Everyday Food (December 2009)
Here in our nation's capital, we have a great little chain of empanada stores called Julia's Empanadas. In fact, there's one right around the corner from our house. Julia's is a great place to grab a quick bite or a late-night snack.
For those of you not familiar with empanadas, Julia's sums it up nicely on their website:
Every country has one, in Jamaica they're called "patties", in Italy "calzones", the Israelis call them "knishes". We call them "Empanadas". So what's an Empanada? It's a mildly spiced, freshly baked sandwich served hot!!
Maybe it's because we have access to great empanadas, but we had never really considered making them at home. We love them, but Julia's does it so well, could ours stack up? Everyday Food was going to help us find out.
Word of warning: This recipe is not for a quick meal. It's multi-step and fairly time consuming (1 1/2 hours total), so take that into consideration. We actually made these on a weeknight, and believe us when we say, it was a late dinner.
The actual process of making the empanadas, though, is not overly difficult. The dough, for instance, comes together quickly and requires no resting time. Similarly, the filling of pork, potato and spices cooks quickly, but it does need time to cool.
The combination of flavors in this dish is our favorite thing about it. The sage- and thyme-scented dough adds a nice fragrance, and the filling, spiced with golden raisins, garlic, pine nuts, makes for a distinctive pork and potato combination.
Assembly is perhaps the trickiest thing about this recipe, but once you get the hang of it, it goes quickly. Roll the dough, cut it into circles, add filling, fold the dough over and crimp. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
And it is in that step, ladies and gentlemen, where we made our error.
The recipe instructs you to roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness. We did -- or at least we got close -- but we think that ours was still too thick. When we sat down to our late-night dinner and tore into some empanadas, it was obvious that our dough-to-filling ratio was off. There was a lot of dough, making the empanadas far too bready.
If you make these empanadas, we would encourage you to roll the dough thinner than you think you need to. Trust us, you'll be glad you did.
Before we make any more empanadas, perhaps we need to stop by and get some tips from the folks at Julia's.
Prep Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 1/2 hour
1/2 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced medium
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small yellow onion, diced small
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 pound ground pork
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves plus small springs for topping
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons all purpose flour, plus more for working
2 tablespoons golden raisins (optional)
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (optional)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
course salt and ground pepper
Empanada dough (below)
1 large egg
1. Set strainer basket in medium pot with 2 inches boiling water. Add potato, cover, and cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. In large skillet, heal oil over medium. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, 5 to 7 minutes. Raise heat to high and add pork, thyme, and sage; cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until pork is no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add flour; cook, stirring, until blended, about 30 seconds. Add raisins (if using) and 2 tablespoons water: cook until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in potato, pine nuts (if using) and vinegar. Season filling with salt and pepper, and let cool.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. On a floured surface, divide dough in half and roll each piece to an 1/8-inch thickness. Using a a 6-inch cookie cutter or plate as a guide, cut out 8 circles. Place 1/4 cup filling on half of each circle, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Brush edge of dough with water; fold top half over filling. Press edges to seal, then crimp firmly with a fork.
3. Transfer empanadas to two baking sheets lined with parchment. In a bowl, beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush empanadas with egg wash and top with thyme springs. Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.
In a food processor, pulse 4 cups all-purpose four (spooned and leveled), 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 tablespoon course salt. Add 2 tablespoons each minced fresh sage and thyme; pulse until combined. Add 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces; pulse until mixture is the texture of coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Add 1 cup ice water; pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (add up to 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead just until dough comes together, 4 to 5 times.