Empanadas

Sweet or savory is the question we’d want to know the answer to from the beginning.

Empanada or empanaditas (same thing only smaller) are essentially the same thing as a turnover. The only limitations to the dish are your imagination.

Apples and cinnamon? Peaches? Beef? Pork? Empanadas can be either an appetizer or a meal all by themselves. We’ll give you three filling recipes here to get you started in the traditional fashion and from there. Make up your own stunning combinations based on what’s in the refrigerator or in season at the farmer’s market.

Beef Empanada Filling

¾ pound ground chuck or other lean meat
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 tablespoons red chile powder
two finely chopped Roma tomatoes (or one 8-ounce can tomato sauce)
¼ cup raisins
3 Spanish olives with pimento stuffing, chopped fine
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
1 clove chopped garlic
1 teaspoon flour
½ teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet brown the meat along with the onion and tomatoes until the meat is browned. Add the chile, garlic, egg, raisins, flour and sugar, salt and pepper and simmer briefly for about 5 minutes or less. Let the filling cool before using.

Calabaza (pumpkin filling)

½ cup raisins
1 tablespoon brandy
¾ cup canned pumpkin puree
⅓ cup grated panocha (Mexican raw sugar) or turbinado or firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoon aniseeds
dash of salt

In a small bowl let the raisin macerate for 15 minutes then combine with the rest of the ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved. Let the filling cool before use.

All-Fruit Mincemeat Filling

4 cups chopped, unpeeled apples
2 cups raisins, chopped
1 cup snipped dried apricots
1 6-ounce can frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
¾ cups water
¼ cup honey
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons brandy

In a 4 ½ quart Dutch oven or large sauce pan, stir together apples, raisins, apricots, apple juice concentrate, water, honey, allspice and salt. Bring to boiling; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes more until liquid has nearly evaporated, stirring every once in awhile. Stir in the brandy. To store, cover and chill.

Makes about 4 cups

Empanada Pastry

1 ½ cup unsifted all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup shortening (lard is traditional)
4 to 4 ½ tablespoons ice water
1 egg yolk

In a medium mixing bowl combine flour and salt. With a pastry cutter, cut in the shortening until well blended. Sprinkle with the ice water, stirring with a fork until the dough holds together. Shape into a ball.

Divide the pastry into 12 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a 6-inch round. Place about 3 tablespoons of filling into one half of the round; fold over the other half.

Press edges together with fingers to seal. Flute the edges and cut slits in the top of each little turnover for steam to escape once it is baking. Brush with egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon of water.

Bake in an oven preheated to 425 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Makes 12

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