By Joan DesiréSpecial to CSMS MagazineWith all the wonderful pastries of the world, empanada is my favorite. I know one might say: What about the Chinese bao, the English Cornish pastries, the Italian calzones, and the Russian pierogis? Well, I do not deny their exotic taste. However, there is a unique reason why my preference goes out to empanada. Its savory meat, cheese, or fish fillings or its sweet fruit-filled are just enough to make me fall in love with this Spanish-influence pastry. This pastry is called empanadas because of its bread dough that looks like a piecrust. According to Food and Wine magazine, the dough used “is very flaky and easy to work with. It can be made ahead and kept refrigerated up to 24 hours, or you even freeze it and pull it out to use months later (it will keep at least two months).” It is best to mix the dough with butter, because it’s handier.The best way to treat a visiting friend is to use lard, which is “more traditional, makes a flakier pastry, and is extra-delicious.” Experts agree that making empanadas has never been easy. It takes longer than most pastries. However, the end results will make one forget about all the hard time spent preparing it. “Since the empanadas freeze so well, you could always double the recipe and stash some in the freezer for another day. If you end up with extra filling, it would be great worked into a paella, used as a stuffing for chilies, or in omelet or enchiladas.” (Food and Wine Magazine)Here is the recipe Serves 6 To 8 (Makes 24 to 32, depending on size) Empanada Dough 2 cups flour ½ teaspoon salt ½ cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces 4 tablespoons lard, frozen and cut into small pieces 1 large egg yolk 4 tablespoons ice water Filling 8 ounces boneless pork shoulder or Boston butt 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil ½ onion, minced ½ pasilla chili or green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced 1 ½ teaspoon minced garlic 1 tomato, peeled and chopped 1 ½ teaspoons chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives 1 ½ teaspoons raisins, chopped ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt ¼ cup dry sherry 1 small hard-boiled egg, choppedIn order to make the dough correctly, it is important to combine the flour, salt, butter, and lard in a mixer bowl. Using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer or ( if by hand) a pastry blender, cut the butter and lard into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles course meal. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, egg yolk, and water; beat lightly. Pour this into the flour mixture and combine quickly, being very careful not to over mix. Stop just before the dough actually comes together completely, and finish it with a few pats by hand. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and flatten it to a 1-inch-thick disk. Chill for at least 1 hour (and up to overnight).To make the filling, trim the meat of any fat, gristle, or tough sinew. Finely chop it by hand, or you could run it through on the coarse blade of a meat grinder. If you choose to do that, make sure the grinder and the meat are both very cold before you start. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and chile; cook 2 or 3 minutes, until soft. Add garlic and cook a minute more. Next, stir in the pork and continue until it is no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Add tomato, olives, capers, raisins, ¼ teaspoon salt, pepper, and sherry. Continue cooking until the liquid has almost completely evaporated. Taste and add more salt, if needed. Allow the mixture to cool completely, then add the egg and mix well. Set the filling aside.About 10 minutes before you are ready to fill empanadas, remove the dough from the fridge. Frozen dough should be allowed to defrost overnight in the refrigerator first. In either case, the dough should be cold when you work with it. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a ¼-inch thickness. Cut out circles using a 4-inch round pastry cutter. You can chill the scraps for 10 minutes, then gently combine them out again. Don’t use the scraps again, though, as the dough will get tough.To fill the empanadas, place 11/2 tablespoons of filling just off center on each dough circle, leaving room around the edges for sealing. Fold into half-moons and crimp the edges with your fingers. The empanadas can be baked right away, or you can freeze them and finish them later. To freeze, place them on a baking sheet and put them in freezer bags and return them to the freezer. Use them up within 4 weeks, if you can.To bake the empanadas, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Frozen empanadas will take an extra 10 to 15 minutes; they should go straight from the freezer to the hot oven. (Source: Food and Wine Magazine)Also see Greek salad or Village salad: It’s worth trying itBlueberry Meringue TartsEating right is all that matters, not how muchHave you tried grilled turkey burgers with avocado mayonnaise?Chipotle Grilled Chicken with Avocado SalsaNote: Joan Desiré is a student majoring in Fine Art at University of North Florida. She wrote this piece especially for CSMS Magazine.
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