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CHEF'S CORNER

 
Empanadas
By Deirdre Cooper

 

 
 

Our South American and Puerto Rico experiences introduced us to empanadas many years ago. They are a staple in South America and can be eaten for any meal of the day, or as an appetizer or snack. So handy to have in the freezer to bring them out when the mood strikes. Many cultures around the world have a version of a pastry or dough stuffed with a savory or sweet filling. Think pierogi, samosa, hand pies, turnovers, pastel in Brazil, pastelito in Cuba. We usually make the meat version, and have also tried ham and cheese, sausage and mozzarella (chorizo and queso), but the sky is the limit for your imagination for stuffings, including fruit and cheese for dessert. It is believed that the idea of the empanada actually started in India with the samosa.
 
The basic dough for an empanada is simple to make and works well if you are adding other flavors or herbs or sugar to the dough. Otherwise, the readily available "discos" from the supermarket are excellent and convenient to use. The little bundles can be closed by hand, or I have a handy press (available in kitchen supply stores) which is exactly the right size and forms a picture perfect closure for the pie.
 
Empanadas can be brushed with cold milk or a thin egg wash for baking or they can be fried. If frozen, just defrost before doing either. Bake at 375 until nice and golden brown. If frying, keep a close eye until golden, turning once.
 
A typical Argentine Asado (Roast or Barbecue) will always start with an empanada, sausage (chorizo) on a piece of crusty bread topped with chimichurri, steak and salads. Chimichurri always tops the steak and is a great dipping sauce for the empanada as well.
 


 

 
 

For the meat filling of approximately 20 Empanadas:
 
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
2 TBL olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
2 large onions, chopped
3 TBL sweet paprika
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped pimento stuffed green olives
2 hardboiled eggs chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
 
Brown the ground meat in the oil with the paprika. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft. Season with salt and pepper and add raisins, olives and chopped eggs. Simmer until raisins are soft. Cool mixture completely. This can be refrigerated until ready to use. Bring to room temperature before forming pies.
 
And if you insist – here is the recipe for the dough:
 
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 TSP salt
1 1/2 sticks butter chilled, cut in pieces
1 egg
4 – 5 TBL water
 
Mix flour and salt in food processor. Add butter, egg and water and process until clumps form. Form a ball, flatten slightly, wrap in plastic and chill in refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
 
Roll dough into thin sheet and cut into rounds of desired size – we like about a six inch round, but you can go larger if you like.
 
To assemble in either homemade dough or store bought disco, place a tablespoonful more or less of filling in center of disc and try not to overfill. Fold disc and seal edges either by hand, with a fork or a handy press available in kitchen supply shops. To help seal the pie, you can wet the edges slightly with water.
 


 
 

And the Chimichurri Sauce:
 
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 TBL chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
 
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix thoroughly and enjoy.
 
This recipe can be doubled and keeps well in the refrigerator for weeks.
 
Nice to always have on hand.
 
This article is the first in an occasional series on stuffed pastry and dough items from around the world. We hope you will enjoy the journey.
 


 
 
Deirdre is a culinary enthusiast who enjoys traveling, gardening, and needless to say works wonders in the kitchen. Deirdre, a native New Yorker, now resides in Ambler with her husband John, and can often be found entertaining family and friends. Enjoy!
 
 
 
 

2017
 
Jan.  | Feb.  | Mar.  | Apr.  | Current Recipe
 
 
2016
 
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