There was a Coca Cola commercial a few years ago that was set in an apartment with two roommates. One of them comes home and finds a note from his mom on the counter that says, "Tony, I hope you enjoy the empanadas and coke I left for you in the fridge." Excitedly, Tony goes to look in the refrigerator as the suddenly wide-eyed roommate sits at the counter scarfing down the last bit of the tasty snack and cool beverage.
...or something like that.
For some reason, this ad really stuck with me. Unfortunately for Coca Cola, it was more about the empanadas than it was about the soda. I really wanted to look into these empanadas, which I soon learned were Latin American meat-stuffed turnovers. Delicious.
My new interest in this particular dish happened to coincide with the time a good friend of mine (who lived next door to me - apartment 301 - in college) was dating an Argentinian hunk. One afternoon, having nothing better to do (which was often the case in college life), I poked my head in good ole' apartment 301. To my delight, my friend and the Argentinian were making empanadas in her kitchen. I stood by, took mental notes, and then later tried making them on my own. I have made empanadas several times since that day. After having experimented with several techniques, ideas, and ingredients in an attempt to make them my own, I finally feel like I have found my favorite recipe for them in my last couple of batches. I am using the term, "recipe", loosely here because you can really just stuff the dough with anything you want. Things I have tried include, pork, chicken, and plain cheese.
When people break up, they take things with them from the relationship that they will carry with them forever, but so do the people around them. Well, I am taking these empanadas and so will my kids and their kids, always remembering where they came from. So since I am a big fan of combining words, please allow me to present to you:
1 C water (room temperature) in a small bowl
1 large egg
1 lb ground beef
1 tbsp olive oil
1 C green olives (stuffed with pimiento) – chopped
1 medium white onion - chopped
2 tbsp minced garlic (or two cloves)
salt and black pepper (to taste)
2 C shredded white cheddar cheese
Kosher salt (to taste)
1 package of frozen dough - thawed (pictured below because I am not exactly sure how to explain it) You can use any kind of frozen dough including puff pastry dough (if you want more of a flaky empanada), a pie crust dough, or one that you can find in the ethnic frozen section of any major grocery store (yes, this section does exist…this is the kind of dough pictured below because it is what I prefer to use). There are generally two sizes (one is about six inches in diameter, the other is about 9). I prefer using the ones that are about 6 inches in diameter for smaller empanadas, but the bigger ones can be good if you are using them more a main dish instead of a side or an appetizer.
Heat (on high) olive oil in a large pan for 1 minute
Add the ground beef to the pan, and stir around until browned
Add the chopped onion and olives (with pimiento), salt, pepper, and minced garlic to the meat and continue cooking until onions begin to feel tender (about 3 minutes), mixing well.
Remove meat from heat and drain any excess juices or fat.
To assemble empanadas:
Beat egg in a small bowl and set aside
Place one dough round flat on a clean countertop (you may want to sprinkle a little bit of flour on the counter to keep the dough from sticking to it)
Dip your finger in the bowl or water, and neatly run it around the edges of the round of dough on only the side facing up (this is to help the edges stick together later on).
Spoon meat mixture (about two heaping tbsp) onto dough and sprinkle generously with shredded cheese. Example (without the cheese):
Fold dough, enclosing mixture in a pocket.
Seal the edges together any way you like. You can pinch the edges together to make patterns, you can fold the edges inward, or you can use a fork and press the edges together using the bottom of it to sandwich the dough between it and the counter. You just have to figure out what works best and is easiest for you. They should look something like this:
Transfer the empanadas onto a baking sheet (sprayed very lightly with cooking spray).
With a pastry brush, coat the entire surface of each empanada with the beaten egg.
Lightly sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt over each empanada.
Bake at about 375 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes (until tops are golden). Baking temperature may vary due to the kind of dough you are using, but there should be rough baking instructions on the package.
A couple of notes:
I borrowed some pictures for this post to better illustrate the process because it really is difficult to explain! However, below is a "Bite Me" original:
I like to make a bunch and freeze the leftovers. I have found the best way to store them is to wrap them individually in foil and then you can put them in freezer bags or a freezer-safe plastic storage container before putting them in the freezer (make sure they are completely cool before you freeze them). When you are ready to eat them up, just unwrap how ever many you would like to eat and put them back in the oven until they are heated all the way through. You can also put them in the microwave on high for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes (for one or two at a time).