Monday, May 18, 2009

Empanadas

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Summer is encroaching on my backyard – and I couldn’t be happier. Each time I step outside to check on the garden it seems the tomato plants have sprung up another six inches and the pole beans have climbed further up their trellis. I have the warm Southern California days to thank for all of this progress and it is because of those warm days that I surprised myself when I cranked the oven up to 400 degrees for the better part of the afternoon. With no air conditioning in my humble abode, this is quite the commitment, but one that was well worth it as I turned out my first batch of empanadas for a friend’s birthday celebration.

Empanadas are an enticing ethnic food that I have shied away from making at home, always assuming that indigenous hands would do a much better job than my white-bread paws could ever hope to achieve. This is also why I have yet to make any Indian dishes at home. I love my Tikka Masala and I’m pretty sure that Taj Indian delivery will always do a better job than I.

The first time I considered making empanadas was after hearing my friend Lauren recount her experience making hundreds of them for a party for her Argentine boyfriend. She, like me, doesn’t have the Latin blood pumping through her veins that I assumed was necessary for a successful empanada. Knowing that her creations were well received encouraged me.

The final push came from the recent New York Times article on empanadas. I sent the article and recipes to Lauren and we began talking about the different types of empanada filling and the kind of dough she uses - after some unsuccessful attempts at making her own, she now relies on Discos, packages of premade frozen discs of empanada dough. Lauren even happened to have a package in her freezer leftover from a recent party. She offered to give it to me and I earnestly accepted. Armed with Discos and the New York Times recipes, it was time to get over my reservations.

I didn’t want to completely cop out with the pre-made dough so I decided to make half the batch with Discos and half the batch with the New York Times recipe. As I mentioned, I was making the empanadas for a friend’s birthday celebration, which turned out to be the perfect opportunity to have a large group compare the Discos with their homemade counterpart. I am actually happy to report that the Discos beat my dough, hands down. I’m happy because it will make future attempts at empanada making even easier. Not that the dough is particularly hard to make, in fact I think we may have gone a little too fat-conscious in Los Angeles - the hardest part of the dough recipe was tracking down lard. I stopped at three stores before finally locating the animal fat at a small neighborhood market. If you’re planning your own empanada party, I recommend saving yourself the trouble and using Discos.

The traditional minced meat filling was the crowd favorite, only marginally beating out my own corn and goat cheese experiment. Both filling recipes are included below. If you want to try your hand at the dough, check out the New York Times recipe.

In addition to the empanadas, I brought a tomato seedling to the party as a gift for my friend. A recent text informed me that her tomato plant, like mine, is, “sprouting like a teenager.” I hope your gardens are having as much luck as we are here in Southern California. And, if you’re going to try your hand at empanadas, I hope you, unlike me, have central air.

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Minced Meat Filling
Adapted (doubled) from the New York Times

1 pound lean beef, minced
3 T lard
2 cups chopped onion
Salt and fresh black pepper
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t smoked paprika
20-pack of 5-inch Discos
3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
12 pitted cured black olives, chopped
30 raisins
1 large egg, beaten with 1 T water for an egg wash

Preheat Oven to 400*
If you, like me, weren’t able to find minced meat, cut your beef into chunks and process in a food processor until minced. Melt the lard in a large sauté pan. Add the onion and cook until it starts to soften, then add the beef. Cook until the beef is lightly browned and stir in the seasonings – salt, pepper, cumin and paprika.

Place the filling on half of a Disco, leaving a half-inch border at the edge. Top with a slice of egg, some chopped olive and a few raisins. Brush the border and the other half of the Disco with egg wash and fold over. Crimp the edges with a fork to make sure they are sealed.

Place the filled Discos on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper, and bake for 10 minutes. Flip the empanadas over and cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes until golden brown.

Corn and Goat Cheese Empanada Filling

2 T olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Corn cut from three ears of corn
1/2 bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup of goat cheese

Preheat Oven to 400*
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan and add the shallots and garlic. Cook just until fragrant and add the corn. Cook until the corn begins to soften 8 to 10 minutes. Let the mixture cool before transferring to a food processor. Add the cilantro to the food processor and process until the corn is coarsely chopped. Stir in the goat cheese by hand and season with salt and pepper.

Place the filling on half of a Disco, leaving a half-inch border at the edge. Brush the border and the other half of the Disco with egg wash and fold over. Crimp the edges with a fork to make sure they are sealed.

Place the filled Discos on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper, and bake for 10 minutes. Flip the empanadas over and cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes until golden brown.

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If you are making your own dough, a lid or other round surface makes a good guide.

37 comments:

5 Star Foodie said...

A corn and goat cheese filling sounds really delicious for empanadas! Yum!

croquecamille said...

I agree! Love the corn and goat cheese idea - like elotes, inside an empanada!

Christina Kim said...

I love empanadas!! That corn and goat cheese filling really sounds delightful.

Jen @ MyKitchenAddiction.com said...

The corn and goat cheese filling sounds great - perfect for warmer weather. Your empanadas look wonderful!

Eliana said...

As much as I love doing everything homemade this is one shortcut I take all the time. I would rather focus on making an amazing filling then spending time making the dough. Your filling looks fantastic.

pigpigscorner said...

I can't stop looking at your first pic,,the egg adds a nice touch.

Duckie said...

is an empanada traditionally made with wheat flour dough? My favorite place in NYC makes them with corn meal dough and then fries them, which is delicious--but probably not found a lot in health-conscious LA!

Mary said...

These sound unusually good. I find that filling especially appealing.

The Wino said...

I have never been partial to empanadas...don't know why, they sound great! Now that I know you can buy the dough, I am all over it! Maybe when it gets cooler though...I am in phoenix and its 400 degrees outside. Anything with goat cheese I am up for!

Kate said...

We just got our tomato plants into big pots a week or two ago and they're HUGE. No flowers yet, but I'm sure they'll come. Do you know where you can find Discos in Los Angeles?

Diana said...

So funny I read this today -- I had an amazing empanada in NY over the weekend and was thinking about how I might be able to make it for myself!

Where do you get the discos?

Sophie said...

MMMMM....your empanadas look fabulous!! Yummie!

Karen Harris said...

I love empanadas. Yours look delicious.

squirrelbread said...

lovely!

cheers,

*heather*

Juliana said...

These empanadas look great! Love your idea of using a pan lid...very creative. Love it!

emiglia said...

So excited to hear about your tomato plants! If yours are growing, the fresh tomatoes from can't be too far away from my supermarket...

Marta said...

HAhahaha the NYT often gives me the final push to try things as well! Damn influence!!! Hahaha these looks lovely and so delicious! I think the corn and cheese one is my favourite ;)

The Prudent Homemaker said...

Walmart carries lard, right next to the shortening. It's usually in a HUGE container, so it's a commitment to a lot of fat :)

I learned to make emapanadas from a woman from Guinea while I was living in France. I wish I had written down her recipe, because I loved it. Part of making it, she said, meant wearing one of her aprons--a wrap-around colorfully printed skirt, really. It was beautiful.

The Prudent Homemaker said...

Walmart carries lard, right next to the shortening. It's usually in a HUGE container, so it's a commitment to a lot of fat :)

I learned to make emapanadas from a woman from Guinea while I was living in France. I wish I had written down her recipe, because I loved it. Part of making it, she said, meant wearing one of her aprons--a wrap-around colorfully printed skirt, really. It was beautiful.

unconfidentialcook said...

I never knew about Discos--where do you get them in LA?

Kaela said...

Hi,

I enjoy your blog and have given you a "One Lovely Blog" award on my website, www.localkitchen.wordpress.com. Please pass it along to some blogs that you think are lovely!

Thanks for all the lovely blogging,
Kaela

MsGourmet said...

One of my best friends is Argentinian and her mama makes the best meat & chicken empanadas. I love the corn & goat cheese filling & I really love your last photo!

Bridgett said...

Oh my goodness...I need one!

itsnotyou said...

Do you find Discos outside of LA? I don't think I've ever seen them, but I'm down to sample.

lisaiscooking said...

I've never made empanada dough, but I'd like to try it one of these days. Your corn and goat cheese filling sounds fantastic!

Lickedspoon said...

These look wonderful. What an inspired idea to use the pan lid as a cutter.

Heatherfeather said...

Wow what a great idea about using the lid as a cutting mold! I have never made empanadas at home before, but this look great. Thanks for sharing your great tip!

Sophie said...

Baking during the warm summer months is not easy for me, I can't imagine doing it without an AC -- I admire you for that! These look great, I love how empanadas are tasty with so many different sweet or savory fillings.

Maris said...

I'm in love with the idea of adding eggs to your empanadas. I must make these soon, they look really good!

Cherie said...

I've never made empanadas before, I thought they might be too complicated. But now you made me want to give them a try.

nick said...

I want an invitation to any party that these are being served at!

Not considering the filling, wow did the homemade dough fare compared to the Discos?

Leda said...

Those empanadas look great!

Try adding some potatoes on your meat filling :) I've noticed that in some places of Argentina people uses olives and raisins like you did; but they don't use potatoes -and they taste great in empanadas. (In Salta -Argentina-, the place where I live, it's not common to use olives. In fact, I never tried an empanada with those.)

Empanadas also taste great with chicken filling, and cheese filling, like the one you did (oh! try mixing different types of cheese).

One more thing: you MUST to try them fried. They're delicious.

Maria said...

I want to try making these. Great post!

unconfidentialcook said...

You had me at empanada...but corn AND goat cheese. How fabulous is that?

finsmom said...

Such a delicious filling! I bet they were fantastic!

Great blog!!! I will be following you!

Lori said...

I love your empanada cutter. Very cool repurposing!

I have never met an empanada I didn't like.

Apples and Butter said...

On the Discos - I went to Catalina Market on Western and Santa Monica. (just south of Santa Monica on the East side of Western). I've seen them at a number of Latin markets around town - you can find them in the freezer section. Good luck!