Enjoy a hand-held meal with empanadas

National Empanada Day is April 8, so try one of these tasty treats as an appetizer, entree or dessert

    Empanadas are a delicious treat — depending on the size, they can make a perfect hand-held appetizer, entree or even a dessert.
    And this is the ideal time to try making them. After all, national Empanada Day is Thursday, April 8.
    Here are some tips for making a delicious empanada.
    Use ice-cold water for the dough to ensure it’s flakey with a tender crumb. Cold water will ensure that the butter cut into the dough will not melt and help give it a wonderfully flaky texture once baked.
    Equally important is to let the dough rest while you make your filling. That allows the flour  to relax, stops the gluten development and become more hydrated from the water.     And after you roll out the dough, let it rest on the counter for at least five minutes before you cut it into circles. That will help the dough maintain its shape so it won’t shrink when you cut out the rounds. Roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness for smaller empanadas, and a little bit thicker for bigger empanadas that are going to hold more filling.        Give your filling as much flavor as possible. Be creative with your spices and herbs and be a little liberal with the salt, sugar and other seasonings because once each pie is filled, the dough will temper those flavors.
    Take care not to overfill them or the filling will leak out when baked in the oven, making a mess. Try not to spill the filling onto the edges of the dough or they won’t seal together well.    
    Use milk, cream or egg wash on the crust so the exterior is browned and shiny.
    Empanadas can be eaten warm or at room temperature. You can generally freeze them as well, reheating them in the oven on low heat.
    Following are empanada recipes from foodnetwork.com.




For dough:
3 cups, plus more for the work surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 cup lard or shortening
1 egg
3/4 cup chicken stock
For filling:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon garlic salt
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
Oil or shortening, for frying
For aoili dip:
1 cup real mayonnaise
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
Juice of 1/2 lime

    For dough: Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the lard with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.
    In a separate bowl, beat the egg, then whisk in the stock. Add egg mixture to the flour mixture and knead until a dough forms. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.
    In a large nonstick skillet, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add ground beef and garlic salt and brown until cooked completely. Drain the grease and set the beef aside.
    In the same pan, heat the remaining olive oil. Add tomato paste, vinegar, cumin, chili powder, oregano, seasoned salt, garlic, bell peppers and onions. Cook eight to 10 minutes, until softened. Add beef and cook over low heat about five minutes. The mixture should be moist but not dripping wet.
    Lightly flour a work surface, then roll out the dough until 1/4-inch thick. Cut out four to six inch rounds. Place some filling on one half of the dough, then fold the dough over in half. Use a fork to seal the edges closed. You can refrigerate the uncooked empanadas for as long as three hours.
    Heat the oil in a deep fryer until 350 degrees, then fry the empanadas six to seven minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot.    Mix together mayonnaise, adobo sauce and lime juice to make dipping sauce.



Chicken Mini Empanadas

2 11-ounce packages pie dough mix
1 9.75-ounce can white chicken meat, drained, or 1-1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 cup chunky salsa
1 3-ounce can sliced ripe olives
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
Flour, for dusting

    Prepare pie dough according to the package directions for a double-crust pie. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill.
    In a medium saucepan, combine chicken, salsa and olives. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer five minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese. Cool slightly.
    On a flour-dusted surface, roll out the dough until 1/4-inch thick. Using a 3-inch-round cutter, cut out 36 circles, rerolling the scraps as needed. Place about one tablespoon chicken mixture in the center of each circle. Moisten the edges with water.
    Fold the circles in half and pinch to seal. Pierce the tops with a fork.
    Place empanadas on a baking sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes, until golden. Serve hot.


Chocolate-Banana Empanadas

4 large ripe bananas
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken in chunks
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
For dough:
1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup masa harina
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

    In a large bowl, sift together the flour, masa harina, baking powder and salt. Stir in the melted butter. Gradually add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of water, working it in with your hands to incorporate. The dough should be easy to handle and not sticky. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
    Lightly flour a rolling pin and counter. Divide the dough in half. Roll one half out to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a four-inch cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out 10 circles of dough. Repeat with the other dough half.
    Mash bananas, sugar and cinnamon in a mixing bowl until creamy, but not completely smooth. Spoon a generous tablespoon or two of the filling on the pastry circles and stick a piece of chocolate on top, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Brush the edges with egg wash and then fold the dough in half to enclose the filling and form a semi-circle. Crimp the edges with the tines of a fork. Chill at least 30 minutes.
    Place empanadas on a buttered baking sheet and brush the tops with additional egg wash. Using a fork, prick a few holes in the top of each empanada. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown.


Texas Blackberry and Strawberry Empanadas

4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup blackberries
1 cup wild strawberries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs,
2 tablespoons water
Peanut oil, for frying

    In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder and mix well. Add shortening and cut it in by hand until mixture resembles cornmeal. Add chicken stock and knead until incorporated. Let dough rest, covered, at least 30 minutes in refrigerator.
    Combine blackberries, strawberries, goat cheese and sugar and mix well.
    When the dough has chilled, roll it out to 1/4-inch thickness with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. Cut four-inch circles with a cookie cutter. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each dough circle.
    Beat the eggs and water together in a small bowl. Brush egg wash around the edges of the dough. Fold the dough over the filling to make the circles into half moons. Crimp the edges with the tines of a fork to seal.
    Heat a pan, filled half way up with peanut oil, to 350 degrees, then fry empanadas six to eight minutes, turning occasionally, until golden brown.


Spicy Sweet Potato Empanadas

1 pound sweet potatoes, scrubbed
Olive oil
1/4 cup sour cream
1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1-1/2 tablespoons Grade A maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water, for egg wash
Flaked sea salt, such as Maldon

    Rub sweet potatoes with olive oil and prick them with a fork. Place potatoes on a foil-lined sheet pan and bake in a 425-degree oven about one hour, until very tender when pierced with a knife.
    Allow potatoes to cool enough to handle, then peel and discard the skins. Place the pulp in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sour cream, butter, maple syrup, chile powder, orange zest, orange juice, 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 3/4 teaspoon black pepper and mix well. Set aside.
    Unfold one sheet cold puff pastry on a floured cutting board. Roll sheet into a 12-inch square with a rolling pin. With a sharp paring knife, cut four five-inch circles from the pastry, discarding the scraps.
    Place a heaping spoon of filling on each circle, leaving a one-inch border. Brush the edges of the circles with egg wash and fold over, making half circles. Crimp the edges with the tines of a fork.
    Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan and chill 15 minutes.
    Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with the sea salt and pepper. Make two small slits in each empanada, then bake in a 375-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until puffed and browned. Serve hot.


Cheesy Chicken Empanadas

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely diced, seeded and ribs removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1-1/2 cups shredded, cooked chicken breasts
1 cup shredded Monterey and cheddar cheese blend
4 ounces cream cheese, diced
Dash hot sauce
1 egg
15-ounce package refrigerated pie dough
1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder
For chili lime dipping sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 chipotle pepper canned in adobo sauce, minced
Juice and zest of 1 lime

    Place a large saute pan over medium heat and add oil. Once hot, add onion, jalapeno, garlic and green onions and saute three minutes, until tender. Season with salt and pepper.
    In a large bowl, combine chicken, cheese, cream cheese, sauteed mixture and hot sauce.
    Whisk the egg in a small bowl. Set aside.
    Sprinkle flour on a work surface and unroll the pie dough. Roll each round into a 13-inch circle., then cut each crust into eight four-inch circles using a biscuit cutter.
    Spoon about one heaping tablespoon chicken mixture into the center of each round. Brush the edges with the egg wash and fold each circle in half. Gently press on the top of the empanada to release any air. Seal the edges with a fork and brush the top with the remaining egg wash. Sprinkle with chile powder.
    Place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and bake in a 375-degree oven about 20 minutes, until golden brown.
    Combine yogurt, chipotle and lime zest and juice in a bowl.
    Serve empanadas with the dipping sauce.


Spicy Chicken Empanadas With Orange Salsa Verde

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 can diced green chiles
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced, optional
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 rotisserie chicken, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 cups grated pepper Jack cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepared pie dough
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Peanut oil
For orange salsa verde:
1 jar prepared salsa verde
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

    Heat vegetable oil in a medium saute pan, add onions, green chiles, jalapenos, garlic and cumin and saute until onions are translucent.
    In large bowl, combine chicken, lime juice and cilantro. Add onion-chili mixture and mix. Stir in cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste.
    Using a four-inch ring mold, cut circles from pie dough. Put about one tablespoon chicken mixture in center and brush egg wash around circumference of the dough. Fold top half over to form a half circle. Seal with the tines of a fork.
    Heat peanut oil in a deep-fryer to 325 degrees. Fry a few empanadas at a time for about two minutes, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Cool slightly.
    In a large bowl, combine salsa ingredients. Serve empanadas with dipping sauce.


Spinach and Cheese Empanadas

For dough:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1-1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
For filling:
5 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained and crumbled, drippings reserved
1-1/2 pounds fresh spinach leaves, washed
1/3 cup minced onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cottage cheese, farmer’s cheese or ricotta cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch ground nutmeg
1 egg, lightly beaten

    In the bowl of a standing electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter on high speed until smooth, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Reduce speed to low and add the flour, little by little, as well as the salt and process until just combined. Turn dough out onto a slightly floured surface and knead lightly. Form into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least three hours and as long as overnight.
    Heat one teaspoon reserved bacon drippings in a medium nonstick skillet and, when hot, add the spinach. Cook two to three minutes, stirring frequently, until the spinach is wilted and has released its liquid. Transfer to a colander to drain.
    When the spinach has cooled enough to handle, squeeze to release any excess water, then transfer to a cutting board and finely chop. Set aside.
    Add two teaspoons bacon drippings to the skillet and add the onion and garlic. Cook two to three minutes, stirring, until soft but not browned. Add reserved spinach, crumbled bacon, cottage cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg and mix thoroughly. Transfer to a mixing bowl and allow to cool thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
    Remove dough from the refrigerator and, working on a lightly floured work surface, roll until 1/8-inch thick. Using a small bowl as a guide, cut into five-inch circles. Gather the scraps, knead lightly to reform the dough into a disk, roll out again and cut into rounds.
    Divide the spinach filling evenly among the 10 to 12 dough circles. Using your fingers, lightly moisten the edges with beaten egg, then fold one side and press to seal. Crimp the edges with a fork and transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat until all of the empanadas are assembled. Brush the tops with beaten egg and bake in a 450-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.




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