May 15, 2019 10:34:15 AM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
With a whole summer patio party season before us, my thoughts wander to alternatives for the same-old burgers and hot dogs we often fall back on. Influenced by Cinco de Mayo just past, I've started thinking specifically about empanadas for an upcoming birthday celebration with a fiesta flair. Empanadas are stuffed bread or pastry folded over savory or sweet fillings, fried to a crisp golden brown -- or baked. Cultures and countries around the world have some version -- dumplings, samosas, British or Cornish pasties, Brazilian pastels, Cuban pastelitos, Southern fried pies.
The name empanada comes from the Galician, Portuguese and Spanish verb em pandar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread. Empanadas are mentioned as far back as 1520, in the cookbook "Libre del Coch," by Ruperto de Nola. They can be appetizers or snacks, but they can also easily fill the role of satisfying meal at breakfast, lunch or dinner. When it comes to fillings, almost anything goes. You can opt for seasoned beef, pork, chicken, turkey, seafood, veggies, cheese, the list goes on. Or be inspired by what you find at the farmers market this week. Make your own dough or buy ready-made empanada discs at well-stocked grocery stores, and certainly at most Latin groceries.
"Homemade empanada dough is very easy to make, especially if you have a food processor," says food blogger Layla Pujol at laylita.com. "Making the dough at home also allows you to customize it and add things like herbs, spices and other personal touches ..." (Dough prep varies depending on whether your empanadas will be baked or fried.)
Pujol's site is an in-depth resource, chock-full of info and an Empanada 101 primer. Find recipes for specific doughs -- for baking, for frying, for savory, for sweet. Filling recipes range from empanadas mendocinas (Argentinean beef empanadas) to empanadas de queso al horno (baked cheese). You'll also find dessert empanada recipes filled with tempting ingredients. And because empanadas are often served with dipping sauces, enjoy recipes for 11 sauces to complement almost any filling you've chosen. (Argentinean chimichurri sauce is one of the most popular savory empanada sauces.)
For the birthday fiesta coming up, I'm thinking empanadas made with seasoned beef, chicken or turkey filling, with cheese and other flavorings. For sides, how about grilled corn and maybe an avocado salad, or fresh sliced lime-marinated tomatoes, fresh from the farmers market. It's beginning to sound mouth-watering already.
CHICKEN OR TURKEY EMPANADAS
12-15 medium sized empanadas discs, using homemade dough or store-bought empanada discs
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 white onion, sliced thinly
1/2 bell pepper, sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground achiote or annatto
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups shredded turkey or chicken
2 tablespoons turkey gravy (you can replace this with a combination of broth and butter)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano (can be replaced with 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
Salt, to taste
1 egg, yolk and white separated
Suggested dipping sauces: Spicy cranberry mango sauce, tree tomato aji or chimichurri sauce
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.