Gumbo Hand Pies

By: Matt Armendariz

If you want to put an instant smile on my face, ask me about New Orleans. I love New Orleans. Now if you want to put an even bigger smile on my face, ask me about New Orleans during Mardi Gras. While everyone is marveling at the parades and dancing to Zydeco, you'd most likely find me stuffing my face with endless amounts of food. This is why I've always loved that city and return with just a few extra pounds on my body. Hey, it's worth it if you ask me.

This year, in honor of the celebration, I decided to create something that was party-friendly and summed up the season. I grew up on the gulf coast of Texas close to Louisiana and have always loved the flavors and recipes that drifted our way via friends and family. Gumbo is at the top of my list (thank you, Aunt Mary Ann!) so in honor I've created a Gumbo Hand Pie. Sure, you can call it a turnover or an empanada—in any case you'll want to make extra. Trust me on this.

A blend of spices and ingredients like okra, sausage, shrimp and chicken get cooked together and tucked into a buttery pie crust that's baked and sprinkled with a salt-and-paprika blend or gumbo seasoning. It's your choice. This leaves your other hand free to grab more, hold a beer or dance with your partner while celebrating the holiday. But they will disappear quickly. They're the perfect party food and hey, I know a thing or two about that.

Gumbo Hand Pies

For the dough:
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
8 oz cold cream cheese, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For the egg wash:
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk

For the spice topping:
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1 teaspoon pre-made Cajun seasoning

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cold butter and cream cheese until combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix until the dough just comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide into 2 equal pieces. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to just a little over 1/8" thick. Cut the dough with 4.5" cookie or biscuit cutter.

Continue rolling the scraps until all the dough is used. Make sure to keep the dough covered once cut. This recipe will yield 20-24 dough circles.

For the gumbo filling:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 half of a 14.5-oz can of diced tomatoes with juice
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 onion, chopped into small pieces
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
1 stalk celery, chopped into small pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons water or white wine
1 boneless skinless chicken thigh cut into small pieces
1/2 cup smoked sausage like andouille
1/2 cup shelled and deveined shrimp, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup frozen or fresh okra, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped

Making the roux: Heat a 2-quart pot over medium high heat and add oil. Once the oil is hot, sprinkle flour over it and begin to stir, cooking for 1 minute and constantly stirring. Drop the heat to medium low and continue to stir and cook for 15 minutes. The roux will turn an almost reddish-brown color. Once the roux is cooked, add diced tomatoes with juice and bay leaf. Return the heat to medium high and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the onion, bell pepper, celery and sauteé for 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cayenne and cook for 1 minute. Add water or white wine, stirring to get any cooked bits off the bottom of the skillet. Add the chicken, sausage and okra. Saute for 6 minutes, add the shrimp and cook for another 2 minutes or until the shrimp turns opaque. Add in the tomato roux mixture and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and set aside to cool, about 30 minutes.

Make the egg wash by mixing eggs and water in a small bowl. Set aside.

To fill the hand pies, take a circle of dough and place the filling in the center, about 1 tablespoon. Be careful not to overfill. Brush the edges with egg wash and fold over to close the hand pie. Dip a fork into flour so that it doesn't stick and use it to crimp the edges closed. Set the filled hand pies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and continue to fill and fold the remaining pies. Refrigerate the filled pies for 15 to 20 minutes before baking.

Heat oven to 425. Mix paprika and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.

Remove the pies from the refrigerator and brush with egg wash and then cut 2 small vents into the top of each pie with a sharp knife. Sprinkle the paprika and salt mixture or Cajun seasoning and place them into the pre-heated oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until pies are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Serve warm.

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