Sometimes I get inspired by tasting something wonderful at a restaurant that I want to duplicate, and sometimes I get inspired by bad food.
A few months ago I was at a party with a Latin theme. I love theme parties and Latin inspired food. I had been told that they were serving empanadas. I was really looking forward to eating the empanadas. They were from a very famous local store specializing only in handmade Argentinian empanadas. Yum! They looked great! Beautifully formed, rope rolled edges, shiny golden dough, so appealing! With great anticipation, I took my first bite. Ugh. The dough was heavy and thick and the filling had no taste. What a disappointment! This was my first empanada and it wasn’t good.
Driving home from the party, we talked about the party, the people, the food and the empanadas. My date turned to me and said, “You could make them better.” I paid no attention but filed it somewhere in my brain and remembered the empanadas for this party and the possibilities.
When I read empanada recipes, many focused on the pastry and many focused on the filling. I chose to focus on the filling because no matter how good the pastry, if the filling has no taste, you are just eating dough. I use a pre-made pie crust for the pastry. This is a good shortcut especially when you are making lots of empanadas for a large party. (And you don’t sacrifice flavor or quality using the rolled pie crust found in refrigerator departments of grocery stores.)
None of the fillings recipes I read thrilled me, so I created my own. Also, I call them empanaditas because I make them small 2-bite size. These are great to make ahead and freeze. If you are doing this, prepare them and don’t bake them. Take them out of the freezer and thaw for about 20-30 minutes and then bake. I use different shape cookie cutters so that we can identify the filling by the empanadita shape.
These are so good, I’m thinking of making a batch in larger sizes and keeping them in the freezer just in case… you know, I get the taste for an empanada…
EVENT: Apps & Alcohol
SERVES: About 4 Dozen Pieces
1/4 cup (2 oz.) pine nuts
3/4 pound ground turkey
1 large or 2 medium shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, mashed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon chopped green scallions or chives
1/4 cup golden raisins, plumped
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
5 canned plum tomatoes, drained and crushed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
2 boxes refrigerated pie crust (each box contains 2 rolls)
1 tablespoon water
Round cookie cutter, 3” in diameter
Baking sheets lined with parchment paper
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place pine nuts on a baking pan and toast until golden, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
2. Heat the oil. In a large saute pan, over medium heat, and cook shallots and garlic until soft, approximately 2 minutes. Add the spices and distribute evenly.
3. Add ground turkey and cook stirring, until cooked through.
4. Add crushed tomatoes, raisins, fresh parsley and scallions.
5. Remove from heat. Add pine nuts and mix gently until evenly distributed. Taste, add salt and pepper.
6. Allow mixture to cool.
7. In small bowl, beat egg with water.
8. Roll out refrigerated dough.
9. Using round cookie cutter (size 3”), cut out rounds. Take scraps, combine and re-roll dough 1 time.
10. Place a scant 1/2 teaspoon of the filling in the center of 1 circle. Using a pastry brush, brush a little of the egg wash onto the edge of the circle. Fold the circle in half forming a half moon. Pinch the edges together using a fork to seal.
11. Brush the top with egg-water wash.
12. Bake immediately at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes or place unbaked on a cookie sheet and put in freezer.
13. When frozen, remove from tray and line air-tight container with wax paper and store.
To bake from frozen
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Allow empanaditas to thaw at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. Bake same as fresh.