How to: Empanadas

Since we returned from our vacation in Argentina (back in March), I’ve been wanting to tackle the art of empanadas, the workhorse of the Argentine lunch. Like ragu in Italy and croissants in France, recipes along with techniques have been passed down from generation to generation.

With a little research, I thought I had come across the perfect recipe, found on Tastespotting, it was passed down through the women in a family in Chile. And then, my Cooks Illustrated arrived complete with a comprehensive tutorial on these savory delights. The recipe below is based on that recipe.

3 cups (15 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour , plus extra for work surface
1 cup (5 ounces) masa harina (I used cornmeal since I couldn’t find my masa harina)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons table salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter , cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1/2 cup cold vodka or tequila (this is a must! it makes a huge difference in the dough)
1/2 cup cold water
5 tablespoons olive oil (for baking empanadas)

1 large slice hearty white sandwich bread , torn into quarters
6 ounces chorizo sausage , cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth
1 can tomato sauce (14.5 ounces)
1 pound 85 percent lean ground chuck
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions , chopped fine (about 2 cups)
4 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 4 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon chipotle chiles , ground
1 tablespoon ground chipotle chile pepper
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves , coarsely chopped
2 hard-cooked eggs , coarsely chopped
1/3 cup raisins , coarsely chopped
4 teaspoons cider vinegar

FOR THE DOUGH: Process 1 cup flour, masa harina, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined, about two 1-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.

5. 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 or up to 2 days.

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 1-second pulses.

2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil and 6 ounces Spanish chorizo or Portuguese linguiça, cut into ¼-inch dice (about 1 cup), in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove chorizo or linguiça, leaving rendered fat in skillet.

3. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and chipotle chile pepper; 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. Then, add chorizo or linguiça back to skillet along with tomato sauce 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 and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour. (Filling can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

TO ASSEMBLE: Adjust oven 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 ⅛ 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.

TO BAKE: 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.

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Filed under Food, How To, Recipes

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