Being of the Nerdly Persuasion, it’s pretty much a given that my family needs Hot Pockets (also, Xena episodes… bonus nerd points for getting the movie reference.) However, my budget, and my desire for actual FOOD in my food, combine to put manufactured official Hot Pockets right out of the possibilities, hence: we make our own.
I like this easy sour cream and egg enriched dough from Prepared Pantry’s free cooking demonstrations. It works up fast, reworks without getting tough and gross, and tastes nice. One batch will, with re-rolling, get you 12 non-skimpy 5″ circles for filled pockets. I do use actual lard, which makes for a very plastic, easy-to-work dough. If you’re squeamish about lard, choose 100% vegetable shortening or butter. I’ve never tried this with reduced fat substitutes, so alter and vary at your own risk!
I made the dough in my Kitchenaid (everything tastes better if mixed in a cheerfully cherry Kitchenaid!), using the paddle attachment to cut the lard into the dry ingredients, and beat the tar out of it when I add the sour cream and eggs. Works like a charm, and saves a lot of effort if you’re making multiple batches.
One note on eggs for this dough recipe: you need 1/2 cup of eggs, total. If you’re using large or home eggs, two usually does it. If you’re using medium eggs, you’ll want about three. If you have banty hens, you’ll likely need four eggs to equal 1/2 cup.
I have a nifty little dough cutter-sealer like this one (or rather, I have that exact one), but you can make rectangular turnovers too; roll your dough about 1/8″ thick, and cut slightly rectangular shapes a bit bigger than you think you’ll need. Brush one half of the edge with a bit of water, fill, and fold over, using a fork or your fingers to crimp the edge flat and seal the pockets. If you’re using the pie press, it seals nicely for you. I tend to “harvest” the bits of dough that squash out the front, and add them to my scrap pile for re-rolling.
Into this crust, you can put all manner of tasty stuff, about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of filling per pocket. Once the turnovers or pocket sandwiches are formed, arrange them (not touching!) on a baking sheet and freeze for one hour, or until solid, before bagging them for longer storage. They’ll bake in 20-25 minutes at 425*, straight from frozen. Be sure to poke a vent hole or two in the top before baking (I do it before freezing.)
I’m doing BIG batches, so these smaller quantities may not match up exactly with dough batches. I’ll be doing about eight or nine dozen in total, which is a lot of dough circles, but keeps my family in lunches and suppers for the next four months, so I don’t mind too much. I’d rather have one day of fuss than 120 in a row.
- 1 + recipe dough
- 1 pound ground beef, crumbled, browned, and drained
- 3/4 to 1 pound colby-jack cheese, in very small cubes
- 1-2 tablespoons finely minced onion
- 2-4 tablespoons finely minced dill pickle
- yellow mustard to taste
- catsup to taste (I recommend Hunts High-Fructose-Corn-Syrup-Free; it’s no more expensive than HFCS-laden catsup, and the flavor is really nice.)
Mix all the filling ingredients together. The catsup and mustard bind and season it, so don’t add salt until you taste a bit. I do like to add a dash of Worchestershire and some pepper. This is a particularly cool recipe, because when else can you stretch a single pound of ground beef to make twelve hamburgers? Not even MacDonalds gets that sort of portion stretch!
- 1 + recipe dough
- 1 pound good ham, finely diced (and make sure it’s real ham, not that Minor Abomination that is “honey ham.” Pleh.)
- 3/4 pound sharp cheddar cheese (or extra sharp), finely diced OR a mix of sharp, colby-jack, etc cheese that you prefer.
- 1/4 cup or a bit less grated Parmesan cheese
- 8 or so ounces room temperature cream cheese or Neuf Chatal cheese, which is creamier and blends nicely.
- dash of pepper and a pinch of dry mustard if you like it.
Moosh all of that together, balance it out to suit your tastes, and off you go.
Take the above recipe, and add a small bag of frozen broccoli, chopped smallish. There’s no need to defrost the broccoli, which is handy. You’ll need about half again as much dough if you add broccoli to the ham and cheese recipe. It’s rather like taco salad: you think the amounts are reasonable by themselves, but then things get rapidly out of hand, and suddenly, you’re faced with two gallons of sandwich filling. Not that I’ve done that. No, I’m just cautioning you on general principles. I’m a very disciplined cook, not likely to have things grow exponentially when I’m not looking. Definitely.
Obviously, any variety of pocket sandwich you can find in the freezer section could be made at home. I’m particularly looking forward to making some pizza pockets (similar to the cheeseburger scheme, with pizza sauce for the goopy bits, and any blend of favorite toppings and fresh herbs we prefer), and also Cordon Bleu pockets, with fine-diced cooked chicken, ham, cream cheese, Swiss cheese, and a bit of fresh rosemary… kind of a grown-up gourmet version of Nerdly Cuisine.
I’m particularly chuffed with the Broc-Ham-Cheese variety we made today. They’re so good! Much nicer than purchased version, in my opinion.
So, there’s one more Food Nifty to try, and stock in your freezer. I’ll be taking a bag or two over to my favorite massage therapist as a thank you for getting the big knots worked out of my arms (yay! I can feel my fingers again! Take that, carpal tunnel!), and some over to a family with a new baby, too. Having some ready-to-go items in the freezer definitely makes random acts of culinary kindness a lot easier!