Saturday, August 11, 2012

Empanadas Recipe

Empanadas are the shit. Unfortunately, due to inflation they're getting expensive. A single empanada from a classy place can now run into the double digits! That ain't in the budget. Consequently, I rarely eat empanadas in restaurants (maybe from a bakery if I'm desperate) and frequently make them at home, giving me plenty of time to perfect and experiment on this recipe.

[NOTE: If you're already in your PJ's, it's the end of the month or you have other ingredient-limiting constraints only the starred ingredients are necessary for a basic empanada. They're excellent because you can pretty much throw in whatever you have in around.]

Ingredients:
*1/2 kilo meat (beef or chicken)
*2 medium onions
1 bell pepper (any color)
1/4 - 1/2 cup of seedless raisins
green onion
*1 tablespoon oil
*1 pack of empanada (La Saltena criollo)
1 egg
salt, paprika (pimenton dulce in Argentina), cumin, spicy red pepper, black pepper

Other ingredients frequently added to meat empanadas include olives, hard boiled eggs and potatoes, if you're into that. The precise ingredients depend on the region and seem to be a point of contention according to the Wikipedia entry on empanadas.

Tools:
A cutting board
A good knife
A cookie sheet

1. Preheat the oven to the highest setting (around 450 F).
2.Chop the pepper and onions into small pieces. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add vegetables, and cook until they begin softening, around 5 minutes.
2. Chop the meat into small pieces. The size of the pieces depends on personal preference (and patience), just keep in mind the size of the empanada shell which you will be folding in half.
3. Add the meat to the vegetables. Seasoning is also personal preference. I start by eyeballing some of everything and then taste and go. I would say my usual seasoning is something like: 1 tsp. of paprika, 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. cumin, 1/4 tsp. black pepper and a dash of spicy red pepper.
4. Simmer over medium-low heat for around 10 minutes until the meat is cooked. Add the raisins when you have a minute or two remaining (so they don't disintegrate).
5. Butter (or lightly coat with oil) the cookie sheet. Prepare to fold. This is the intense and crucial moment. First start by loading some meat into the center of the shell. You want to amply fill the empanada, but leave enough space to have a seam of around 1 cm. If you're shells are dry and not sticking well, you can wet your finger tips to close the seam.
Once you have the seam, you can make a cute edge by folding the corner on to the empanada at a 45 degree angle. After the first fold you won't have a perfect corner, but you should continue taking the lowest part folding it over into the pocket part of the empanada and repeat this process until you get to the end.
Be prepared for the first few to look bad, but once you practice you'll understand how to get the best design.
7. Place the finished empanadas on the buttered or oiled cookie sheet. Brush the tops of the empanadas with scrambled egg. If you want them to look golden and shiny do a diligent job coating evenly.
If you want to get crazy, you can buy a torta (quiche) shell and make a giant empanada like this:

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