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Snow Day

October 11, 2009

As we have already established, I live in Wisconsin.  While this is a lovely place in many regards, the seasons are touchy.  Spring tends to overstay its welcome deep into June, and fall cedes territory to winter far too quickly.  I mean, the first frost was barely two weeks ago.

Tonight, there is a chance of snow.

No, I am not joking.

Basically, it’s cold and miserable here, though at least the sun is out now.

I went to the farmers’ market Saturday morning at 7:30, about an hour later than usual.  I wore my heavy coat with a hat and scarf and gloves.  I got a large coffee from Cafe Soleil.  And then I froze my behind off for the next forty-five minutes as I wandered around the square collecting produce for the week.

So when I got home, shivering and grumpy and generally not in the mood to wait tables that evening, I decided to put together a little comfort food.  Inspired by Cafe Soleil’s delicious (but decidedly un-vegan) savory stuffed pastries.

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Puff Pastry Packets

1 sheet puff pastry
1/2 cup shallot confit (see notes)
1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms
2 small potatoes
1/2 tsp coarse-ground salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Earth Balance, melted

Notes: To make shallot confit (which is one of those things I try to keep on hand at all times), finely mince shallots and put them in a skillet with a glug or two of olive oil over very low heat, stirring frequently.  I understand that a glug of olive oil is not an internationally recognized measure of volume, but figure enough to coat each piece but leave very little if any on the pan itself.  After about 20 minutes, the bits should start to stick together a little.  The confit will take about 30-60 minutes, depending on how long you want to wait.  The longer you cook it, the better it is.

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Also: You can make your own puff pastry, but it’s a huge pain.  So I purchase mine frozen.  This is one of those places in life where laziness is a virtue, because I am (a) not compelled to make large batches of anything, and (b) not frightening the neighbors by shouting obscenities at pastry dough while my cat looks on in amusement.

1. Remove one sheet of puff pastry from freezer and set out to thaw.  If you’re making the confit along with the rest of the recipe, start it cooking now.

2. About 20 minutes after you’ve removed the pastry from the freezer, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Set a pan of salted water on the stove to boil.  Clean and roughly chop shiitake mushrooms; peel potatoes.

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3. Saute the mushrooms in a little oil over medium heat for about ten minutes, adding garlic in the last minute of cooking.  When the water boils, add potatoes and simmer until fork-tender.

4. In a food processor, combine mushrooms, garlic, potatoes, confit, salt, and pepper.  Pulse until ingredients are incorporated.

5. Cut pastry into 6 equal pieces.  On a cutting board, stretch one piece until it’s about 4×5 inches (the size of a large index card.)  Place 2 generous tablespoons of the filling on the left third of the pastry, then fold and seal into a packet.  Repeat with the rest of the pastry pieces.

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6. Brush each pastry with a little melted Earth Balance.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, keeping a close eye on them, until they have expanded and just begun to brown on top.  Serve immediately, with a mug of apple cider, if you’ve got some.

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