Published May 1, 2010.
In Latin America, crisp pastry pockets stuffed with briny spiced beef make a savory, transportable lunch. We wanted to streamline the recipe in time to serve it for dinner.
Empanadas are a satisfying all-in-one meal, but most recipes demand more time and fuss than the average home cook has to spare.
We wanted to skip the esoteric ingredients and streamline the cooking process, but still create an empanada hearty enough to take center stage at dinner, with a moist, savory filling encased in a tender yet savory crust.
To streamline the filling, we enhanced packaged ground chuck with a milk-and-bread mixture known as a panade. As the meat and panade cook, the starches in the panade’s bread absorb moisture from the milk and form a gel around the protein molecules, which lubricates the meat.
The panade kept the meat tender, but the filling really took shape when we replaced the milk with an equal amount of chicken broth, intensifying the meaty flavor. To round it out we added a hefty dose of aromatics. After sautéing onions and garlic, we “bloomed” cumin, cayenne, and cloves in the pan until fragrant. Finally, we threw in a handful of cilantro leaves and a splash of vinegar off heat, along with chopped eggs, raisins, and green olives for freshness, sweetness, and acidity.
For our crust, we made a few Latin-inspired changes to our Foolproof Pie Dough, a recipe that combines butter (for flavor) and shortening (for tenderness) with water and vodka for a dough that’s both workable and tender. We traded some of the flour for masa harina, the ground, dehydrated cornmeal used to make Mexican tortillas and tamales. This provided nutty richness and rough-hewn texture, and also allowed us to omit the shortening in the original recipe. Less flour means less protein in the dough; less protein meant we didn’t need shortening to tenderize the dough and could switch to all butter for better flavor.
Finally, a quick brush of oil on the top of the empanadas gave us a shiny, crunchy crust, and preheating the baking sheet and drizzling it with oil ensured the underside of the crust got as crispy as the top.list of recipes