Simple holiday appetizers

Brazilian Empanadinhas with Shrimp and Hearts of Palm
Adapted from a recipe from South American Cooking by Barbara Karoff (Aris Books, 1989)
(Makes approximately 4 dozen pies.)

For dough:
2 ½ tablespoons sesame seeds
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
2 ¼ cups unbleached flour

For filling:
2 large eggs
½ lb. medium or large shrimp in shell
¼ cup chopped scallions (about 3)
1 ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
1 ½ tablespoon flour
1 ½ cups milk
1 14-ounce can hearts of palm, rinsed and chopped
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped black (ripe) olives
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro or parsley
½ teaspoon paprika
Pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In medium skillet at medium-low heat, toast sesame seeds until golden, stirring constantly and watching carefully.

In large mixing bowl, blend sesame seeds with cream cheese, butter, Tabasco and salt. Add grated Parmesan and mix in. Add flour in batches, stirring to incorporate. Pat dough into ball and chill for 30 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, add eggs gently to a saucepan of boiling water to cover, lower heat and simmer 19 minutes. Remove from heat and pour out hot water, add cold several times to cool eggs. Peel, chop and set aside.

Bring a couple of quarts of well-salted water to a boil and add shrimp. Boil two minutes, drain, then run cold water over to stop cooking. Let cool, shell and dice into small pieces.

Preheat oven to 450° F.

In medium skillet or saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat and add scallions. Cook and stir until they soften, about 5 to 10 minutes, then stir in flour and cook another 5 minutes or so, stirring. Add milk gradually and cook gently, stirring or whisking, until sauce thickens somewhat. Remove from heat and add eggs, shrimp, hearts of palm, olives, cilantro and paprika. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Roll out piece of dough on floured board to thickness of about ¼ inch, then cut into three-inch circles with glass or biscuit-cutter. Add small amount of filling to each dough circle, fold in half and pinch to seal. Place on cookie sheet and crimp with tines of fork. Repeat with remaining dough, keeping it as cool as possible by putting scraps back in refrigerator.

Bake empanadinhas until golden, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Read more about local cuisine and learn about new restaurants on Ulster Publishing’s dinehudsonvalley.com.

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