Friday, March 18, 2011

Empanadas Argentinas de Begoña (Argentinian Turnovers)

This is a very special installation of "Cuban Home Cooking" - today we learned how to make a popular and delicious treat from Argentina that has become a staple in Cuban bakeries and restaurants - often eaten for breakfast, lunch or as a "merienda" or snack.

Our "teacher" was Begoña Cabili, a friend's mother-in-law, born in the Basque region of Spain who emigrated to Argentina with her brother and sister when she was 18 years old. There the Basque beauty met and married Roberto, a dashing Argentine of Turkish descent and she learned to make Argentinian dishes. For the last 40+ years they've lived in Miami with their children and grandchildren. And that's how she came to be our friend and teacher!

We made - and ate! - beef empanadas and chicken empanadas. The procedure is the same, but in the pictures you'll see the beef preparation. Let's do it!

The Ingredients

1 lb lean ground beef (or chicken) - well separated
6 oz roasted sweet peppers - minced
15 plain olives - chopped
1/2 large white onion - finely chopped
2 hard boiled eggs - chopped
1¼ ounces raisins (optional)
4 Tblsp extra virgin olive oil
Paprika to taste
Salt to taste
20 sheets of flaky filo turnover dough for oven

Note - Begoña uses the brand "La Salteña" which she buys at a local Argentinian deli. Any phyllo dough pastry should work - but if possible try to get it for "the oven" or baking, rather than for frying.

Note - The dough comes frozen and can be stored in the freezer up to 6 months before use. Before using thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Note - Keep the dough refrigerated until use and even while working keep the dough sheets as cool as possible.

The Process
This recipe makes 20 empanadas

  1. Preheat oven to 350º.

  2. In a skillet sweat onions in 4 Tblsp of oil on low temperature until they are tender.

  3. Add the meat to the onions. Then add salt to taste and add paprika to the desired color.

  4. Drain, rinse and dry the roasted sweet peppers, and then mince them.

  5. Chop the eggs and the olives.

  6. Add raisins, olives, peppers and eggs to the meat and mix well.

  7. Sample a bit and add salt to taste.

  8. Set the mixture aside to cool.

  9. Cover baking sheets with tin foil and lightly grease with melted butter. Take the dough out of the refrigerator but keep cool and covered as you work with each one.

  10. Place one dough disc on a hard surface - marble is ideal as it keeps the dough cool. Rim the edge with enough water to make it moist - this will help seal it.

  11. Place one tablespoon of the meat mixture in the disc and fold the dough over it.

  12. Crimp the edges starting at one end and working around.

Note - If you're making different types of empanadas (meat and chicken for example) crimp the edges differently to distiguish them from each other. You can use a fork for one type, shell shape for another, etc.)
  1. Brush each turnover with egg yolk to add color to the pastry.

  2. Place in the oven for approximately 25 minutes.

  3. Check periodically to ensure they are browning but not burning.
Note - The empanadas can be made and frozen unbaked for up to 6 weeks. Thaw them before baking.

We enjoyed the empanadas with some wine and good conversation and Begoña made delicious baked apples for dessert. And yay! there were enough for all of us to take some empanadas home!

¡Buen provecho!