Empanadas: Spanish for Comfort Food
|July 8, 2010||Posted by Laura under Adventurous Cooking, Baking, Entertaining, Recipes, What's for Dinner|
It’s no secret that I’m addicted to food magazines, and to anyone who has met my cats, it’s no secret that I’m equally fond of NPR (their names are tributes to Car Talk and A Prairie Home Companion. So dorky). Thus, when during last winter’s pledge drive the thank you gift offered was a year’s subscription to Cook’s Illustrated, I jumped right on board. It was my first annual pledge, and I was very excited.
Months went by, and the magazine did not arrive. I started to lose hope, and develop a small irritated twitch every time I heard Steve Inskeep’s cheerful voice at 6 a.m. I actually wrote a cringingly polite letter of complaint, and received word that my subscription was on its way, but because Cook’s Illustrated is a bimonthly publication blah blah blah. I was not impressed, but continued to wait.
At last, on Thursday of last week, I received not one, but TWO issues of this coveted publication, and I could not be more pleased with its contents. Each recipe contains extensive explanations behind each ingredient choice, charming pencil illustrations of key techniques, and a serious blow-by-blow of all the subtleties of crafting a recipe.
I was immediately intrigued by the article “Bringing Home Empanadas.” After all, how can you not love a food whose name translates literally as something like, “embreadinated.” Adding to the allure, the fellow who wrote the empanada recipe, Bryan Roof, alludes to multiple batches and an army of test-tasters he went through on his quest for the perfect pastry pocket. His carefully chronicled efforts were not in vain: these babies are good.
Though Roof took great pains to make this recipe accessible, it is definitely not a weeknight meal (unless you don’t mind eating at 9 p.m. in front of the TV, which, incidentally, I don’t). Next time you’ve got a free afternoon and some hungry folks coming over, however, I highly recommend that you bust this one out. Make it on a Sunday, and you’ve got lunch all week. These keep well and are highly portable.
The only things this magazine and recipe lack are some pretty color pictures, and I am more than willing to provide those, as I’m exceedingly proud of my results.
From Cooks Illustrated May & June 2010
- 1 large slice hearty white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
- 2 tablespoons plus ½ cup low sodium chicken broth
- 1 lb. 85 % lean ground chuck
- Table salt and ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
- 4 medium garlice cloves, minced or pressed (about 4 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ cup packed cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
- 2 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup raisins, coarsely chopped
- ¼ pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
- 4 teaspoons cider vinegar
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
- 1 cup masa harina
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 taspoons table salt
- 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, but into ½ inch cubes and chilled
- ½ cup cold vodka or tequila (this is essential to the texture of the crust, and won’t affect the flavor. Plus, if you buy the 200 ml flask size, you’ll have just enough to make a couple of vodka tonics for yourself and your attorney to sip while waiting for the dough to chill)
- ½ cup cold water
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
For the Filling
Process bread and 2 tablespoons chicken broth in food processor until paste forms, about 5 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add beef, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and pulse until mixture is well combined, six to eight one-second pulses.
Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, cumin, cayenne, and cloves; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add beef mixture and cook, breaking meat into 1-inch pieces with wooden spoon, until browned, about 7 minutes. Add remaining ½ cup chicken broth and simmer until mixture is moist but not wet, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl and cool 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, eggs, raisins, olives, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour.
For the Dough
Process 1 cup flour, masa harina, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined, about two one-second pulses. Add butter and process until homogeneous and dough resembles wet sand, about 10 seconds. Add remaining 2 cups flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into large bowl.
Sprinkle vodka or tequila and water over mixture. Using hands, mix dough until it forms tacky mass that sticks together. Divide dough in half, then divide each half into 6 equal pieces. Transfer dough pieces to plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes.
Now is a good time to make that vodka tonic. I think if a recipe is going to throw a “chill for 45 minutes,” direction at me, it’s nice to at least suggest something to do with that 45 minutes.
Adjust over racks to upper and lower-middle positions, place 1 baking sheet on each rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. While baking sheets are preheating, remove dough from refrigerator. Roll each dough piece out on lightly floured work surface into 6-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick, covering each dough round with plastic wrap while rolling remaining dough. Place about 1/3 cup filling in center of each dough round. Brush edges of dough with water and fold dough over filling. Trim any ragged edges. Press edges to seal. Crimp edges of empanadas using fork.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over surface of each hot baking sheet, then return to oven for 2 minutes. Brush empanadas with remaining tablespoon oil. Carefully place 6 empanadas on each baking sheet and cook until well browned and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Cool empanadas on wire rack 10 minutes and serve.
This recipe is a gem. With dinners as with pledge drive gifts, most good ones are worth waiting for, and I’m happy to announce that Steve Inskeep and I are now back on good terms.