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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Empanadas

While there are a number of things that make me happy, on the top of that list includes two things: delicious and portable food items, and, excessively long and detailed wikipedia entries on random things. Based on those two requirements, it's little surprise that I would fall madly in love with empanadas.

What made this even better for me was that the whole time I was working with the dough, I was humming "The Girl from Impanena" and swaying. There was a very South American/Latin vibe in my kitchen for about 20 minutes until I realized that I was standing in my Boston kitchen freezing because summer has taken a sabbatical this year.

(Note: my back and arms were in so much pain the next day... if only I was in better shape and worked out more, I'd probably not be struggling the next day to do simple things like move. Or sneeze.)

I focused mostly on the dough because Jason likes to make, what I call, 'concoctions' in the kitchen. Included in this is a banana he mashes and then pours chocolate milk powder and milk over and eats/drinks for dessert or breakfast. Granted, we don't have a blender, but, I feel like even if we did it wouldn't change things much. There was another time he was feeling particularly motivated and I came home to find he had made deviled chicken drumsticks based on a recipe he'd found on cooks.com. The covering was this gross breaded-mayo disaster that was gooey and crunchy at the same time and gave me a stomachache. I had to give him props for trying something new and weird, but he lacks that common sense bone that says, "warm, crunchy mayo-y things probably not so appealing, man." God love him for trying though.

Anyway, I can't know what Jason put into the meat (and will have him guest blog about it) but I directed him to make it either have a thick sauce, or no sauce at all because there's something distinctly uncomfortable about eating a hot empanada and burning yourself on the sauce. I also said that whatever he did do had to be a strong flavor because it had to compensate for the plain flavor of the dough.

These may not have been the best in the world, but they were damned good for a first try. And Jason did a great job with the meat, especially for someone who's never had empanadas before, he really embraced the idea.

I've included the recipe for the dough below, a very simple one that I do by hand, but I'm sure it'd work in a mixer. As for meat, I honestly think you could do anything you wanted with this as long as you keep in mind the two rules I gave Jason: don't make the saucy too runny and make it a flavor punch.


Empanada dough
Adapted from Carlos Rodriguez, chef of Orinoco

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup ice-cold water
1 tsp salt

Place 2 cups of flour in a bowl, add the vegetable oil and water slowly, stirring constantly until a ball forms. Add the all the salt and slowly sprinkle the remaining flour on the dough, kneading between additions of flour. You may not need to use all of the remaining flour, just aim for something that's soft and pliable without being sticky or too shiny.

Sit to rest for 20 minutes and make the filling. While it rests, a little of the oil may leach out of the dough - don't worry about it, you can either add more flour and knead it in, or just knead it back together.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Roll the dough out to 1/4 thickness and cut into 6- or 8-inch circles. Fill with stuffing, lightly water the rum, fold in half and seal, pinching together both halves and crimp with a fork.

Lightly brush the empanadas with an egg wash (one egg beaten lightly with a little milk) and poke holes in the top with a fork.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

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