Both Andrew and I are crazy about Mexican food. I swear I could probably eat it every day of the week and not grow tired of it. Although I have eaten countless varieties of savory empanadas over the years, this is the first time I actually attempted making them in my own kitchen. The dough for these empanadas is based off of my favorite pie dough. The only difference is that masa harina is used in place of some of the flour and instead of a butter and shortening combination, all butter is used. The result is a crisp and flaky crust surrounding a savory combination of beef, corn, black beans and green olives. These empanadas freeze beautifully so you can enjoy fresh empanadas whenever the craving strikes. Just freeze the empanadas on a baking sheet until firm, tightly wrap in plastic wrap and place in a ziploc freezer bag. When you are ready to bake them, just brush the tops of the frozen empanadas with oil, place onto the hot oiled baking sheets and bake for 30-35 minutes until well browned and crisp.
Yield: 12 empanadas
Prep Time: 2 hours (includes cooling time)
Cook Time: 30 minutes
For the Filling:
1 large slice hearty white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound 85 percent lean ground chuck
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed
4 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
2 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
4 teaspoons cider vinegar
For the Dough:
3 cups (15 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
1 cup (5 ounces) masa harina
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons table salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1/2 cup cold vodka or tequila
1/2 cup cold water
5 tablespoons olive oil (for baking empanadas)
To make the filling, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade,in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process bread and 2 tablespoons chicken broth until a paste forms, about 5 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add beef, salt, and pepper and pulse until mixture is well combined, six to eight 1-second pulses.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add onions, corn, and beans and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, cumin, cayenne, and cloves; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add beef mixture and cook, breaking apart meat with wooden spoon, until browned, about 7 minutes. Add remaining ½ cup chicken broth and simmer until mixture is moist but not wet, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, eggs, olives, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour. (Filling can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)
To make the dough: in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process 1 cup flour, masa harina, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and process until homogeneous and dough resembles wet sand, about 10 seconds. Add remaining 2 cups flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into a large bowl.
Sprinkle vodka or tequila and water over mixture. Using hands, mix dough until it forms tacky mass that sticks together. Divide dough in half, then divide each half into 6 equal pieces. Transfer dough pieces to plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
To assemble the empanadas: Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions, place 1 baking sheet on each rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. While baking sheets are preheating, remove dough from refrigerator. Roll each dough piece out on lightly floured work surface into 6-inch circle about ⅛ inch thick, covering each dough round with plastic wrap while rolling remaining dough. Place about 1/3 cup filling in center of each dough round. Brush edges of dough with water and fold dough over filling. Trim any ragged edges. Press edges to seal. Crimp edges of empanadas using fork.
To bake the empanadas: Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over surface of each hot baking sheet, then return to oven for 2 minutes. Brush empanadas with remaining tablespoon oil. Carefully place 6 empanadas on each baking sheet and cook until well browned and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Cool empanadas on wire rack 10 minutes and serve.
The alcohol in the dough is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor—do not substitute or omit.
Masa harina can be found in the international aisle with other Latin foods or in the baking aisle with the flour. If you cannot find masa harina, replace it with additional all-purpose flour (for a total of 4 cups).
After step 5, the empanadas can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen.
Source: Cook’s Illustrated, May 2010
One Year Ago: Cape Cod Wedding Weekend