Empanadas

 

Empanadas are a delight for their simplicity, and for the wide range of creativity they provide a willing cook.

It is less serendipitous than it might seem that, on the day we post about empanadas, our friend Nandini who runs the Goan Imports blog, wrote about a close relative, Rissóis de Camarão, a Portuguese shrimp filled dumpling. Empanadas are ubiquitous throughout Mexican, Central and South American cookery, while close relatives like the pierogi, pastie, dumpling, pastel, pate, and pot sticker are found in almost every cuisine worldwide.

Empanadas may be baked or fried, and filled with a wide variety of meats, cheeses, vegetables, and fruits. Personally, I like the baked versions; they're less greasy, allow flavors to shine, and provide a tastier crust.

There are likely as many variants on dough as there are filling; that component is easily as important as what goes inside. A great empanada dough creates a versatile cover that can be rolled thick or thin as you like, yielding a light, flaky, and tender final product. This is our preferred version; it will make about a dozen 6″ empanadas. As with pie dough, the real key to a great empanada dough is to make it entirely by hand, and to handle it no more than is needed to fully combine and activate the imgredients. Plenty of recipes call for use of a mixer or food processor; don't go there. You'll get better incorporation, less heating of the cold elements, and a much better feel for proper condition when you make it by hand.

 

2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, (1 Stick)

1 large Egg

1/4 cup ice cold Water

1 teaspoon Sea Salt

1 Egg White, well beaten with 2 teaspoons cold water, for brushing the empanadas.

OPTIONS: chile flake, annatto, pepper, minced garlic, shallot, or fresh chiles can all be added, or for desert empanadas, 2 tablespoons of sugar, honey, or agave nectar.

 

Butter should be very cold. Cut into 1/4″ cubes and set aside in a stainless bowl, in the freezer.

Combine flour and salt and mix well.

Add butter and work by hand until blend resembles very course meal.

Add egg and water and form into dough. Once the dough is cohesive, stop working it – overworked dough equals tough dough.

Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 – 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Remove from fridge, flatten by hand to a disk about 3/4″ thick, then roll out until quite thin; anywhere from 1/8″ to 1/16″ will do nicely.

 

Cut into rings of the size you like.

Add filling, wet half the edge with a little of the egg white mixture, the fold in half and crimp the edge with a fork.

 

Note that we used a nifty little tool, a dough press offered by PrepWorks. These come in 3 sizes and make the production of all such treats ridiculously easy, (and the final product looks fabulous too.)

 

Lightly brush both sides of the empanada with the egg white, and place on an ungreased baking sheet.

 

Prick the tops with a knife or fork to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 15 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes prior to serving.

 

So, what to put inside? Your imagination is the only limiting factor. Empanadas are great for using up leftovers, and for exploring new combinations. It's best to avoid really wet, oily, or fatty ingredients, as they'll tend to either cause the pastries to rupture, and/or can lead to a soggy final product. Here is the version we made, as well as a few more to wet your whistles. All of these will make about a dozen empanadas; they all freeze well, so you can prep several meals at one time.

 

Pulled Pork Empanadas with Sour Cream/Salsa/Lime Dressing

12 Ounces, (about 2 Cups), shredded Pork

1/4 Cup Sweet Onion

1-3 Jalapeño Chiles, (Pickled adds a fabulous tang)

1-3 small sweet Peppers (Again, pickled is lovely)

1 small Lime

1-2 cloves Garlic

6-10 stalks Cilantro

Sea Salt and fresh ground Pepper

 

For the dressing

1/2 Cup Sour Cream

1/2 Cup Salsa (Green or Red as you prefer)

Remaining Lime Juice

Combine all, stir well, and allow to rest while empanadas are cooking.

 

Mince onion, chiles, peppers, garlic, and cilantro. Zest and juice lime.

Combine pork with the lime zest and veggies, and season with salt, pepper, and half the lime juice.

Allow to rest for about 15 minutes, for flavors to marry.

Bake as per above.

Serve on a bed of shredded lettuce or cabbage, with fresh tomato and sour cream/salsa/lime dressing.

 

 

Empanadas Desayuno, (Breakfast Empanadas)

6 Large Eggs

1/4 Pound Chorizo

1/4 Cup Sour Cream

4-6 stalks fresh Chive

1/4 Cup Queso Fresco

1 Yukon Gold Potato

Pinch Mexican Oregano

Sea Salt and fresh ground Pepper

 

Cut potato into 1/4″ cubes. Sauté over medium heat in 1 tablespoon of butter, until lightly browned. Remove from heat and set aside in a medium mixing bowl.

Remove potato, add chorizo, and sauté until browned. Remove from heat and add to potato.

Combine eggs, sour cream, oregano, salt and pepper and whisk well.

Scramble eggs until roughly 3/4 cooked; you want eggs a shade or two wetter than you'd like to eat.

Combine all ingredients in bowl, add the queso and chives, and adjust seasoning.

Fill empanadas as per above.

Bake at 350° F for 15-20 minutes, until light golden brown.

Serve with salsa, sour cream, chopped tomato, jalapeño, and cilantro.

 

 

Empanadas Veraduras, (Veggie Empanadas)

1 small sweet Onion

1 small green Bell Pepper

2-4 Jalapeño, Pasilla, or Hatch Chiles

1 small Carrot

1/2 Cup Jicama

2 Roma Tomatoes

1 ear Sweet Corn (About 1/2 Cup frozen is fine)

1/2 Cup cooked Black Beans

1/2 Cup cooked Rice

1/2 Cup Queso Fresco

1 small Lemon

1 small Lime

3-6 stalks Cilantro

1-2 cloves Garlic

1/2 teaspoon Epazote

1/2 teaspoon Lemon Thyme

Sea Salt and fresh ground Pepper

 

Rinse, peel, core, and seed all veggies. Fine dice the onion, pepper, chiles, jicama, carrot, and tomatoes.

Mince garlic and cilantro.

Zest and juice lemon and lime.

If using fresh corn, cut kernels from cob.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons canola oil and heat through.

Add carrot and jicama and sauté for about 3 minutes.

Add onion, pepper, chiles, and season with salt and pepper; continue to sauté until onions start to become translucent, about 2 – 3 minutes.

Add corn, garlic, tomatoes, and sauté for another 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and transfer to a mixing bowl; add citrus juice, zest, epazote, lemon thyme, queso, and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Fill as per above.

Bake at 350° F for 20 – 30 minutes, and serve with fresh avocado slices, lime wedges, and salsa verde.

 

 

Empanadas de Pollo, (Chicken Empanadas)

3/4 Pound shredded Chicken, (a combination of light and dark meat is best)

1 small Shallot

1 small Carrot

1 stalk Celery

1-3 Pasilla Chiles

1 small Lemon

1/2 Cup Chicken or Veggie Stock

2 Avocado Leaves

2 Tablespoons Avocado Oil

1/2 teaspoon Mexican Oregano

1/4 teaspoon Marjoram

1/4 teaspoon Annatto seed

Sea Salt and whole Pepper

 

Rinse, peel, seed and fine dice the shallot, carrot, celery, and chiles.

Rinse, zest and juice the lemon.

Combine oregano, marjoram, Annatto, salt, and pepper to a spice grinder and pulse until annatto and pepper are well broken down; set aside.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, heat avocado oil through. Add carrot and shallot, and sauté until shallot begins to turn translucent, about 2 – 3 minutes.

Add celery and chiles and sauté for another 2 minutes.

Add chicken stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze.

Reduce heat to low, add chicken, lemon juice and zest, spice blend, and avocado leaves. Simmer until chicken stock is absorbed, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Remove from heat, transfer to a mixing bowl and allow to cool enough to handle.

Fill as per above.

Bake at 350° F for 20 – 30 minutes, and serve with sour cream, pico de gallo, rice and charro beans.

 

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Empanadas

2 Cups chopped Rhubarb

2 Cups chopped Strawberries

1 Cup Cane Sugar

2 Tablespoons Orange Juice

1-2 Tablespoon Corn Starch

1 large Egg

1 Tablespoon Turbinado Sugar

 

Prep sweet dough with honey or agave nectar, as per above.

In a large, non-reactive mixing bowl, combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, orange juice and cornstarch.

Blend thoroughly, and allow to rest, covered, for 60 minutes.

 

Drain the liquid from the fruit mix and reserve.

Fill empanadas as per above.

Beat egg with 2 teaspoons cold water thoroughly; brush both sides of empanadas.

Sprinkle tops with turbinado sugar.

Bake at 350° F for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add liquid from fruit and heat until simmering. Reduce heat to medium low, and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Whisk to incorporate.

Simmer sauce until it thickens enough to coat a spoon.

Drizzle sauce over empanadas and serve hot.