Empanadas and more!

 

You may know by now that I’m half Argentine. I was born in Buenos Aires, and although we moved to the U.S. when I was just a baby, I feel a strong connection to the country, the language, and especially the food! The steaks, the pizzas (Argentina is full of Italians, so they have lots of pizzerias), dulce de leche… but probably two of my favorite things are the Empanadas and the Sandwiches de Miga. I’ll post more on the Sandwiches later.

Empanadas are everywhere in Buenos Aires. Most pizzerias make them in their pizza ovens. You could even call them a national obsession, with everyone having their favorite kind, and their favorite place to get them. Sadly my favorite place in the city, Bene Bene, closed years ago, and now every time I go to visit, I am in search of the perfect empanada. I have found ones that are close, but never as good. Many places have a “map” of the different fillings they offer, and almost all will deliver to you. The “repulgue”, or the decoration of the border, distinguishes the fillings from each other. The borders vary by establishment, with the only consistency being the braided edge of the meat (carne) and the triangular shape of the fatay, or árabe. Thus, the necessity of the printout that arrives with your delivery so that you know which is which without having to bite into each one and pissing off your dining companions.

I usually make 2 kinds when I’m making them for a meal at home; meat, and humita (a creamy corn and onion concoction). I’ve also made them of chicken, and of spinach with bechamel. One day, I hope to make these to sell in the area. For now, they are exclusively for my family’s enjoyment!

Before I learned how to make the dough from scratch, I used to buy the “tapas”, the little rounds of dough. They are sold frozen in many Latin American markets; the brand found most often is La Salteña. They are really good if you don’t have time to make the dough yourself – just make sure to buy the ones that say “para Horno” which means for the oven. The others are for frying.

But, if you do have the time, give the homemade a try. It’s not hard, and you can freeze them ahead of time so that you always have some on hand!

I find that the most time consuming part of making these is filling and making the repulgue, but once you get into a groove, they get faster and easier – especially the humita, which I just seal with a fork. The trick to the braided edge for the meat ones is to work quickly and in a fairly cool kitchen so that the heat from your hands doesn’t melt the butter in the dough. Also, don’t be tempted to overfill. You need enough dough around the edge for your border. Then you just pinch and twist the edge all the way around. I’ll work on getting a video posted soon! In the meantime, here are some photos of the process.

I also make a big batch of the filling, so I have some leftover that I can freeze and make the process quicker the next time around. You can definitely do this whole process in steps and freeze the filling and the dough, then just defrost, fill, and bake! Alternately, you can fill and freeze the empanadas, then go directly from the freezer to the oven for a super quick meal.

Here are the recipes for the dough, the traditional meat empanadas, and the humita empanadas.

Empanada Dough (Tapas)

Cuisine: Argentine, South American
Keyword: empanada dough, empanadas
Servings: 25 tapas

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 oz cold unsalted butter cut into 1/2-inch cubes (8 tbsp)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup ice water
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Instructions

  • Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. You can also do this in a food processor - pulse the flour and salt with the butter about 9 or 10 times.
  • Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. Don’t over-mix. If using a food processor, pour the egg mixture through the feed tube with the processor running until it just comes together.
  • Turn out mixture onto large piece of plastic wrap. Using the edges of the wrap, press dough together into a round ball. Flatten into a disc and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour, or freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Divide dough into 2 or 4 pieces. Working with one section at a time (keep the remaining dough covered so it doesn’t dry out), roll out dough on a lightly floured surface till very thin, about 1/16 of an inch. Using a round cutter about 4 1/2 to 5 inches in diameter, cut out as many circles as you can from the piece of dough. Place rounds on a plate and cover loosely with a damp cloth or plastic. (If you're freezing the individual tapas, place a piece of parchment in between each one.) Gather up remaining dough to roll out again. You don’t want to re-use the dough too many times, as the butter pieces will melt into the dough more and more, but you can re-roll a couple of times.
  • Repeat the process with the remaining dough. You should end up with about 25-30 rounds.

 

Traditional Meat Empanadas

Course: First Course
Cuisine: Argentine, South American
Keyword: argentina, beef, empanadas, south america
Servings: 25 empanadas

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ cup green olives  sliced
  • cup raisins soaked in ¼ cup red wine
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 hard boiled eggs chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 25 Empanada Tapas see recipe for dough, above
  • Egg wash one egg beaten with 1 tbsp water

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Sweat onions in olive oil till soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add ground beef and break up. Sauté till cooked through, but not browned. Stir in tomato paste and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients, combine well, season with salt and pepper, taste, adjust if necessary. Allow to cool before filling shells
  • Brush a cookie sheet with cold water, or line with a Silpat baking sheet. Working with one shell at a time (keep the rest covered so they don’t dry out), put about a tablespoon of the filling into the middle of the shell, making sure not to fill too much. Dip your finger in some water and moisten the outer edges of the shell. Fold circle over to make a half-moon shape. Press the edges closed, pressing out all of the air in the empanada. Pinch and twist the edges of the dough into a braid all the way around the edge. Place on cookie sheet. Brush each empanada with egg wash.
  • Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot, or at room temperature.

 

Corn Empanadas (Humita)

Course: First Course
Cuisine: Argentine, South American
Keyword: argentina, empanada, fresh corn, south america, vegetarian
Servings: 25 empanadas

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ½ onion diced
  • 1 10 oz. package frozen corn defrosted (or the kernels from 4 fresh corn cobs)
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • ¼ - ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup grated Monterey jack cheese
  • 1 tbsp cognac
  • 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Empanada Tapas see recipe for dough, above
  • Egg wash one egg beaten with 1 tbsp water

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Sweat onions in olive oil till soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in corn. Sprinkle with flour and cook for about 2 minutes. Add milk, cheese, cognac, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add more milk if mixture is too compact, but make sure it doesn’t become too runny either.
  • Brush a cookie sheet with cold water, or line with a Silpat bakingsheet. Working with one shell at a time (keep the rest covered so they don’t dry out), put a tablespoon of the filling into the middle of the shell, making sure not to fill too much. Dip your finger in some water and moisten the outer edges of the shell. Fold circle over to make a half-moon shape. Seal edges with a fork. Place on cookie sheet. Brush each empanada with egg wash.
  • Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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