in the butter and garlic. Stir to melt. Remove onion from the pot.

 

In the same pot add remaining oil as needed and the fennel; sauté over medium-low heat until the fennel is soft and translucent - about 10 minutes.

Add in the apple and stock cook another 10 minutes. Add the chopped sage, chopped bacon, salt, pepper, and 1-2 Tbsp of reserved bacon fat; mix well. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. IT is important for the filling to be cool when assembling the empanadas, otherwise, the butter in the dough will melt.

Once the filling is ready, remove the empanada dough from the refrigerator and cut in half.

On a floured work surface roll dough out until it is about ¼ of an inch thick.

Cut into 6-inch circles using a dough cutter or plate and sharp paring knife. Repeat with remaining dough.

Assemble the empanadas

Whisk together the remaining egg and 2 Tbsp of water in a mug.

Working one at a time assemble the empanadas. Place 1/3 cup of filling in the centre of the empanada dough. Using a brush, wet the entire outer edge of the dough with the egg wash; fold the dough over the filling and pinch the edges together, making a half circle. Crimp the edges using the prongs of a fork. Brush a small amount of the egg wash on the top of the empanada and affix a whole safe leaf to the top, sealing with another swipe of egg wash.

 

Repeat until you have used up all the dough and filling.

 Place empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze overnight. After they are solid transfer the empanadas into freezer bags and store frozen for up to one month.

 

To prepare

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine 1 egg and 2 Tbsp water in a mug and whisk.

Place frozen empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush generously with egg wash. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

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