One of my new blogging buddies, Michelle Lara of Cupcakes, Cocktails and Kids has a saying on her blog, “I never met an empanada I didn’t like”. Hmmm. I’d never met an empanada — period.
Heresy, you say? Maybe so. I’ve lived in South Florida for a very long time, and if this isn’t a petri dish for cultural and food diversity, I don’t know what is. I felt like I was missing out.
I mean, I knew what empanadas were — a savory meat filling surrounded by a flaky pastry. That alone should have put them in regular rotation on our dinner calendar. What was I thinking???
Just about every South American Nation has its own “authentic” version of empanadas. It can be made with beef, pork or poultry, sausage or chorizo. Some are stuffed with peppers and potatoes, others have dried fruit blended into the mix.
So I played around with ingredients and various spices and came up with this blend. Actually, the filling was the easy part. The dough. Well, you know how I feel about making pastry. But for you, I did it. Then I found out that they actually sell empanada wrappers in the frozen foods section. Are you f$%&#g kidding me???
I had already rolled, sliced, stuffed, crimped and baked my empanadas. Too late? Not really. I made a lot of filling. Enough for another batch of these tasty pockets.
So I went to the market and bought the frozen dough. I think you’ll be able to tell the difference between the flaky buttery homemade version and the prepackaged stuff.
The homemade was so much better. But the frozen pastry disks were so much easier. It’s a toss up.
I also made this smoky tomato-ey chutney to ladle onto each bite of the pastry — and it’s good, but not mandatory.
Smoky Turkey Empanadas
Savory stuffed pockets of dough, these empanadas are great for a casual lunch or dinner and are portable enough for tailgating!
For the Empanada Dough - either
- purchase 2 packages of ready-made empanada pastries OR --
- 4 1/2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter cold
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
for the filling
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound ground turkey not extra lean
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 green bell pepper chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tomato chopped
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon Ancho or other chili powder
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 cup crumbled queso fresco
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon water
for chunky dipping sauce
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 yellow onion sliced
- 1/2 jalapeño seeded
- 3 cloves garlic in skins
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- zest of 1 lime
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup cilantro
for the homemade pastry
- Pulse the butter and flour in the work bowl of a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Note: if you don't have a food processor, work the butter and flour between your fingers until you have the same consistency.
- Beat together the eggs, water and vinegar in a small bowl and add to the flour mixture, stirring until just incorporated. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gather the dough together. Knead gently once or twice, just enough to bring the dough together. Shape into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap for at least 1 hour.
- Adjust oven racks to the top 1/3 and bottom 1/3 of the oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
for the filling
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil, onion, bell pepper and garlic and sauté 4-5 minutes until vegetables soften. Add the ground turkey and brown the meat while breaking it apart with the back of a fork or wooden spoon. Add the fresh tomato, raisins cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes until mixture is well blended - adjust seasonings if necessary. Remove from heat, stir in queso fresco and place the lid on the pan. Set aside.
Assemble the empanadas
- Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one piece of dough to 1/8" thick. Cut the dough into 5" rounds and transfer to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Repeat until all the dough has been rolled and cut.
- (If you're using the store-bought pastry, this is where they come into play.) Mound 2 tablespoons of turkey filling onto the pastry and carefully fold over, pressing along the edge to seal the dough. Use the tines of a fork to press the edge together and make a decorative border.
- Add the egg and water to a small bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Use a pastry brush to paint the empanadas with the egg wash. Bake for 25 minutes, alternating the baking sheets halfway through cooking. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes and serve.
for the chunky dipping sauce
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the olive oil, tomatoes, onions, jalapeños and garlic cloves on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the vegetables with cumin, paprika and salt. Toss to coat. Roast vegetables for 20-25 minutes until tomatoes have just begun to burst.
- Pick out the garlic, remove the skins and discard them. Add the garlic and the rest of the vegetables to a mini prep food processor and pulse 1-2 times. Add the lime zest, vinegar and cilantro and pulse to combine. Season to taste. Serve with empanadas.
These can be made ahead and frozen until ready to use. To reheat, thaw to room temperature and heat in a 325 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.
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