Chorizo and Cheese Empanadas

I am CRAZY for empanadas; they are, in my opinion, one of the world’s most perfect foods– delicious fillings wrapped in flaky pastry. When we went to visit my daughter Leksa, who was studying in Argentina for a year, we ate empanadas constantly and they were beyond dreamy. We have tried (unsuccessfully) many recipes, foisting inferior empanadas on our poor family at every gathering this summer, and have finally hit on pure deliciousness.  We tried two different doughs and both were delicious; Leksa made a dough similar to a pie dough which is more difficult to work with but slightly more flaky and tender and I made a dough that was definitely easier to make– we both concur that while the pie crust type dough is better tasting, the other dough is a close second.  So here we begin our empanada odyssey…

The flaky dough that Leksa prepared is from Smitten Kitchen; she didn’t change anything about the recipe except that she rolled out the dough to about 1/8″ thick and used a 5″ plate as a template to cut out the empanada rounds rather than dividing it into balls and rolling them out individually.  It just seemed easier that way. This made about 18 empanadas total(without re-rolling the scraps).

For the pie dough-challenged, here is an easier recipe adapted from Food & Wine:
1 cup water
1 stick unsalted butter, sliced
1 T kosher salt (not a misprint)
3 to 3 1/4 cups flour

Bring water, butter and salt to a simmer and stir to melt butter. Put 3 cups of flour into a large wide mixing bowl and pour the water/butter mixture over it (the real directions say to let the liquid cool, but come on, who has the patience for that???). Stir with a wooden spoon until dough somewhat comes together. Inside the bowl, knead the dough very gently approximately 4 or 5 times just to get it to come together. It will look streaky and doesn’t have to be smooth. As I learned after the first time I tried this recipe, if you knead it too much, your empanadas will turn out something akin to shoe leather. Divide the dough into 2 pieces and using the remaining 1/4 cup flour, sprinkle the counter and leave the 2 dough balls on top of the flour to rest, well-covered with plastic wrap, for about an hour. On your well-floured surface, gently roll out the dough to 1/8″ thick and using a 5″plate as a template, cut out 8 rounds (I will confess that I was only ever able to cut out 7 per round of dough).

Assembling the empanadas with either dough
Put a teaspoon of chorizo and about 2 heaping T of grated cheese on the lower third of the empanada. Fold over and repeat, repeat, repeat… I used a little of the egg wash (1 egg plus 1 T water) to moisten the edges on the lower half of the dough so that they would stay closed. Put the empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet and when they are all formed, crimp the edges together with a fork. Or if you are a skilled empanada-border maker, by all means, make a fancy border. Brush them with the egg wash and bake in a 375ยบ for 25 minutes. You may not use up all the filling ingredients but the leftovers make great dang-quesadilla fillings.

For the fillings:
1 lb chihuahua cheese, grated
1 lb chorizo (homemade chicken chorizo recipe to follow)- removed from casings and cooked if you are not awesome enough to make your own chorizo… ha ha

For the chorizo: (adapted from Antojitos)
3 arbol chiles
5-7 guajillo chiles (depending on their size)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 t kosher salt
2 t cumin
1 t Mexican oregano
1 lb ground chicken or turkey (you can use pork here if you want but this is so spicy that I can’t really tell the difference)

Soak the chiles, onion, garlic, bay leaf and vinegar in a shallow glass bowl for several hours. I used a smaller bowl and a full can of beans to weight down the bowl so that the chiles would stay submerged under the vinegar. Take out the bay leaf, add the remaining ingredients–except the ground meat– and blend in the blender to form a paste. Mix the paste with the ground meat and then fry in a pan. The meat released a lot of liquid so at some point, I moved all the meat to one side and tilted the liquid to one side over really high heat, boiling this until the watery liquid evaporated (maybe 5 minutes tops). You won’t use all the chorizo for the empanadas, but it freezes really well.

One Comment

  1. Empanadas truly are the perfect food.

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