Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Empanada Queen!

I've been sharing recipes from our VIP party at Latin American Heritage Camp. Today we are talking empanadas.

It seems nearly every country has its own version of a "meat pie." But these empanadas come from Chile, a South American country known for its exquisite natural beauty. The diversity is astounding: The Andes and Patagonia, the Atacama desert, a breathtaking 4,000 miles of coastline, Easter Island (Rapa Nui National Park), Robinson Crusoe Island and of course the lovely vineyards, which make Chile the 5th largest exporter of wine. Chile's alpine skiing is a great destination for ski aficionados from the north due to its reverse ski season.

But back to the empanadas: My friend, Jan Harbert, is the Empanada Queen. Each year she and her family make dozens and dozens of Chilean empanadas. Her specialties are cheese, and beef/raisin. For this year's VIP party, Jan made 100 of these little little pockets of deliciousness! I especially love Jan's version because they are baked rather than fried.

By the way, empanadas freeze beautifully. Before baking, place them on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze. Remove frozen empanadas from the baking sheet, wrap tightly and return to freezer. If baking from frozen, add a few extra minutes to the baking time.

I got the recipe from a cooking teacher at camp (2002) who was married to a Chilean and I believe got the recipe from her mother-in-law. Both the dough and pino mix can be made ahead of time and refrigerated - makes preparation easier. --Jan

1 lb. ground beef
3 onions minced (I use 1 onion)
1-cup raisins
3 hard-boiled eggs
1 can black olives drained and coarsely chopped
3 T. olive oil
2 T. cumin
1 T. marjoram (very important)
1 T. salt
Dried red pepper to taste
Paprika to taste

Cook the ground beef over medium heat in a frying pan. Drain excess fat. Add the olive oil, minced onions, raisins, black olives and spices. Mix well and simmer over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes. Set aside. Slice hard-boiled eggs; set aside.

Masa (dough)
1 T. yeast
1 C. warm water
1/4 C. olive oil
1 T. salt (use less – Doug said too salty)
Approx. 3-4 cups flour. (I use like 2 C. more)

Dissolve yeast in warm water; let sit two minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup of the flour; let sit five minutes. Add oil and salt. Add rest of flour a half cup at a time until dough acquires a smooth, elastic consistency and no longer sticks to the side of the bowl. Knead dough. Let rise in a lightly greased, covered bowl. After and hour or so, punch down, let rest, then pinch off pieces smaller that golf balls to make the empanadas or store covered in fridge for later use.

Assembing the empanadas:
Work area should consist of a lightly floured surface with pino mix, eggs, and lightly greased cooking sheets handy. Pinch off pieces of dough somewhat smaller that golf balls. Work into circles using hands or rollers. Use flour or corn meal sparingly to avoid sticking. Once into a circle about 5-6 inches in diameter, spoon on pino mix on one half. Place one egg slice on top of pino mix and fold dough over. Seal edges by crimping with fingers (or fork). Place on cooking sheet. Repeat. Bake in 350-degree oven for 25 minutes. Serve hot.

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