I won’t claim this empanada recipe was passed down from my great-grandmother, (She was Russian and probably never even saw an empanada let alone made one.) I won’t claim these are authentically Salvadoran/Mexican/Argentinian or of any other national origin either. (I made this recipe up from looking over empanada recipes from all of Latin America, and picking and choosing what I like.)
Besides, even when I make “authentic” recipes, I am not that nationality, so doesn’t that automatically make it not authentic? (Makes you wonder about the kitchens of all those fancy French restaurants in New York. You do know it’s Mexicans and Salvadorans cooking your Bouillabaisse and Coq au Vin, right?)
Anyway, here is what I will claim. These empanadas are really good. So if you’re looking for authentic, look elsewhere, vato. But if you’re willing to trust a gabacha who doesn’t do too badly in the kitchen, I’m your girl and here’s your recipe.
First let me start by saying that empanadas are not an exact science. Feel free to substitute what you have on hand. You can fill them with almost anything.
2 cups of cooked meat of your choice (I used leftover steak this time), diced in small pieces
3 small cooked potatoes, diced in small pieces
1 cup of cooked green beans, diced in small pieces
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon achiote seed (annatto)
1/2 cup of your favorite salsa (homemade or from a jar)
salt and pepper to taste
In a small pan over medium high, heat the oil and achiote seed. When the oil turns an orangish-red, remove from heat. (Don’t let the seeds turn black!) Let cool and remove achiote seed and discard. Return pan to stove. Place onion in the achiote oil over medium heat and cook until tender. In a large bowl mix the achiote oil and onion in with all remaining ingredients. This is your filling mixture. Set aside.
Note: For those not familiar with achiote seed (annatto) and achiote molido (annatto powder), it’s awesome. It not only adds vibrant color to the food, but it has a very unique subtle flavor as well. Look for it in your local Latino market in the spice section. If I post more recipes in the future, chances are my amigo achiote will be along for the ride. I use it in a lot of recipes these days.
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon achiote molido (annatto powder)
1 cup butter, diced into pieces
Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and achiote molido in a large bowl. Drop the diced butter pieces into the bowl all at once and work into the flour with your hands until combined to make a fine crumb texture. Mix water in, little by little until you can form a dough ball that is neither dry nor sticky.
On a floured surface, roll the dough out as if you’re making sugar cookies. The dough should not be thick, but be careful not to make it so thin that it tears easily. Using a drinking glass or cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough.
Now to put them together!
In each circle of dough, place a small spoonful of the mixture. Do not overfill them or the dough will tear and they won’t be pretty. Dip your finger in water and wet the edge of the dough circle before closing into a semi-circle. Use the tines of a fork around the edges to seal. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat until you run out of dough and/or mixture.
(Optional: Brush each empanada with egg yolk before placing in the oven.)
Put in the oven at 350 F for about 30 minutes until the dough is solid enough that it can be more easily handled. Now, you can continue cooking in the oven until you feel they’re ready but I prefer to brown them a bit in the frying pan with cooking oil over medium heat. Drain on paper towels and serve. Makes about 20 empanadas. (Serves about 4 people.)