Beef Empanadas

Its not hard for me to get wanting empanadas in my head. Hot, crispy, deep friend crust wrapped around any kind of sweet* or savory filling you can dream up. Its in your head, now, right? Also, my hubs just took a new job that will give him time off in the winter (its hard to garden in the snow) and I’ve been fantasizing about warm weather retreats and Mexico tops the list.

Additionally, I’d soaked some black beans the other day with no real plan. I have a hunk of smoked pork shoulder in the fridge and so I thought I’d dice that up and throw it in the finished pot with some cilantro and fresh onion. But what to have with the beans…

I decided on a savory and sweet ground sirloin filling with the crispy deep fried golden crust that I was craving. Of course you could bake them and I’ll tell you how below.

Partner that up with the black beans and some tomato-flavored rice and voila! Vacation on a plate. Now if only the sun would come back out…

Beef Empanadas
Makes about 20

2 T olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 small onion, diced
Kosher Salt & Pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T ground cumin
1 T dried oregano
1 tsp ground cinnamon
about a pound and a half ground sirloin
1/2 a 15oz can diced tomatoes (save the other half for the rice)
12 large pimento-stuffed olives, chopped up
1/3 cup dried cranberries
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped up
20 empanada shells (check the “ethnic” section of the grocery store)
1 quart vegetable oil (if frying)
1 egg (if baking)

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic cook 1 minute more.

2. Add the cumin, oregano and cinnamon. Cook 1 minute.

3. Add the beef and cook, breaking up with a fork or a wooden spoon until the meat is cooked through.

4. Add the tomatoes and the olives. Cook 2 minutes.

5. Stir in the cranberries, turn off the heat and cover for 15 minutes. The cranberries will plump up again with some tomato-y beef juice. Yum. Taste and add more s+p if necessary.

6. Transfer to a big metal bowl to facilitate cooling. Stir in the chopped egg and let come to room temperature.

7. To form the empanadas, take a pastry shell and into the center, put about 1/4 cup filling. Then, fold the circle in half, using a little water on the still-exposed dough edge and press tightly to seal. You can use the tines of a fork to go around the edge to ensure proper closure, or, you can follow Rick Bayless’ instructions for making the authentic roped edge. Essentially, and this makes way more sense when you are actually doing it, hold the dough in your left hand if you are right-handed with the straight fold against the crotch of your thumb and forefinger. Then, starting at the corner closer to your wrist, pinch the dough so that it comes into the pads of the thumb and forefinger of your left hand, then fold that pinched dough back onto the pastry like a little wave crashing on a doughy beach. Move around the edge of the pastry, one fingerprint-width at a time, until you have something like you see in the picture up top.

8. Repeat until you run out of shells or filling.

9a. If Frying: Pour the quart of oil into a pan large enough to fit about 3 empanadas at a time in about 1″ of oil. Heat to 375º and heat your oven to 200º. Set a coolig rack (like you use for cookies) over a sheet tray and put that in the oven to hold the done empanadas. When the oil is hot, slip in a few empanadas at a time. Don’t overcrowd the pan – you don’t want the temperature of the oil to drop too dramatically when you add the item you are frying. Fry one the first side til golden, about 2 minutes, then flip and fry til golden on the second side. Move the finished empanadas to the rack in the warm oven and continue until all are cooked.

9b. If Baking: Set all your finished empanadas up on baking sheets lined with parchment or a silpat and heat the oven to 375º. Scramble the egg and brush the tops of each pastry. Bake until golden, about 35 minutes. But really, you should fry them.

*Click here for a breakfast-style guava and cheese version of this recipe!

  • John

    Do not use Goya frozen empanada discs.  If thats all you can find you are better off trying to make your own dough.  The best brand is La Saltena.  I buy the ones for frying “Para Freir” and bake them. The come out great with a little egg wash.

    • http://www.thegourmandandthepeasant.com Emily Peterson

      Hi John – I’ve been using La Fe pastry dough. Here’s a picture of the package:
      http://www.thegourmandandthepeasant.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/dough.jpg

      They aren’t so good baked as I discovered in my guava & queso empanada recipe testing. I’ll have to seek out La Salterna when I want to skip the deep fryer.

      Where do you find them?

    • http://www.thegourmandandthepeasant.com Emily Peterson

      Hi John – I’ve been using La Fe pastry dough. Here’s a picture of the package:
      http://www.thegourmandandthepeasant.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/dough.jpg

      They aren’t so good baked as I discovered in my guava & queso empanada recipe testing. I’ll have to seek out La Salterna when I want to skip the deep fryer.

      Where do you find them?