Sunday, November 15, 2009

Short Ribs & Discos Pastry - Frozen Find at Whole Foods Market

The holidays are upon us, which means last-minute appetizers for Christmas parties could be looming on the horizon. These Discos were a nice find for someone like me who is challenged in the pastry department but still wants crank out some crispy & flaky food for the shared table.

For some unknown reason I happened to be browsing the frozen foods section of Whole Foods (we normally don't buy too much frozen, processed food - organic or not) and I saw these little pastry shells sitting beside an array of pre-made empanadas. Somewhere between a wonton or spring roll wrapper and full-on puff-pastry sheets, these 'discos' looked like the perfect solution for quick-fix stuffed appetizers who require a flaky shell.

I bought short ribs, which were seared then braised for 2 hours at a low temp - 325 - until the fell apart into a nice shred. Elizabeth cleaned out the bits of gristle and what we were left with was a decent pile of shredded tender rib-meat.

The meat was sauced in a mild tomato-base, with a liberal douse of vinegar to break up the gelatinous character of the meat...a handful of ancho powder, smoked paprika and a few other seasonings nudged the filling into shape.

The shells were then stuffed and sealed tightly. The first batch we deep-fried and they turned out delicious...crispy on the outside, cracking open with a crunch to reveal a soft and creamy inside. We kept the oil hot enough to prevent sogginess, but you pretty much need to eat these as soon as you can. Overstuffing was the only thing I would avoid next threw off the balance between the crust and the filling and made for a soggier pie.

We also threw one of the pastries in the oven and baked it around 350 until golden brown and flaky. The difference was startling...the shells puffed up nicely and were beyond flaky, much the opposite of the crisped pockets of the fried shells. Unfortunately, our experiments with savory baked pies were overall less impressive, as the filling tended to dry out in the oven.

The baked aren't as decadent and really tended to work better with desserts. For example, the flaky crust paired well with some of Elizabeth's parent's homemade pear preserve as a filling...a bit of vanilla ice cream was all that was missing for that perfect 'pie' effect.

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