Wednesday, July 21, 2010

50 mile meal - Gumbo Pastelitos

If you've been keeping up with my 50 mile meal shenanigans, then you know one of the biggest struggles is cooking sans-flour.

Since we don't really do a lot of wheat farming in NC, I've been experimenting with corn meal as a substitute - for some things, it's perfect, for others, a stretch. This week I really wanted to try for a pastry texture but wasn't sure how to accomplish it without the use of high-gluten stuffs, the like of which isn't locally available. So when I did some perusing and saw this pastelito recipe, I got super stoked, since sweet taters are HERE!

The basic idea is to take finely ground corn meal (like the stuff I used here) and grind it even more finely using a blender (not a food processor! gravity is your pal here). Make sure your blender is very clean and bone dry, or you'll have caking issues.

The filling is really up to you. I had some gumbo leftovers from work yesterday, so I reduced them a bit and chilled them - while a little fiesty to work with here (liquid can be a pastelito's worst enemy) it worked out fine. I also have been using locally made hoop cheddar in a lot of the 50 mile meals, and had a hunk, so a tsp or two of that, finely shredded, went on top of the gumbo before the packet got all folded up. Lots of flavor here, kids!

I'm becoming more and more of a fan of this little produce stand. They've been doing some farming of their own, and had all sorts of organic peppers, cherry tomatoes, squash, and some new corn available yesterday, so I don't just head there for local eggs, butter, and the aforementioned hoop cheddar anymore (which are also reasonably priced and tasty). Strange surroundings, tho - in between two car dealerships. Such is Independence Blvd, amirite?

Grub Time!!

Gumbo Pastelitos
makes 5-6 pastries

1 large sweet potato, unpeeled
1 egg yolk
1.5 - 2 cups finely ground corn meal
2 tablespoons butter
Salt to taste
Oil for frying

1.5 cups filling of your choice (my gumbo recipe is based off of this epicurious post, with a fair number of substitutions, and using farm fresh tomatoes, of course. A more traditional filling can be found here). I promise, I'll put up my gumbo recipe this week :)

First things first - pierce your tater several times with a fork and drop it into a pot of boiling water. Cover and cook 40-45 minutes, until cooked all the way through. Rinse, chop, and puree it in your blender or food processor. Remove to large bowl.

Mix in butter, egg yolk, and salt. Now, add your corn flour (that you already ground to a fine flour earlier, remember?) gradually, and using your hands or a wooden spoon, incorporate everything until it resembles loose biscuit dough. Ball it up and wrap it in saran wrap, stick it in the freezer for about an hour, or until it firms up a bit. If you haven't made a filling yet, you can use this time to do so! Make sure to check out the tips at the bottom of this post before continuing.

Lay some parchment paper down, and tear another sheet to the same size. Use your rolling pin on top of the second paper layer to get the dough nice and thin (1/4 inch or thinner) then cut rounds out of it about 3 inches wide (I used a large cookie cutter, but a small bowl or large glass will do in a pinch). This "pastry" is cranky - you must use parchment paper. Also, if you have trouble moving the cut rounds to another surface to fill, use a small spatula to peel them away and place them elsewhere.

Put about 1 tsp shredded cheddar in the center of one round. Spoon a tablespoon of filling over the cheese. Carefully lay another circle atop your filling and gently press down and around the edges. Using a fork, pattern the edges all the way around. Set aside while you make the rest.

Heat an inch of oil in a heavy skillet to about 350f. Test the oil's heat by putting a small piece of leftover dough in and if it sizzles and bubbles, you're good. Fry, two at a time, for 1-2 minutes on a side, or until crisp and Browned. Drain on paper towels.

A note about this "pastry" we're using here. Cranky, cranky cranky. Crumbly. Breaks easily. A bit thick to be a true pastry. But gluten free, full of flavor, and crunchy due to all the corn included. Think of it as thin cornbread. Or an almost-arepa. If it gets sticky, no harm is wetting your hands a teeny bit - it isn't as sensitive to water as flour-based pastries are. And the colder, the better. Good luck!


  1. Holy moly those are things of beauty and I want a couple!

  2. Thanks sista! They we're tasty. Funny I didn't realize that they were pretty much Arepas until I bit into one :D