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Many Cuban bakeries in Miami bake empanadas, which are small pastries that enclose with sweet or savory fillings. While the commercially made empanadas are delicious, they don’t compare to these homemade treats. First of all, these empanadas are — you guessed it — fried. Second, this filling is a combination of chorizo and sweet ham, providing a delicate flavor balance. I’ve also given you two options for making them with ground beef or with guava and cream cheese, for a sweet treat.
I serve these chorizo empanadas with a creamy picante dipping sauce that complements them perfectly. I invented this recipe many years ago, in an effort to find a nice appetizer to serve with mojitos and beer. I have been famous for them ever since. In fact, I cannot seem to fry them fast enough, and inevitably people burn their tongues trying to eat the empanadas before they have had a chance to cool.
You can prepare the stuffing for empanadas well in advance and freeze or refrigerate them until you’re ready to proceed with the recipe. This recipe calls for frozen turnover pastry disks (discos para empanadas), which are available at most major grocery stores in the Hispanic frozen food section (Goya makes some).
Makes 20 medium or 40 appetizer-sized empanadas
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1/4 cup diced onion
• 1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
• 1/2 cup tomato sauce
• 1/4 cup vino seco (dry white cooking wine)
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper
• 1/2 pound ground Spanish chorizo sausage
• 1/2 pound ground sweet ham
• 20 discos para empanadas (frozen turnover pastry disks), thawed and kept in the refrigerator
• Canola oil, for shallow frying
• 1 cup thick, refrigerated ranch dressing (I like Marie’s)
• 1 to 2 tablespoons hot sauce (like Tabasco)
• 1 to 2 teaspoons chopped cilantro
To make the empanadas, heat the oil in a shallow pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, and bell pepper, and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until soft. Add the tomato sauce, vino seco, and pepper, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chorizo and ham and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn the heat off and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Taste and add salt, if necessary.
Remove one package of the pastry disks from the refrigerator. (Always leave the ones you aren’t working with in the refrigerator. They are easier to work with if they are firm.) Working on a lightly floured surface, separate the disks. If you are making appetizer-sized empanadas, cut each disk in half, creating two semicircles. If you are making the larger empanadas, leave the disks whole.
Place 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons of filling in the center of each half disk or 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons in the center of each whole disk. Fold each half disk to make a small triangle or each whole disk to make a semicircle. Using the tines of a fork, press around the edges to seal. If you do not plan to fry the empanadas immediately, covered them with a damp towel or place them in an airtight container and refrigerate them for up to 5 days.
Heat the oil in a deep pan to 350°F over medium heat. If you do not own an oil thermometer, dip the corner of one of the empanadas in the oil to check if it is hot enough. The oil should bubble around the dough.
Add the empanadas, about 4 to 5 at a time, to the oil and fry them for 3 to 4 minutes, turning them once, until they are golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate and continue frying the rest of the empanadas.
To make the dipping sauce, combine the ranch dressing and hot sauce in a bowl and garnish with the cilantro. Serve in a small bowl alongside the hot empanadas.
Recipe from ¡SABOR! A PASSION FOR CUBAN CUISINE
by Ana Quincoces Rodriguez (Running Press
November 2008, Hardcover Original/$29.95)
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