Thursday, March 26, 2009

Perfect Recipe: Empanadas

Good empanadas are all about the dough. You can throw anything inside for filling-- leftovers work especially well. Leftover taco meat and salsa, leftover chili (drained of liquid a bit), leftover pork tenderloin and sauteed peppers and onions, even leftover spinach and mashed potatoes (throw in some chili flakes). They're so easy to serve as an appetizer because you can make the dough, roll it out, fill the empanadas, and place them on the baking sheet, covered in plenty of plastic wrap, the day before the party and then eggwash and bake them right before the guests arrive.
Empanada dough
2¼ (11 ounces) cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 large egg
¼ cup ice water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

I use a food processor to make the dough. First, I pulse together all the dry ingredients. Then I add the butter, water and vinegar and allow the machine to run until the dough has formed a ball that flies around and around the bowl. Chill the dough a bit before rolling it into one big empanada with the filling of your choice (or small two-inch empanadas, perfect for a party). To crimp the edges of the dough, just pull the dough from the bottom to the top, around and onto itself, as you advnce along the edge. At the end of the edge, tuck the end of the dough below the crimped edge. Bake the empanada(s) on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 350 degrees for about twenty minutes, or until golden brown. The crust may develop a cracked look, as pictured above, from the egg wash, but that's normal.
I always serve them with this sauce:
Lime Crema
1 cup sour cream*
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup fresh cilantro, minced very fine
¼ cup white onion, minced very fine
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon kosher salt
*My friend Michael suggests substituting plain Greek yogurt (it's thicker than regular yogurt) instead of sour cream.