My second born son requested my husband’s specialty -fried chicken- for his birthday meal earlier this month. Of course, we obliged, and then found ourselves with a pot full of oil that still had a little life in it. I didn’t feel much like filtering it, so dug around in the refrigerator for something else I could fry.
I rummaged around in the refrigerator and dug out some leftover ham from the holidays, a half a bag of shredded Swiss cheese, a bottle of grainy Dijon mustard, another of prepared horseradish, and two thawed packages of empanada wrappers. I knew I had struck gold. Within fifteen minutes, I had chopped the ham, tossed it with the cheese, stirred in some Dijon and horseradish with just a wee dab of mayonnaise, stuffed and crimped the empanada wrappers and popped those beautiful little pockets of goodness into the still hot oil.
I always find the best foods when I’m frugally creative, and this time was no exception.
First of all, DEEP FRIED SANDWICH POCKETS! Second, it combined ham and Swiss cheese into a hot, melty, crunchy package. Third, it was done almost as fast as it took me to think of the idea. Fourth, DEEP FRIED SANDWICH POCKETS! I’m sorry, it’s a little too easy for me to get carried away when it comes to melted cheese and ham and deep fried things. I was a little divided as to whether to call them sandwich pockets or empanadas (on account of the empanada wrappers) but since I can’t claim any kind of knowledge as to whether something is truly empanada-y or not, and I know a deep-fried sandwich when I see one, I opted for the latter. What do you think?
HERE is what happened when we broke one open. Then I died of happiness. The blend of grainy mustard, mayonnaise, and horseradish had formed a creamy dressing that blended perfectly with the ham and glorious melted Swiss cheese.
Now I know -because I asked you all on the Foodie with Family facebook page– that many of you have a little bit of nervousness when it comes to deep frying. I promise you, it’s not all that bad, really, but because I really want you to eat these, I’m including instructions on baking and shallow-frying. Will it be as crunchy? As beautiferous? As magnificent? Not quite, but it’ll still be darned good if you bake or shallow-fry them.
Bonus: The un-fried or baked sandwich pockets freeze beautifully and having a stash of these in the freezer is like having a party ready to go!
When would you want to serve these? (I’d answer “when WOULDN’T you want to serve these, but hey… I get it…) How about a Superbowl party? Or any game day? Or any party?These would make a kid leap for joy to find these in a school lunch or for after school snack. They would’ve made ME leap for joy if I found these in my lunch when I was working outside the home. Heck. They made me leap for joy when I made them the other day. They’re a fantastic picnic food for warmer weather. In the grand tradition of hand-held meat pies and such, these could be wrapped in foil and tucked in a coat pocket for winter hikes, snow-shoeing, and cross-country skiing.
Whether you think of them as fried sandwich pockets or empanadas, you’re bound to think of them as delicious!
- 1½ cups diced ham
- 1½ cups shredded Swiss cheese
- 2 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
- 20 empanada wrappers
- canola, vegetable, or peanut oil for deep or shallow frying (or brushing before baking)
- In a mixing bowl, use a spoon to stir the ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, mayonnaise, and horseradish until evenly combined. Working with one wrapper at a time, place about 1½-2 tablespoons of the filling in the center of a wrapper. Bring the edges up together and crimp them to seal it completely. If you'd like you can crimp it decoratively, just be sure they're well sealed. Set on a parchment lined pan or platter in a single layer. Repeat until filling and/or wrappers are used up.
- You can put the pan in the freezer until the pockets are frozen through. When they are solid, transfer to a zipper top bag for up to 3 months to cook at a later time.
- Pour oil into a heavy-bottomed, high-sided pan to ⅓-1/2 full, but no higher. Heat oil to 350°F. Fry the pockets in batches, taking care not to over crowd the pan, for 4-6 minutes, turning about halfway through the cooking time, or until golden brown and hot all the way through with fully melted cheese. If cooking from frozen, you may need to increase that time by a minute or two. Drain on a paper towel plate. Serve warm or room temperature with a variety of dips, if desired.
- Pour about 1-inch of oil into a heavy-bottomed, high-sided skillet. Apply medium heat until the oil is shimmery and fizzles when the tip of a pocket is dipped in it. Carefully lower the pockets into the oil in batches, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Cook for 4-6 minutes, turning about halfway through the cooking time, or until golden brown and hot all the way through with fully melted cheese. If cooking from frozen, you may need to increase that time by a minute or two. Drain on a paper towel plate. Serve warm or room temperature with a variety of dips, if desired.
- Preheat oven to 375°. Brush the tops and bottoms of the sandwich pockets with oil. Place on a parchment lined pan. Bake until the pockets puff, are golden brown, and the filling is hot all the way through, about 20 minutes. If you are baking from frozen, you may need to increase that cooking time by up to 5 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature with a variety of dips, if desired.