Last night, dinner wasn’t planned and in all honesty I anticipated reheating leftover pasta. As I finished up my work day, a StumbleUpon friend from Uruguay twittered that he had just eaten spicy empanadas. My stomach grumbled as my eyes lit up. I pinged him for more information. He pointed me to a recipe and I set to work making them :-)
I’m not sure why I am so ‘shoot from the hip’ with my cooking lately. I haven’t been in the mood to plan or think things out, so seem to make whatever strikes me as interesting at a particular moment. I am totally disregarding my bookmarked recipes and am following a stream of consciousness approach. Not sure where this will lead me, but today it brings empanadas.
Every culture has a meat-filled pastry and so far I’ve made pirojki and my home state favorite, the pasty. Empanadas are common in Spain, Portugal, Caribbean, Latin America, and the Philippines. Each region creates its own version, some are fried while others are baked. The filling can consist of any type of meat and vegetable mixture, some even have sweet fillings. In all honesty, I’ve never met a pastry I didn’t like.
The empanada is surprisingly easy to make, consisting of a simple dough and filling. I used a dough recipe which had high reviews from other users. Instead of making it by hand, I used my mixer to blend the ingredients and to knead the dough. In a matter of minutes I had a beautiful soft dough. The dough must rest for 1 hour before using and will amke ten 6″ empanadas.
From the same site with the dough recipe, I found a beef picadillo filling that caught my eye. I searched around to understand what exactly constituted a picadillo — basically, beef, onion, green pepper, tomatoes, spices, sometimes raisins, sometimes olives. Even Rachel Ray made a 30-minute version. Fortunately I had everything on hand. I adapted a recipe into the following:
1 lb. beef, cut in 1/2″ cubes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, diced
1/2 jalapeño, finely diced
2 tablespoons pimento, diced
1/2 c. water
3/4 c. tomato sauce (8oz can)
1 large potato, diced
1/4 c. chopped green olive
1/2 c. currants
salt/pepper to taste
Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onion, green pepper, garlic, pimento and jalapeño. Saute for 4-5 minutes. Add beef, oregano, cumin, water, and tomato sauce. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 15 minutes.
Add potato and cover again, cooking an additional 15 minutes or until potato is cooked through. Remove cover and stir in chopped olives and currants. Boil until liquid is evaporated and mixture thickens. This took only 2-3 minutes, but the time will vary based on your cooking conditions. Season to taste. Set filling aside and allow to cool completely before using.
I removed the dough from the refrigerator and cut into 10 pieces. I rolled each piece into a 6″ circle on a floured surface. The dough is soft and extremely easy to roll. Place 1/4 cup or so of the mixture onto one side of the circle. Fold the empty side of the circle over the top. Moisten the edge of the dough with a wet finger, then press the edges together. Using a fork, press down on the edges to crimp and to give them their trademark look.
Place empanadas onto a baking sheet and into a preheated 425 degree oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a baking rack.
The empanadas did not disappoint. The crust is thin, yet firm and tastes similar to a calzone dough. The filling is the star though, spicy and savory, with just a hint of sweetness from the currants. The garlic and bit of olive provide plenty of flavor to the tomato base. I couldn’t have been happier and promptly ate a couple (or so) empanadas.
Fortunately, we had plenty left over so I just had one for breakfast with my coffee — they are good at any time of the day!