Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Valentine's Day Continued...Empanada Marathon

On the aforementioned postponed Valentine's day, I chose to make it a special day by cooking in the kitchen all day and all night, a calculated 14 hours. The original intention was to prepare empanadas together while slowly sipping on wine all day.

Courtesy of Corazón Porteño (http://www.diariobuenosaires.com.ar/nota2.asp?IDNoticia=2838)

Empanadas are a gigantuan task and I always fail to remember how much time they actually require. We also chose three different fillings and I made enough dough for about 50 or so empas. This is probably why I only get around to making these once a year. For those of you who don't know, empanadas are a meat filled palm sized pastry pie. They can be found all over the Latin American world but each country and region makes their own variety. Naturally I make mine Argentine style and particular to the region of Tucuman, the smallest province of Argentina, where I lived for a year. These empanadas are traditionally baked in an adobo clay oven outside as opposed to being deep fried. I bake mine on a pizza stone in a conventional oven.

Courtesy of Cocina Típica

Labor intensive, time consuming and exhausting, you have to really love to cook to make these little buggers from scratch. Many Argentines themselves, conveniently buy premade tapas, the dough already formed in discs and ready to fill. Pascualina is a typical brand but Goya is more popular in the U.S. and Canada.

For the record, my fellow blogger, temporary Nova Scotian and long time best friend, Sarah, recently used my written recipe to make her own empanadas from scratch. She had much success and she's never even seen them made before! You can check out her blog here:

However, I consider her a far better cook than me and her boyfriend is a pretty damn good chef. Together they make magic happen in the kitchen.

Have no fear, folks! All it takes is some guts, perserverance, a healthy love for a kitchen, and some alcohol on hand to get you through the day. It always helps to have some good company as well. These are delicious and well worth the wait!


butter or lard
salt water

Dilute some salt in a glass of water. Taste for saltiness. I used a whole bag of flour the last time I did empanadas which yielded about 50 empanadas. I suggest about 2 1/2 cups flour. Take tablespoons of lard or butter and crumble in the flour with fingers or with a pastry cutter until you have a crumbly flour mixture. Then make a hollow in the flour and slowly pour a bit of water and fold in the flour until you start to make a homogeneous round ball of dough. You may add flour if it becomes too sticky.

Next roll out into a long about an inch wide. Ticker with marks with a butter knife between each inch alongside the whole log. If you're not going to roll out the discs for the empanada dough right away I suggest that you wrap the log with a damp cloth.
Next you tear of each little piece that you marked with the knife and you pull the outside corners inward to the middle so you have a little ball with a small point. Each ball you will then roll out into a disc. I like to use something to flatten the ball first before rolling it out. We happened to have a chapati/arepa/empanada steel flattener that served very well for this purpose.

You fill the empanada with a small teaspoon of filling. You don't want the filling to be too watery or it will leak out. I hold the empanada disc in my hand and place in the filling in one half and then fold in half. I dab the empanada edge with a bit of water to be able to seal the empanada and then I twist the corners to close it. This part is called el repulgue and here I've enclosed a video from youtube to show how it's done. (This is not my video).


Filling (Tucuman style)

hard boiled eggs
bell peppers
green onions
shredded chicken or ground beef
cayenne or chili powder (I like to use chipotle chili powder)
lemon juice

I chop up the veggies very fine and sautee in a pan with a bit of olive oil with the beef. I squirt a bit of lemon juice on the beef to tenderize the meat. If using chicken, I either buy a rotisserie chicken or I poach chicken in boiling water with a whole onion, then sautee lightly with the spices and veggies to season it. You may add a pinch of cumin, and as much chili powder or cayenne as you like. Whatever your measurements, I insist that the paprika is the spice of the biggest proportion. Sometimes I like to add the smallest dash of cinnamon. The hard boiled eggs must be chopped or sliced into chunks and added to the filling last.

I haven't experimented that much with finding a proper cut of meat that I can use to get those chunks of meat in my empanada. This is where I found chorizo an excellent substitute.

Before cooking the empanadas you may choose to brush with with an egg wash, melted butter or milk. I prefer not to glaze my empas, myself. This preference also varies according to region and local. When you see empanadas with a shiny polished look, they've been glazed. I like the rustic empa myself as pictured in the photo.

Some even prefer to deep fry their empanadas. I like to cook the empanadas on a pizza stone in the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes on medium hot heat. They are to be enjoyed with a squirt of lemon juice after the first bite and with a glass of lovely red wine. I find that 5 of these is more than enough to fill up one person.

We also made

Empanadas de Humita (a corn based filling with a white sauce)
white sauce: melt butter, add flour or corn starch and create a paste. Whisk in hot milk. May add grated cheese if so desired such as parmesean. Add nutmeg. Add humita (choclo) or grated corn.

Mozza and Spinach Empanadas
frozen spinach sauteed
squeeze the water from the spinach or else it will make the dough very gooey
This would have been excellent with basil or parsley.

I think by the end of the night we combined the two veg fillings.

Here I'll indulge you with a variety of styles pertaining to the Argentine region. I listed the extra ingredients that are added in other regions to this recipe that I use here. In all recipes the cut of meat varies. I omitted this technicality as it is difficult to find Argentine cuts of meat in Canada or the U.S. so you have to work with the quality of meat and the best cut you find appropriate.

green olives
a bit of sugar is added

Catamarca, Salta, La Rioja

potatoes and raisins

chopped garlic
black olives

may also feature tomatoes

Entre Rios

San Luis
carne molido ground beef

San Juan
tomato sauce

Santiago del Estero

Santa Fe

Other types of empanada:
onion and cheese
Cheese and basil

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