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You don’t have to visit Mexico to enjoy empanadas 

Angie Hyche • Apr 11, 2018 at 9:30 AM

Almost every culture has its own version of a turnover, a type of pastry made by placing a filling on a piece of dough, folding it over, and sealing it. They can be sweet or savory, and they are often made as a portable meal or dessert, similar to a sandwich. 

Some examples include calzones (Italian, filled with tomato sauce, meat and/or veggies and cheese), pasties (United Kingdom, filled with potatoes, veggies and ground meat), samosas (Indian, filled with chickpeas, potatoes and spices) and spanakopitas (Greek, filled with spinach, feta cheese, olives and ricotta cheese). The Latin American version of a turnover is called an empanada. 

Eric and I recently returned from Mexico, and during our visit we took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy empanadas as often as we could. Our favorite savory empanada was filled with ground beef, raisins and spices, while our favorite sweet empanada had white chocolate and blackberries.

When we returned, I wanted to try making empanadas on my own. Though empanadas are sometimes prepared by frying in oil, we wanted a healthier recipe where the empanadas were baked. We were glad to find a recipe for Potato, Pepper and Chorizo Empanadas because we really enjoyed eating chorizo (a Spanish spicy pork sausage) in Mexico. 

For the sweet empanada, we chose an apple empanada filling with Granny Smith apples, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. We were pleasantly surprised to find these easy to make, and they came out looking and tasting much better than we expected. 

Although they don’t hold a candle to the empanadas at our favorite Cozumel restaurant, Del Sur, we certainly enjoyed them, and I hope you do as well.

Bon appetit!

Potato, Pepper and Chorizo Empanadas

Ingredients:

3/4 cup finely chopped Spanish chorizo (cured spiced pork sausage; 3 ounces)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped (2 cups)

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped (1/2 cup)

1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

1/2 pound yellow-fleshed potato such as Yukon gold (1 large)

Empanada dough

1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Preparation:

Cook chorizo in oil in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, 2 minutes, then transfer to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon. Add onions to saucepan and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and very soft, about 15 minutes. Add garlic, bell peppers, bay leaf, salt and oregano and cook, stirring frequently, until peppers are very soft, about 15 minutes. Peel potato and cut into 1/2-inch pieces, then stir into onion mixture and cook over moderately low heat, covered, stirring frequently, until potatoes are just barely tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add potato mixture to chorizo and stir to combine. Cool filling to room temperature and discard bay leaf.

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and form each into a disk. Keeping remaining pieces covered, roll out one piece on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 5-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick).

Spoon about 2 tablespoons filling onto center and fold dough in half, enclosing filling. Press edges together to seal, then crimp decoratively with your fingers or tines of a fork. Transfer empanada to a baking sheet. Make 11 more empanadas in same manner, arranging on two baking sheets.

Lightly brush empanadas with some egg wash and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer empanadas to a rack to cool at least 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12 pastries

Empanada Dough

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 large egg

1/3 cup ice water

1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.

Beat together egg, water and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.)

Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour.

Apple-Cinnamon Empanadas

Ingredients for filling:

3 firm baking apples (such as Granny Smith)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat one or two nonstick cookie sheets with cooking spray or line regular (not nonstick) cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

For Filling:

Peel and core apples. Slice apples into quarters. Slice each quarter across the narrow side into thin slices.

Place the apples, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the apples are soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat. Place in refrigerator to cool.

Form empanadas and bake as above.

Makes 10-12 empanadas.

Angie Hyche is a community columnist for the Kingsport Times News.

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