Thursday, May 1, 2008

Empanadas Smith-Style



Empanadas, or hand-held meat pies, are common to many South American and Hispanic cuisines. Close cousins to the British meat pasties, the Australian meat pies, and the Indian samosas, their widespread popularity is no doubt due to their portability and their versatility.

Easily customized to cultural flavor preferences, the empanada is a perfect way to incorporate whatever bits of leftovers you've got sitting around in the fridge. Roast beef? Dice it and toss it in. Steamed veggies? Ditto. Chili? Mmm-hmm!

When I make empanadas, I tend to stick more closely to the traditional Argentinean recipe, which features hard-boiled eggs and green olives, mixed into a base of seasoned cooked ground beef. This owes more to the fact that I learned to make empanadas from my father, a professional chef born and raised in Argentina, than to actual family preference, as my kids claim that the oven does unkind things to hard-boiled eggs, and can usually be found fishing out egg-white pieces and accusing them of being gristle.

For these empanadas, which I have dubbed "Smith-Style," I omitted the eggs and the olives, because I didn't have time to boil eggs and I had no green olives in the fridge. I added cheese because we are a cheese-loving clan, and I threw in some diced roasted veggies (carrots with cumin and lime, because that's what we'd had with dinner the previous night). I added cream cheese and sour cream to bind them together, some seasonings, and voila, empanadas that not only got rid of some leftovers, but were eaten with much gusto and not a single complaint.

Empanadas Smith-Style

For Pastry:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons ice water

For Filling:

  • 11/2 cups cooked ground beef
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup diced cooked vegetables
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Chili powder for dusting

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut shortening into flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle ice water over, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing crumbs with a fork. When the mixture forms large clumps and no fine crumbs remain, use hands to form dough into a disk on a well-floured surface.


Roll to about 1/8 thickness. Using a saucer or small bowl with about a 5-inch diameter as a template, cut dough into rounds. Place dough rounds on baking sheet.

Combine all filling ingredients except beaten egg, mixing well. Place 1/4 cup of filling on one half of each dough round. Using your fingertip or a pastry brush, moisten the edge of each dough circle with cold water. Fold over, press edges together, and crimp with a fork to seal. Poke each empanada with the tines of a fork to allow steam to escape.

Brush beaten egg over each empanada, sprinkle with chili powder, and bake for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve with salsa and sour cream for dipping. Can be eaten hot or cold.

Makes 10 empanadas.

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