Entertaining Empanadas: Potato & Beef Empanadas with Chimichurri Sauce (Patata y Carne de Vaca Empanadas)

Empanadas de patata y carne de vaca

The time has come to party!  The weather is beautiful for a short period of time – if you live down here, it will be stiflingly hot outside come July.  It is the perfect time to invite friends and family over to enjoy each other’s company and some great food.  Instead of pulling out chips and dip, why not start off your next barbecue or casual dinner party with these fabulous little empanadas?  “Because they are a bit labor intensive,” you might say.  One thing I have learned from studying other cuisines is that a lot of preparation and work often goes into a meal.  Universally, cooking is one of the greatest expressions of love and art.  But, the great thing is you can make these empanadas in stages and/or prep them ahead of time and freeze them to bake later.

Let’s be honest, any time you have people over you invest quite a bit of time to make the experience an enjoyable and memorable one.  I am ashamed to say that usually I spend most of the time cleaning up my house instead of in the kitchen ;-)  Your friends and family will love these empanadas and they will be impressed when you tell them that you didn’t pop open a bag of treats from your grocery store’s freezer section.  You will take great pride in rolling and stuffing these precious little savory pies.  They might be named “potato and beef” but these empanadas from Argentina are full of a wonderful mix of surprising flavors (eggs, raisins, green olives, red bell peppers…and more) that blend to give you a sophisticated version of the simple “meat” pie.  Accompanied by the chimichurri sauce that is guaranteed to leave an impression (it’s delicious and a bit oniony/garlicky :-) ), these empanadas make a great appetizer.  You can even make them a bit larger, to serve as a main course.

There are three parts to this dish: the dough, the filling, and the chimichurri sauce.  This recipe makes about 30 empanadas.

The Dough

The empanada dough is very simple to prepare, and can be kept in the refrigerator overnight for use the following day.  If you plan to use the dough the next day, be sure to remove it from the refrigerator at least an hour before you plan to roll it out. The dough will become pretty stiff overnight, so you need to let it warm up to slack out and become the right consistency to roll it.

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp              Salt
  • 3/4 Cup         Warm water
  • 4 1/2 Cups    All purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp          Paprika
  • 3/4 Cup         Lard or vegetable shortening

Method

  1. Dissolve the salt in warm water.
  2. Mix paprika into flour using a whisk or sifter.
  3. Cut the lard/vegetable shortening into the flour until it reaches the consistency of fine meal.  If using your hands, carefully rub the fat into the flour to create the grainy meal texture and be sure not to work the fat/flour into a smooth paste.
  4. Add the salted water into the flour until the mixture forms a ball that is not sticky.  If additional flour is needed to reach the desired texture, add the flour gradually in small spoonfuls and work it in before adding more.
  5. Shape the dough into a ball and knead it vigorously on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes by hand) or using the dough hook in a stand mixer, on medium speed for 5-6 minutes.
  6. Round the dough into a ball, spray non-stick spray in a bowl and place the dough into the ball.  Spray the top of the dough with non-stick spray and cover with plastic wrap.
  7. Let dough rest in refrigerator covered for at least 30 minutes, but preferably for 2 hours if time allows.

The Filling

You couldn’t find a name for these empanadas that accurately reflects all of the flavors packed into the little space of each pie.

Empanada filling

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp        Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup          Onion, minced
  • 1/2 Cup      Red bell pepper, small diced (1/4 inch)
  • 1/2 tsp       Red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp       Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp       White pepper
  • 1/2 tsp       Ground cumin
  • 1 Cup          Beef shoulder, minced (or ground beef that is not too lean)
  • 1/2 Cup      Potato, boiled, small diced, cooled
  • 1/4 Cup      Raisins
  • 1/4 Cup      Green Spanish olives, pitted, small diced
  • 1/4 Cup      Green onions, white part and 1 inch green, finely chopped
  • 1                   Hard boiled egg, chopped
  • To taste      Salt & Pepper

Method

  1. Peel and dice potatoes, boil while prepping additional ingredients.  Drain potatoes when still firm, but a toothpick will pierce all the way through the potato easily.
  2. While boiling potatoes, boil the egg.  Place the egg into a sauce pot and cover with cold water.  Cover pot and bring water to a boil, boil egg for 10 minutes.  Drain and shock egg with ice-cold water.
  3. After all ingredients are prepped, heat oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan.  Add onion, red bell pepper, red pepper flakes, paprika, white pepper, and cumin.  Sauté for 6-7 minutes until onions are soft.
  4. Add beef and continue stirring until the beef is browned.
  5. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper.  And set aside the meat to cool.  Do not drain the oil from the meat.
  6. Once meat is cooled, add cooked potatoes, raisins, olives, green onions, and egg, and combine well.  Do not drain the oil from the meat.
  7. Again, adjust the taste with salt and pepper and other seasonings, if necessary.

Assembling the Empanadas

Ok, so you just made your filling and dough, or you are pulling them both out of the refrigerator from yesterday.  Remember that if you are pulling the dough out from yesterday, you need to let it warm up at room temperature for about an hour so it can slack out a little bit.  Let’s get to putting these together - this recipe makes about 30 empanadas.

What You Need

  • Rolling pin
  • Flour
  • Wax paper or parchment paper squares about 4 in x 4 in
  • A deep container w/ top or plastic wrap
  • 3 in round cookie cutter
  • Fork
  • Egg wash and brush.  Make the egg wash by mixing one egg with a small amount of water.  Beat with a fork until there are no “clumps” of egg white in the mixture.  The mixture should not be too watery.

What To Do

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  2. Lightly flour the surface of your table or counter.  Take about 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough ball and roll out to 1/8 inch thick.  Keep the remainder of the dough in the bowl covered with plastic to keep it from drying out.
  3. Cut the dough using a 3-inch round cookie cutter.  Stack the dough rounds in the container with sheets of wax paper/parchment between them and cover container while rolling and cutting additional dough.
  4. You can attempt to re-knead and re-roll dough scraps to get additional dough rounds.  If you do, be careful not to knead the scraps too much to keep the dough from getting too tough.  Only do this one time at the most with scraps.
  5. Once all rounds are cut out, begin filling them by taking 4 or 5 out of the container at a time.  This will keep the dough from drying out while filling the empanadas.
  6. Brush the perimeter of each round with egg wash.  This will help the empanadas stay shut during cooking.
  7. Place 1-2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each dough round. The dough will stretch to cover the meat.  Fold the dough over making a semi-circle and press the edges together with your fingers.  Press the edges firmly together using the tines of the fork – this will help keep the empanadas together and give the edges a crimped pattern.  For larger empanadas (using 5-6 in rounds), you can seal them making a “rope” around the edge by pinching 1/2 inch of one corner edge between your thumb and index finger and folding the edge over onto itself.  Continue this again and again around the empanada, overlapping each fold a little.
  8. Curve the empanadas slightly to make a crescent shape.  Line them up on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  9. You can freeze the empanadas to bake at a later time.
  10. If you are going to bake them now, you can brush them lightly with egg wash to give them a shinier, more golden appearance when they bake.  Note that egg wash bakes exactly where you put it, so I recommend taking a little time to brush it on to cover the empanadas evenly so they look great.
  11. Bake the empanadas for 10 minutes and check their color and temperature.  They can be pulled when golden brown and at a 165°F internal temperature.  It may take up to 15 minutes.

Chimichurri Sauce

Chimichurri sauce is a traditional sauce from Argentina that is served with grilled beef, made from parsley, onion, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and other spices.  It has a kick from the strong flavors that are blended together and it is delicious.  If you make this ahead of time, be on notice that olive oil tends to solidify when refrigerated so you will need to give the sauce time to come to room temperature before serving.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup     Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup     Lemon juice, fresh
  • 1/4 Cup     Sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup     Onion, finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp        Garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 Cup     Flat leaf parsley (or regular parsley) chopped
  • 1 Tbsp       Fresh Oregano leaves chopped
  • 1/2 tsp      Red pepper flakes or dried red chile pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp    Salt
  • 1 tsp           Freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Combine all ingredients and let rest for at least 2 hours at room temperature.  It is said that this is best if left overnight.
  2. You can add the parsley just before serving to preserve the color.

Garnish your platter of empanadas with some raisins, diced red bell peppers and chopped parsley, so your guests will have an idea of the magic burst of colors and flavors awaiting them inside.  Enjoy!

Source: Recipe and method modified from International Cuisine, Michael F. Nenes, CEC, CCE (2009).

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2 responses to “Entertaining Empanadas: Potato & Beef Empanadas with Chimichurri Sauce (Patata y Carne de Vaca Empanadas)

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