The other day I catered a cocktail party for one of my best friends. I’ve done cocktail and dinner parties for years, so when asked, “do you want to cater a Cuban-themed cocktail party for 20?” I didn’t miss a beat. ‘Sure, love to!’ About a day or two later I realized I hadn’t done one that big before just moi. Add in that this party would be held outside of my home (and kitchen) and I would be responsible for the whole shootin’ match – bar, food (passed hors d’ oeuvres too), dishware, and décor. For TWENTY! Deep breaths followed, several, as I surveyed the potential insanity of my situation. OK Karin, you are a highly organized person. This isn’t going to be hard. Just pick a menu that can be made ahead and reheated, and keep it simple. A premature sense of calm wafted over me. Make a list and stick to it. I can do that.
What I failed to take into account was the cocktail party going on inside my body right now. The hormonal cocktail party. Oh for Pete’s sake, that’s not going to matter you think. You have obviously not received your invitation to this particular soiree yet. Come gentle reader; allow me to escort you in. Here, have a sip of scattered thinking-tini. You have a list you say, charted a course to guide you through the tasks? Of course you do. Let’s take a look at number 1, shall we? Set the menu. Ok, it’s a Cuban-theme, no problem. I’ll just go online and search Cuban recipes. Empanadas, great. Mini Cuban sandwiches, cool. Hmm, that’s a nice recipe for chicken cacciatore. I haven’t made that in a while. That might be nice for dinner. It would go well with that mascarpone orange tart I saw in the paper. Now were did I put that paper? Ah yes, in the bedroom. Oooo, an article on George Clooney. Think I’ll make a nice cup of tea and read it…Why is this package of empanada wrappers on the dresser….CUBAN FOOD! FOCUS KARIN!! Yeah, list schmist. Getting everything done in order? PFFT! — out the window goes that idea. Sure, you still need a list if you even hope to get it all done. But with a sip of scattered-tini in your system, linear thought is more of a concept than an actual practice.
Let’s skip to the cooking. Pans a-simmer, empanadas a-baking, clothes a-shedding as a hot flash ensues. Suddenly you realize you are now standing in your drawers in front of open flames and the kitchen window. Oh look, there’s my across the courtyard neighbor, waiving. Now add in a dash of mood swing, and decoratively crimping a lovely little savory pastry becomes the DEMON EMPANADA FROM HELL as you hurl it across the room, creating your personal Cuban missile crisis.
In the end it all came together, and the party was a resounding success. The room looked beautiful, they raved about the food, and the guest of honor felt welcome and loved. So what will I say if I’m asked to do this again? “Sure, love to!” Short-term memory loss is common during menopause they say…
The best part of the Cuban cocktail party, other than seeing my dear friend so happy, was the new recipes I discovered. Empanadas are really just savory or sweet little hand pies. And anything wrapped inside a piecrust is good by me. The biggest hit of these was actually the simplest to make. Just a few ingredients yielded a taste to illicit moans of yumminess from every mouth. These Cream Cheese and Guava Empanadas are quick, easy and guaranteed to make even Fidel smile. Buen provecho!
Cream Cheese and Guava Empanadas
Makes 18 mini empanadas
Empanadas are just another word for turnovers, and this simple recipe makes amazing little pastries, whatever you call them!
- 1 package (1 lb) frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1 8oz. package cream cheese (cold), cut into 18 equal pieces about an inch wide
- 18 1” x ½” squares of guava paste (I like Goya brand. It comes in a large circular tin and is easily found in the Latin food section of most markets. Leftover guava paste is wonderful on a cheese platter or toasted cream cheese and jelly sandwich, and keeps well in the fridge.)
- 1 egg, beaten with a teaspoon of water to make an egg wash
- ¼ cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tsp milk
- ¼ tsp vanilla
- Tiny pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Roll out each sheet of puff pastry to a 9 by 9-inch square. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut each sheet into 9 3-inch squares. Set a pastry square in front of you with 1 of the corners pointing toward you. Place 1 piece of cream cheese diagonally over the center of the square. Top with a piece of guava paste. Brush the edges of the square with beaten egg. Fold the upper half of the square over the filling to make a neat triangle. Crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat with the remaining turnovers, placing them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet as you go. ** If the dough begins to get too warm, just pop the fridge to chill it a little.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and puffy. While the turnovers are baking, mix the confectioners’ sugar with the milk and vanilla, stirring to dissolve any lumps. Set aside. Cool the turnovers on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes then drizzle the glaze over them. Serve warm or at room temperature. Calories: about 190 per empanada.
** This is a great recipe to make ahead and freeze. Just put the unbaked empanadas on a tray in the freezer until hard then pop into a freezer bag. Take out as many as you need, defrost, bake and glaze at will.