This was actually my second time making empanadas--I made them for the first time back in September. The first attempted went quite well, though the filling left something to be desired. Still, it was a somewhat challenging project that was really successful in the end, and I couldn't wait to do it again.
And then the weekend I planned to make them again, I got sick. And then I got really busy with work. And then I started traveling. And life just kept getting in the way until--FINALLY! A couple weeks ago, the time had arrived for Empanadas, part Dos.
Since I wasn't perfectly happy with the filling I had used before, I decided to try a different one. I originally intended to use Smitten Kitchen's chicken empanada filling, but when it came down to it, the recipe sounded fairly involved and I just wasn't sure I was up to it.
Plus, I am a huge fan of pork.
I found a recipe for shredded pork in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything that seemed straightforward and simple: boneless pork shoulder simmered for an hour or so with tasty things like ancho, cumin, garlic, onion, and bay leaves.
After stewing the pork (and filling the house with delicious aromas), I shredded the meat with my fingers and mixed back in a little bit of the garlic and ancho it had stewed with, along with some diced poblano I had roasted over the flame on my stovetop (I will dearly miss my gas stove if the next place I live does not have one).
The empanada dough is super simple: flour, butter, egg, water, and white vinegar (I used Smitten Kitchen's recipe this time as last). You cut cold butter up into little cubes and then mush it into the flour with your fingers until the whole thing becomes kinda crumbly (I think this is similar to pie crust, yes?). Add in liquids, knead it just a bit, then chill.
Next comes the actual formation of the pastries. The first step is rolling out the dough. For the second step, I tried a couple of different approaches; I'm still not sure which one I like best. I think the simplest way to do it is to trace something round with a knife, leaving a nice flat little circle of dough. Unfortunately, all of the round tracing objects I had were either too small or else made pretty frickin' large emapanadas. I probably did most of them this way, and just ended up with really large pastries, which is fine, though I'd like to be able to make smaller ones in the future, for party food or whatever.
The other method I used was just pinching off an amount of dough, rolling it into a ball, and then rolling that ball flat with the rolling pin. This worked...all right. Sometimes the shape came out a bit wonky. It just wasn't consistent enough, even though it gave me more control over the overall size of the pastry.
Once you've got your little circle of dough, take some filling--not too much, though I'm certainly guilty of this--and plop it in the middle. Then simply fold one half of your circle over the other and seal the edges together, using a fork or other crimping method. I used a fork, which worked well enough.
I placed the number of empanadas we wanted to eat for dinner on a baking sheet, brushed them with beaten egg, and popped them into a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. (The rest of the empanadas got the flash freeze treatment, and ended up as dinner a few nights later--I'm finishing off the last two tomorrow for lunch.)
What can I say--these empanadas turned out even better than the first ones. The filling had a great flavor, though it could have been moister for my tastes, but the dough was absolutely perfect--rich, flaky, golden brown on top.
I served them with chimichurri sauce, from a recipe I pulled up on Epicurious.Take a bunch of parsley, a bit less of cilantro, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, red pepper, cumin, and salt. Into the process it all goes, until it's completely pureed. Voila.
Super tasty, super simple dipping sauce. Long story short, I will never again make empanadas without making this sauce. And since I intend to make empanadas again, I will definitely be making this sauce again. By the way, this was the single most worthwhile purchase of parsley I have ever made--I used more than half the bunch just on this single recipe.
Empanadas are a really impressive dish that, while it requires a bit a of time commitment, is definitely within reach for any home cook. And regarding the time thing, you could use a different, less time/labor-intensive filling, or cook the filling a day ahead of time, or make the dough ahead of time. Whatever you do, the end result will wow the lucky people you end up sharing them with--if you can bear to share any at all!