We hosted an early Cinco de Mayo party at our house last night with three other couples: guacamole, flan, tamales and chiles rellenos were brought, and we made (another) flan and empañadas. I made two fillings — a traditional picadillo made from beef, and a greens and cheese one — the latter mainly because we have a vegetarian in our dinner group, but they came out very tasty.
I know I’ve had greens-and-cheese empañadas, but most of the recipes I found online were distinctly not Mexican in flavors: using mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, for instance. So I started with some of those, a little reference to Rick Bayless, and some imagination. I might mince a fresh chile next time, but these came out delicious. The picadillo filling is mostly the recipe in Diana Kennedy’s Oaxaca Al Gusto — a beautiful coffee-table book with a terrible index, except I started with ground meat instead of stewing cubes of beef and pork, spiced it up a bit, and left out the raisins.
The dough comes from our most reliable cookbook, Nicole Routhier’s Cooking Under Wraps — there’s not a single dish we’ve made from that book that isn’t an instant success, and the doughs in particular are nearly foolproof. We made a double batch of dough which proved about 25% more than I needed to fill the empañadas, but I was a little short on the filling for the greens — the recipe below should use up all the dough.
Recipe: Empañadas of Beef and Greens
5 cups (1183ml) all-purpose flour
2 tsp (10ml) salt
2 tsp (10ml) sugar
2 sticks (1/2 lb or 225 g) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
4 egg yolks
4 tbs (60ml) white vinegar
2/3 C (157 ml) ice water
- Combine the dry ingredients and butter in a food processor, and process with the metal blade until it looks like crumbs.
- Beat together the yolks, vinegar and ice water.
- With the motor running, add the wet ingredients through the top, and process until it just holds together, around 10 seconds
- Add a little more water if it’s crumbly.
- Press together in a ball, and let rest in the refrigerator for at least a half hour
Sorry, no pictures, Sue was making the dough while I was making the fillings.
Beef Picadillo Filling
2 tbs (30ml) bacon fat or oil
3/4 lb (340 g) 80% lean ground chuck
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped fine
salt and pepper
1 tsp (5ml) mexican oregano
1 tsp (5ml) cumin
1 tsp (5ml) cayenne pepper (I used Chimayo sun-dried powdered chile)
1 tsp (5ml) ancho chile powder
4 oz (120g) grape tomatoes, chopped fine
3 oz (90g) fresh plantain, diced small
8 or so pitted green olives, diced
1 heaped teaspoon (7ml) capers, minced
1 tsp (5ml) )sherry (or other) vinegar
1/2 C (120ml) chicken stock
1 tsp (5ml) sugar
salt to taste (I used just a pinch, it probably depends on your capers and olives)
- Heat the fat in a large pan on medium
- Add the meat, onions and garlic, with the oregano and a pinch each of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is well browned and the onions very soft (about 15 minutes)
- Add the cumin and powdered chiles and stir to combine
- Add the tomatoes, plaintain, olives and capers, and cook until it looks somewhat dry, about 10 minutes
- Add the sherry, stock and sugar, continue cooking until just barely moist, about another 10 minutes. If it starts drying out too quickly, add a little water and/or cover the pan.
- Allow to cool completely before using to fill empañadas
Greens and Cheese Filling
2 tbs (30ml) olive oil
2 cups (450ml) kale, chopped
2 cups (450ml) chard, chopped
1 jalapeño chile, minced (optional — I didn’t do this but probably will next time)
1/4 C (60ml) white wine
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup (60ml) cilantro, chopped fine
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp (5ml) mexican oregano
3/4 lb (340g) queso fresco, crumbled
1/4 cup (60ml) pine nuts
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium
- Add the onions, garlic and greens (and chile if using), a large pinch of salt
- Cook, stirring frequently, until it’s all collapsed and softened (about ten minutes). Toward the end, add the white wine, to keep things from drying out and add a bit of acidity.
- Remove from heat to a bowl
- Add cilantro, cheese, pine nuts and oregano, and stir to combine well
- Add the egg and stir until mixed through (don’t add it earlier or it may cook somewhat)
- Allow mixture to cool completely before using to fill empañadas
- Preheat oven to 375
- Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with parchment paper
- Using 1/4 at a time, roll dough out to 1/8″ (3mm) on a well-floured surface
- Cut circles of 3 1/2″ (9cm) diameter
- Whisk two egg yolks with 2 tbs water (30ml) note: we forgot to glaze the dough entirely, and they still came out nicely browned, but not shiny
- Put a heaping tablespoon of dough on each circle of dough.
- Wet the edges and seal in a half-moon shape
- Repeat until filling is gone (note use of Duplo to stack pans)
- Brush egg yolk mixture over the top of the pastries (note: we forgot to glaze the dough entirely, and they still came out nicely browned, but not shiny)
- Bake for about 20 minutes, or until nicely browned
- Serve with guacamole, sour cream and/or salsa
Do-ahead: Assemble the pastries and freeze them. The baking time does not change significantly. They also reheat in the oven if they’ve already been baked.