Puffed pastry dough is a totally underappreciated ingredient, at least as far as time-crunched families are concerned. It's so versatile and easy to use, I'm not sure why it isn't in the rotation in more homes.
Let's start with breakfast. Unfold a sheet of it, cut it into quarters, then spoon something into the centre of each. That something could be almost anything — chopped fresh apples and a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar (or even jarred applesauce if that's all you've got), fresh berries, red grapes, sliced peaches, even just a spoonful of jam.
Fold one side of each quarter over on itself, then use a fork to crimp the sides together. Pop them on a baking sheet, then bake for 12 or so minutes at 400 F. Done. They even can be prepped, then refrigerated overnight and just baked off in the morning. And any extras pack great for lunch.
At dinner, you can take the same approach, but opt for savory fillings. A bit of ham and some grated cheese are perfect. And perfectly speedy. Toss in some broccoli florets and it's a complete meal.
Or cut the pastry sheets into 1-inch-wide strips and lay them across whatever casserole you are baking. They will brown and puff into a beautiful, flaky crust. Or don't even bother to cut it into strips. Just lay the whole sheet over the casserole, crimp off the edges, cut in a steam vent or two, then bake.
One tip about working with puff pastry — you need to let it thaw fully before using (it is sold frozen alongside the pastry and pie supplies). You can do this at room temperature for 30 or so minutes. Or do what I do — pop the entire package in the refrigerator the night before. It will be good to go for breakfast or dinner the next day.
This recipe for puffed curry potato pockets makes eight servings, but you don't have to bake them off all at once. Follow the recipe through filling and crimping the pockets, then freeze any you don't want to use right away. They can go directly into the oven for an easy weeknight meal down the road. The recipe is vegetarian (actually, vegan), but feel free to add meat or cheese to suit your preferences.
PUFFED CURRY POTATO POCKETS
Start to finish: 1 hour (20 minutes active)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch chunks
1 cup shelled edamame
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 tablespoons coconut milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and ground black pepper
17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry, thawed (each package contains 2 sheets)
Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine the onion, carrot, potatoes and edamame. Drizzle with the olive oil, then toss well to coat. Arrange in an even layer on one of the prepared baking sheets, then roast for 15 minutes, or until tender. Sprinkle the garlic, ginger and curry powder over the vegetables, stir to mix in, then roast for another 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and stir in the coconut milk and cilantro, then season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Unfold both sheets of puff pastry, then use a knife to cut each into quarters. Spoon about 1/3 cup of the filling onto one half of each quarter. Fold the other half over the fillings, then use a fork to crimp the edges together. If desired, the pockets can be frozen at this stage.
Carefully transfer (a spatula helps) each pocket onto the second prepared baking sheet. Brush the top of each with a bit more olive oil. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until puffed and lightly browned.
Nutrition information per serving: 360 calories; 190 calories from fat (53 per cent of total calories); 21 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 33 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 7 g protein; 430 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org