Empanadas de Horno

Rick Cooks Home Empanadas de Horno (Oven-Baked Savory Meat Turnovers)

Empanadas and Red WineSampling empanadas and vino tinto aboard the training brigantine-schooner Esmeralda.

Every country has its turnover (or "wrap"), originally invented for laborers to carry along for eating later, and today used as savory appetizers. England has its pasty; the Ukrainians have their pierogi; Russians have their coulibiacs (kulebiaka); Italians have their calzone; and Spanish countries have their empanadas.

This is the Chilean version, one of dozens in the Spanish-speaking world. It can be found baked or fried, and with various fillings, including cheese, seafood, pino (savory onion-beef), or poultry. This is the oven-baked pino-filled empanada.

Empanadas are labor-intensive, so it is best to make the pino at least a day ahead. Assemble and bake the day of serving. They are served warm, but not hot, as the juicy filling can burn as badly as hot pizza cheese.

Pino is always combined with hard-cooked eggs (sectioned or sliced), black olives, and golden raisins in recipes in which it is used. I always soak the raisins in white wine to plump them. If the pino is made ahead (and it usually is), you can add the raisins to the mixture if desired. Chilean empanadas sold in the U.S. often omit the egg and sometimes omit either the raisins or olives as well, either because they have been frozen (eggs do not freeze well), or else to avoid surprising the unsuspecting gringo, who wouldn't normally expect such a combination. I always use pitted black olives to avoid a lawsuit, but beware if you buy an empanada in Chile, since pitted olives are still unknown there.

When beef was scarce or expensive, some Chilean cooks have skimped on the beef in the Pino and compensated with extra onion. This frugality was so widely practiced for so long that now many prefer the juicy extra-onion version. Some street vendors even sell empanadas with no beef at all; these onion-only empanadas are called Pequenes, and make an excellent meatless snack. The affluent have ordered their cooks to skimp on the onion and add extra beef, but the result was so dry that they had to add beef broth and flour. I prefer the extra-onion version; it's more juicy and flavorful.

The dough is nothing like a familiar pastry dough, but is actually an unleavened bread dough. It's a sturdy, smooth, kneaded non-flaky dough made with a high-gluten flour (similar to bread flour) and a warm brine made with melted lard, salt, and water. This is a very old recipe from the campo, and some cooks have tried to modernize and civilize it. Some have replaced the water with milk and added a whole egg to richen the dough, but I prefer plain water (the peasant way). Some also use vegetable shortening in place of lard, but I prefer lard for flavor and handling (and who wants the trans-fatty acids of Crisco, anyhow?). Some also add baking powder, but the leavening will cause the dough to expand while baking and may create leaks -- use with care.

Trapezoidal with pinoThe shape of the empanada is either crescent (more common with fried empanadas), triangular (more common with seafood or chicken fillings), or trapezoidal (more common with pino filling). The trapezoidal shape shown here is easiest to form and seal. Some hosts serve both picante and mild empanadas at the same time, in which case the picante empanada takes on the triangular shape (for "three horns").

Leftovers can be frozen, thawed, and reheated in a warm oven. Don't microwave if serving to guests.

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Empanadas de Horno

*16 large, 24 medium, or 36 small empanadas*

2 c warm water
1 T salt
1 t paprika mixed with 1 T oil
½ c (8 T) lard
7-8 c all-purpose flour

2 quarts pino
4 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
1 c black olives
1 c raisins, plumped in white wine (may be added to the pino ahead of time)

1 egg white beaten with 1 T water

Dissolve the salt in the water to make a brine.
Mound the flour on a pastry surface and make a well in the center. Add the lard and some of the brine to center and blend with the fingers, adding more brine as necessary until a dough is formed. Knead until smooth. Cover with a damp towel and pull off one piece at a time to roll out into a circle. The size of the piece depends on the size of the empanada desired (experience is required). For a large empanada, use a piece the the size of a large lemon. Roll to 2mm (1/8") thickness. The dough is easy to work with as long as it stays warm and is not allowed to dry out.
Add some of the filling, an olive, a piece of egg, and some raisins (unless already incorporated in the pino) onto the rolled circle.
Fold the dough over the filling to form the desired shape, brush the edges with water, and seal well.
Brush the top with eggwhite-water mixture.

Bake in a 400°F  oven for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Allow to cool about 10 minutes, covered with a clean towel. Serve with a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Beef Empanadas

*4 to 6 as an entrée*

Published May 1, 2010. From Cook's Illustrated.

The alcohol in the dough is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor—do not substitute for it or omit. Masa harina can be found in the international aisle with other Latin foods or in the baking aisle with the flour. If you cannot find masa harina, replace it with additional all-purpose flour (for a total of 4 cups). After step 5, the empanadas can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

1 large slice hearty white sandwich bread , torn into quarters 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound 85 percent lean ground chuck
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions , chopped fine (about 2 cups)
4 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 4 teaspoons) 1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves , coarsely chopped
2 hard-cooked eggs , coarsely chopped
1/3 cup raisins , coarsely chopped
1/4 cup pitted green olives , coarsely chopped
4 teaspoons cider vinegar
3 cups (15 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour , plus extra for work surface 1 cup (5 ounces) masa harina (see note)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons table salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter , cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled 1/2 cup cold vodka or tequila (see note)
1/2 cup cold water
5 tablespoons olive oil (for baking empanadas)

1. FOR THE FILLING: Process bread and 2 tablespoons chicken broth in food processor until paste forms, about 5 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add beef, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and pulse until mixture is well combined, six to eight 1-second pulses.

2. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, cumin, cayenne, and cloves; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add beef mixture and cook, breaking meat into 1-inch pieces with wooden spoon, until browned, about 7 minutes. Add remaining ½ cup chicken broth and simmer until mixture is moist but not wet, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl and cool 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, eggs, raisins, olives, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour. (Filling can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

3. FOR THE DOUGH: Process 1 cup flour, masa harina, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and process until homogeneous and dough resembles wet sand, about 10 seconds. Add remaining 2 cups flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into large bowl.

4. Sprinkle vodka or tequila and water over mixture. Using hands, mix dough until it forms tacky mass that sticks together. Divide dough in half, then divide each half into 6 equal pieces. Transfer dough pieces to plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

5. TO ASSEMBLE: Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions, place 1 baking sheet on each rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. While baking sheets are preheating, remove dough from refrigerator. Roll each dough piece out on lightly floured work surface into 6-inch circle about ? inch thick, covering each dough round with plastic wrap while rolling remaining dough. Place about 1/3 cup filling in center of each dough round. Brush edges of dough with water and fold dough over filling. Trim any ragged edges. Press edges to seal. Crimp edges of empanadas using fork.

6. TO BAKE: Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over surface of each hot baking sheet, then return to oven for 2 minutes. Brush empanadas with remaining tablespoon oil. Carefully place 6 empanadas on each baking sheet and cook until well browned and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Cool empanadas on wire rack 10 minutes and serve.

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