In The Art of South American Cooking, legendary Peruvian Chef Francisco Rojas-Lombardi pays homage to traditional dishes from Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, and Uruguay. And although there are many cultural differences between them, one dish you’ll find in all cuisines is the Empanada — baked or fried, savory or sweet, making an empanada is a truly delicious art.
The last time I visited Peru, I was surprised at just how popular empanadas had become. Essentially, they were a vehicle for almost every savory Peruvian dish, such as the Lomo Saltado. Many restaurants in San Francisco serve fried empanadas as appetizers, but I prefer the texture and flavor of baked empanadas. The recipe here is for the traditional Chilean Empanada, baked and with a savory ground beef filling.
Since empanadas are fairly small and each holds only about a tablespoon of filling, it’s important to make the filling very flavorful. The key is to brown the beef in a well-seasoned sofrito and then add a beef stock that is reduced until the beef is coated in a moist glaze. I also used currants instead of raisins and a variety of Greek olives.
Despite making a bit of a mess in the kitchen, just like during my first bread making experience a few months ago, I really enjoyed preparing the dough. Working it with my hands, shaping it, kneading it, adding flour and water, until I could smell and feel that it was ready. Ready to be part of the wonderful bond between bread and beef.
Once the empanadas were out of the oven, I could hardly wait to take that first warm and savory bite, practically a perfect combination. Now, I really want to try different empanada variations, with a savory filling like Lomo Saltado, or perhaps even something sweet. Until then, this recipe will get you on the road to tasty empanada heaven.
INGREDIENTS FOR BEEF FILLING
- 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 yellow onion
- salt, pepper, cumin, oregano to taste
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 cup beef stock
- bay leaf
- 1/4 cup currants
- 3 pitted olives
- 2 hard boiled eggs
INGREDIENTS FOR DOUGH
- 3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick of butter at room temperature
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 9 tablespoons cold water
INGREDIENTS FOR GLAZE
- 1 egg and an additional egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon cold water
In addition to the ingredients above, you’ll need a skillet to sauté the filling, a bowl to mix the dough, and a baking sheet lined with Silpat to bake the empanadas.
- Mince the garlic and dice the onion. Measure out the ingredients for the dough and prepare a working surface. Mix the ingredients for the glaze in a small bowl. Chop each olive into 4 pieces. Peel and cut each egg into 6 pieces. Prepare the beef stock.
- Sauté the onions and garlic in a skillet with canola oil over medium to high heat. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano to taste.
- Add the beef, mix well with the onions, and sauteé until the beef is well browned.
- Add 1/2 cup of the beef stock, currants, bay leaf, and reduce heat to simmer. When the stock is reduced, add the remaining stock, and continue to simmer until the stock is reduced again. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Sift the flour into a bowl, add the salt, butter, egg yolks, vinegar, and mix well by hand.
- Add 5 tablespoons of water and continue to mix and shape the dough. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of water, a little at a time, while continuing to shape the dough until firm.
- Roll the dough into a thin square that is about 16″ by 16″ and cut circles that are about 5″ in diameter. Re-knead the dough that is left behind, roll out and cut more circles. Repeat until you have 12 circles.
- Add a tablespoon of filling to each circle, include a piece of egg and olive. Add a few drops of cold water around the circumference of each circle, and fold each circle to form a crescent shape. Use your fingers to seal the edge of each circle.
- Prick the top of each empanada with a fork to form small holes. Using a brush, coat each empanada with some glaze.
- Arrange the empanadas on a baking sheet lined with Silpat and place in oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
- Serve warm.
To make the beef stock, I used one teaspoon of Better than Bouillon Beef Base to 1 cup of water.