I started thinking about various ethnic foods we'd yet to try and I decided to try empanadas. If you read my previous entry you'll see that I had a difficult time finding empanada disks and had to make my own dough. A few weeks ago I decided that I had to try and make these at least once this summer, if not more.
Before I did, I did some research on empanadas so I'd know exactly what I was making. Empanadas originated in Spain and as the world changed, they migrated to Latin America. Empanadas are typically fried and stuffed with beef, chicken, lamb, or just about anything else. "Traditional" filling varies by location. They are served as an appetizer in most countries, or as street fare, though in the Southwest United States and Mexico they are traditionally a breakfast or dessert item. Doughs can be made of wheat flour, corn flour, white flour, etc. Empanadas can be filled with everything and anything--if it can fit inside the 6 inch circle, and be folded, it can be in your empanada!
I liked these a lot. I didn't love them, but they were good. They were warm and tasty and definitely "safe" for a first whack at empanadas. I made a few adjustments to the Epicurious recipe (which was originally published in Gourmet magazine in September 2007). As you can see, some of them fought me tooth and nail--apparently they didn't want to be cooked. But, the photo on the bottom (bad pic) shows a decent empanada.
2 hard-boiled large eggs
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 pound ground beef chuck
2 tablespoons raisins
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice, drained, reserving 2 tablespoons juice, and chopped
1 package frozen empanada pastry disks, thawed
About 4 cups vegetable oil
Equipment: a deep-fat thermometer
Cut each egg crosswise into 10 thin slices.
Cook onion in olive oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until softened. Add garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in beef and cook, breaking up lumps with a fork, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.
Add raisins, olives, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and tomatoes with reserved juice, then cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced but mixture is still moist, about 5 minutes. Spread on a plate to cool.
Preheat oven to 200°F with rack in middle.
Lay a large sheet of plastic wrap on a dampened work surface (to help keep plastic in place), then roll out an empanada disk on plastic wrap to measure about 6 inches. Place 3 tablespoons meat mixture on disk and top with 2 slices of egg. Moisten edges of disk with water and fold over to form a semicircle, then crimp with a fork. Make more empanadas in same manner.
Heat 3/4 inch vegetable oil in a deep 12-inch skillet over medium heat until it registers 360°F on thermometer. Fry empanadas, 2 or 3 at a time, turning once, until crisp and golden, 4 to 6 minutes per batch.
Transfer to a shallow baking pan and keep warm in oven. Return oil to 360°F between batches.
Cooks' note: Empanadas can be brushed with oil and baked on an oiled baking sheet in a 425°F oven until golden, about 10 minutes. (They will not be as crisp as fried empanadas.)
- Let's see...what didn't I change? I didn't use the eggs because neither of us like hard boiled eggs. I also used one whole onion, 3 small garlic cloves, 1/4 tsp. cumin, 1 lb. ground chuck, 4 T. raisins, 2 T. capers (instead of olives), and a 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes and all the juice.
- I didn't fry my empanadas. Graham isn't crazy about fried food and only eats it when he has to. These were brushed with olive oil and popped in the oven for 12 minutes. They were still flakey and delicious, just not crispy.
- Neither of us are crazy about olives. I've tried to like the olive. I've WANTED to like the olive. I can't. I just can't do it. The capers were a good substitute, though. They provided a bit of tang in contrast to the sweetness of the raisins and the tomatoes and the savoryness (is that a word?) of the meat and seasoning.
- Next time, I think I'll add some rice to these. Considering I changed quite a bit and they still turned out okay, I'm not worried about adding or changing something else.
- I used a can of diced tomatoes because I thought it was dumb to buy canned tomatoes and then chop them up.
- This recipe will make ten empanadas. I didn't play with my dough enough, so I only had 8 disks. Oh well. The filling was still delicious on its own--we've got some corn tortillas in the fridge, so I might make myself some tacos.