Monday, March 23, 2009

beef empanadas

beef empanadas

I am a master of finding reasons not to do things. Why I shouldn’t make a new pound cake, when I already have recipes I like. Why there’s no reason to ever roast a chicken another way. And in this case, why I shouldn’t bother making empanadas when I already have the most delicious, flawless empanada recipe ever made. (And, apparently, the moxy to boast about it.)

browning the meatempanada filling, coolingbeef empanadas, in the makingempanadas, ready to bake

This is why on the topic of empanadas, the discussion has been closed for nearly two years. Even though there are more types of empanadas in the world than chicken and olives. Even though I had only made that one recipe, ever. Even though a friend would occasionally pick up these awesome beef ones in Queens before a party, and I thought they wouldn’t be that hard to make at home.

Obviously, I could not hold off forever and that is why you see here some long overdue Beef Empanadas and you know what? They were a great dinner. They’re also great party food, if you make them a little smaller. And they’re equally good to stash in the freezer, baking them off as the empanada craving hits, or for a light dinner. Like Hot Pockets, but you know, full of awesome, healthy stuff.

beef empanadas

One year ago: Hamantaschen
Two years ago: Bulgur Salad with Chickpeas and Roasted Red Peppers

Beef Empanadas
Adapted from Gourmet, September 2007

My only grievance with this recipe the way it was printed is that the flavor was a little flat. I’ve upped the spices but definitely think that there’s nothing wrong that a couple dashes of your favorite hot sauce can’t fix. Or a pinch of cayenne. Or a heavier helping of salt and pepper. I’ll let you get creative.

Makes a dozen 6-inch empanadas

2 hard-boiled large eggs, chopped into bits
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 pound ground beef chuck
2 tablespoons raisins (optional)
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 (or homemade, recipe follows)

About 4 cups vegetable oil and a deep-fat thermometer (if deep-frying)
1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water (if baking)

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. Stir in hard boiled egg and spread on a plate to cool.

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. Moisten edges of disk with water and fold over to form a semicircle, then crimp with a fork. [You might see some different crimps in my pictures. The fork method really works best.] Make more empanadas in same manner.

If frying: Preheat oven to 200°F with rack in middle.

If baking: Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 400°F.

Deep-frying instructions: 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.

Baking instructions: Lightly brush empanadas with some of egg wash and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer empanadas to a rack to cool at least 5 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Empanada Dough

4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour + 3 cups all-purpose)
3 teaspoons salt
2 sticks (1 cup or 8 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large eggs
2/3 cup ice water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.) Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into two flat rectangles and chill them, each wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour. Dough can be chilled up to 6 hours total.


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