One of my favorite Latin inspired dishes is empanadas. The fact that they can either be sweet or savory as well as the versatility of being served as an appetizer, main dish or even dessert is what really appeals to me. For a recent dinner, I prepared these Beef and Cheese Empanadas as a started to a Latin inspired dinner. I've never seen anyone have such a reaction like my sister and her family to empanadas before. They all took a bite, sang its praises and savored each morsel with their eyes closed lol. I'm guessing they really enjoyed these, as did I!...
These little pockets of deliciousness are filled with a seasoned ground beef mixture combined with cheese and cilantro. So far, this has been my favorite savory filling for empanadas. Simply brown some ground beef with a few spices, transfer the beef to a bowl and toss with some Monterey Jack cheese and fresh cilantro. You can use already prepared empanada dough (which can be found at Mexican or Latin grocery stores, or sometimes in the ethnic frozen food aisle) or you can always make it from scratch. Traditionally empanadas are fried but I prefer them baked and doing so requires less effort to make. To bake, it's important to preheat your oven with a baking sheet. Just before baking, the baking sheet is coated with some oil and heated as well. This results in a very crisp bottom crust on the empanadas. Another bonus is that this is great to make ahead and freeze!
Beef & Cheese Empanadas
recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen
1 pound 85% lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped fine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
salt & pepper to taste
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or 'Mexican Blend' shredded cheese)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
10 (6inch) discs of empanada dough (store bought or homemade - recipe follows)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place a large baking sheet in the oven.
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil. When hot, add minced garlic and onions; cook until softened.
Once the garlic and onion are softened, crumble the ground beef into the pan. Add the spices - cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Stir to combine the spices with the beef and cook until the beef is no longer pink. Transfer the seasoned beef into a large bowl, leaving behind any fat/juices that was rendered in the pan. To the bowl, add the fresh cilantro and cheese; fold in to fully combine; set aside.
To fill your empanada dough, place 1 tablespoon in the center of each dough circle, leaving 1/2 inch border around the edges. Brush the edge of dough with water, fold over the filling, and crimp the edges to seal.
To bake, drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the surface of the large preheated baking sheet and then return to the oven for 2 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place the empanadas onto the baking sheet. Brush the tops of the empanadas with oil. Place the baking sheet of empanadas in the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until well browned and crisp. Cool empanadas on a wire rack for 10 minutes and serve.
* To make ahead/freezer meal - Prepare the empanadas as directed above. Once assembled, place empanadas in a gallon sized freezer bag in one layer. Remove any excess air from the bag and freeze flat. When ready to prepare, preheat oven to 425 degrees and place a large baking sheet in the oven. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil over the surface of the large preheated baking sheet and then return to the oven for 2 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place the frozen empanadas onto the baking sheet. Brush the tops of the empanadas with oil. Place the baking sheet of frozen empanadas in the preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until well browned and crisp. Cool empanadas on a wire rack for 10 minutes and serve.
Homemade Empanada Dough
recipe from About
recipe from About
3 cups flour (plus a little more for kneading)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
1 egg white
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 tablespoons shortening
In a bowl, beat the water, egg, egg white and vinegar together. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix together the 3 cups of flour and salt .Cut the shortening into the flour mix with a pastry blender or two butter knives. Make a well in the center of the flour mix and pour the liquid ingredients from the first bowl into the center.Mix the wet and dry ingredients with a fork until it becomes stiff.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it just until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but never more than 24 hours.
Tip: If you want to keep the dough longer than 24 hours, you can freeze it.
Servings: Makes approximately 10 six-inch empanadas.