1.29.2012

Lilu * Empanadas Three Ways

“I think we need a little music to get into the spirit of these empanadas,” Lilu says with a playful smile, scanning her iTunes library. “Yes! A little Mercedes Sosa – that is just what we need.” Lilu hits play, and from the belly of a small, portable speaker – no larger than a tennis ball – pours a woman’s deep, breathy voice, weathered but beautiful like the pages of an old book:

Gracias a la vida, que me ha dado tanto                         Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
Me dio dos luceros que cuando los abro                          It gave me two beams of light, that when opened,
Perfecto distingo lo negro del blanco                              Can perfectly distinguish black from white.
Y en el alto cielo su fondo estrellado                              And in the sky above, her starry backdrop,
Y en las multitudes el hombre que yo amo.                   And from within the multitude, the one I love.

Lilu

As the music washes over the room, Lilu lets out a long sigh. “I just love Mercedes so much. I never understood her as a child — but now? I always cry when I hear her sing. That’s the secret ingredient for my empanadas,” she says in a faux-dramatic, hushed voice. “Tears!”

Tears or no tears, the beauty of the empanada is that you can fill those tender golden wrappers with whatever your heart desires. In Argentina, where Lilu is from, empanadas are often packed with ham and mozzarella or a combination of beef, bell peppers, onions, and olives — but truly, the options are limited only by your imagination.

Using your finger, brush the edge of half an empanada with a bit of water...

fold the dough over and pinch it closed...

and crimp the edge of the empanada dough with a fork.

To make an open-faced empanada, brush entire edge of dough with a bit of water...

fold a bit of the dough into an "S" shape and press together...

and repeat the "S" shape all the way around the edge of the dough.

Speaking of imagination — Lilu’s cooking is filled with it. Since falling in love with a North American, Lilu has moved to California to live with her now husband, and the two of them share a vibrant, active kitchen with a multicultural flair. Take, for example, their beloved silver juicer, the quintessential West Coast companion, and their cupboards stocked with mate tea, a tradition rooted in South America. It is this type of cultural fusion that spawned the couple’s glorious Beef and Dried Plum Empanada, a Northerner’s salty-sweet twist on a Southern classic.

It is, perhaps, my favorite of the three variations of empanada Lilu has made today. Infused with a hint of cinnamon and browned in a splash of coconut oil, the beef is lightly salted then thrown together with a smattering of sweet, chewy dried cranberries and bits of dried plums. Wrapped up in pastry and topped with a sprinkle of sugar, the filling is then baked into flaky, puffed pockets of bliss.

Beef & Dried Plum, and Eggplant & Goat Cheese Empanadas

Open-faced Beef, Bell Pepper and Egg Empanadas

Not so far behind the Beef and Dried Plum Empanadas, Lilu’s other two variations are a close second (in my book, at least). The Eggplant & Goat Cheese blends tender eggplant and sweet bell peppers with the creamy tang of goat cheese. And the more traditional Beef, Bell Pepper & Egg Empanadas are full of flavor and satisfying heft, brimming as they are with garlicky ground beef, red and yellow peppers, onions, oregano, and diced hard-boiled egg.

Of course, these are just a few great starting points for how to fill an empanada, but really, it’s hard to go wrong with something so quick, easy, and endlessly versatile. “I’m always in the mood for empanadas,” Lilu says, “because I can make them with whatever I want!”

Three Quick Questions…and Lilu’s Answers

It’s your last meal. What do you have?

My dad’s barbecue with my one of my mom’s salads. He always does the barbeque and she always does the salad.

Your kitchen is burning down. What’s the one thing you grab?

It would probably be my mate cup. Well, it’s actually my husband’s cup, but it has a lot of sentimental value.

Do you have a favorite cookbook?

I really like Williams-Sonoma: Salad, which was a gift from my husband’s mom. And the other one I like is called Comer y pasarla bien (Eat and Have a Good Time). It’s written by an Argentine author named Narda Lepes. She’s a young cook, she’s not pretentious and she has her recipes organized by cooking time. So she’s very practical, she doesn’t throw stuff away, and she gives you lots of ideas for substitutions if you don’t have a certain ingredient.

Empanadas Three Ways
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Recipe type: Appetizer, Main
Author: Lilu
Prep time: 40 mins
Cook time: 17 mins
Total time: 57 mins
Serves: each variation makes approximately 12 empanadas
Three variations of golden, flaky empanadas: Beef & Dried Plum, Eggplant & Goat Cheese, and Beef, Bell Pepper and Egg. To make the empanadas, Lilu recommends using La Salteña Hojaldrados empanada wrappers (pictured above) if you can find them at your local grocery store/Latino market. If you can’t, however, you can try another brand, make your own dough (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Empanada-Dough-230786), or experiment with using puff pastry or pie crust. If you plan to make your own empanada wrappers, dough should be rolled into 5-inch discs about 1/8-inch thick.
Ingredients
  • BEEF & DRIED PLUM EMPANADAS:
  • Splash of coconut oil
  • 1 ¾ cup diced onion
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1 ½ tsp sugar + extra for sprinkling
  • dash or two of salt
  • couple dashes of cinnamon
  • 7 prunes (dried plums)
  • 5 tbsp dried cranberries
  • 1 package La Salteña Hojaldrados empanada wrappers
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • EGGPLANT & GOAT CHEESE EMPANADAS:
  • Splash of olive oil
  • 2/3 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 2/3 cup diced yellow or green bell pepper
  • 1 ¼ cup diced onion
  • 5 cups peeled eggplant, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1 package La Salteña Hojaldrados empanada wrappers
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • BEEF, BELL PEPPER, AND EGG EMPANADAS:
  • Splash of olive oil
  • 1/3 cup diced carrots
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced yellow or green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • few dashes dried oregano (or mixed Italian seasoning)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 package La Salteña Hojaldrados empanada wrappers
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
Instructions
  1. BEEF & DRIED PLUM EMPANADAS:
  2. Heat a splash of coconut oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy bottom pan. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes until softened. Add the ground beef, the sugar, and a few shakes of salt. Cook until the beef is browned, then add a dash or two of cinnamon. Stir in the prunes and the dried cranberries and cook for a minute more. Taste and adjust your seasonings as needed. Strain and transfer mixture to a bowl to cool. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Wrap mixture in empanada dough according to directions below, placing each empanada onto a greased baking sheet as you go. Brush the tops/sides of the empanada dough with a lightly beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 12 minutes on the bottom rack of your oven, then for 5 minutes on the top rack. Let cool 5-10 minutes; enjoy while still warm.
  3. EGGPLANT & GOAT CHEESE EMPANADAS:
  4. Heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy bottom pan. Add both bell peppers and the eggplant and cook, covered, for 10-15 minutes until the eggplant is almost done. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 5 minutes more, until the onion is softened and the eggplant is tender. Strain and transfer to a bowl. Stir in the crumbled goat cheese and allow to cool. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Wrap mixture in empanada dough according to directions below, placing each empanada onto a greased baking sheet as you go. Brush the tops/sides of the empanada dough with a lightly beaten egg. Bake for 12 minutes on the bottom rack of your oven, then for 5 minutes on the top rack. Let cool 5-10 minutes; enjoy while still warm.
  5. BEEF, BELL PEPPER AND EGG EMPANADAS:
  6. Heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy bottom pan. Add the carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes. Add both bell peppers and cook for 5 minutes, then stir in the onion and garlic and cook an additional 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook over medium-high heat until browned. Turn heat down to medium-low, then add the chopped egg, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Strain and transfer mixture to a bowl to cool. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Wrap mixture in empanada dough according to directions below, placing each empanada onto a greased baking sheet as you go. Brush the tops/sides of the empanada dough with a lightly beaten egg. Bake for 12 minutes on the bottom rack of your oven, then for 5 minutes on the top rack. Let cool 5-10 minutes; enjoy while still warm.
  7. FOR ALL EMPANADAS:
  8. To form a sealed empanada: Place a disc of empanada dough in the palm of your hand, and scoop about 1/3 cup of the filling of your choice onto the center of the disc. Using your finger, brush a bit of water around one half of the top side of the disc (think of a half-moon). This will help seal the edges. Fold one half of the dough over the filling, carefully lining up the edges, to form a semi-circle. Pinch the dough to seal the empanada closed. Set the empanada on a greased baking sheet, and use a fork to crimp down on the edge (refer to pictures above).
  9. To form an open-faced empanada: Place a disc of empanada dough in the palm of your hand, and scoop about 1/3 cup of the filling of your choice onto the center of the disc. Using your finger, brush a bit of water around the entire rim of the disc (on the side facing up). This well help seal the edges. Fold a small section of the edge into a “U” shape, pinch together, and fold again to form an “S” shape (refer to pictures above). Pinch together. Repeat this step all the way around the edge of the disc.
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Comments

  • Susan

    The photography and the story are beautiful. And I’m definitely going to try out the recipes — these would be fun to make with friends.

    • Kathryn

      Thank you, Susan! I bet these would be SO much fun to make with a group. They are also the perfect party food, because people can pick them up with their hands, no silverware required : )

  • The empanadas are are fantastic! Reading this post makes me wish we had more cookbooks from Central and South America to read here in the U.S. Thanks to Lilu for sharing!

    • Kathryn

      Jess, I agree – I wish Narda Lepes had an English translation of her cookbook…maybe someday!

  • they definitely look delicious!

    • Kathryn

      Yadsia- thanks for the kind words!

  • Those empanadas looks very yummy! and the photos are excellent.

    • Kathryn

      Thank you, Esther :)

  • What delicious looking empanadas and great photos!

    • Kathryn

      Thanks, Paula!

  • Kathryn, I can’t decide which empanada I like best, they all sound amazing! There are several varieties in the Philippines, very much on the savory end of the spectrum. Just this weekend, we had dinner with some friends and they made some with beans and bananas. I’m liking the fruit in there, and I know I just have to try the beef with dried plum!

    • Kathryn

      Oh, wow! Beans and bananas sounds really interesting, and I’m a big fan of the salty/sweet combo. I might have to give that a try!

  • Hello! I just found your blog through the kitchn and am so excited to try this recipe–it looks delicious! One quick question, do you peel your eggplants before using them? I’ve always found the skin to be so tough and was wondering what you suggest!

    Thanks so much for sharing!!

    • Kathryn

      Martha- Great question! I would recommend peeling the eggplants first for that very reason. Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you like the empanadas!

  • Fabulous! Thank you for the tip!

  • Annie

    These look delicious. I would love to make them for one of my monthly “game nights,” but I doubt I can find those wrappers locally. Do you have a recipe you like to make them from scratch?

  • Micaela

    Hi Kathryn! I just bump with your blog in The Kitchn’s Delicious Links.
    The moment I saw “empanadas” and that mouthwatering picture, I had to click in.
    I started reading the entry and jumped with excitment at Mercedes Sosa´s song. I’m from Argentina as well, but have a certain… thing about sweet empanadas. Either way, they look delicious, and La Salteña it´s the best brand to make them. Lucky you have Lilu to show you good old Argentinian recipes. I’ll keep checking your blog. It looks awesome!

    • Kathryn

      Thank you so much, Micaela! I’m glad you made it over to the site. Yes, it was such a treat to have Lilu share some of her tips on making empanadas, and even better to make them with Mercedes Sosa playing in the background :)

  • I first heard of Mercedes Sosa on my honeymoon trip to Argentina, where I also fell in love with empanadas. I’ve made them at home half a dozen times and absolutely LOVE them. What a lovely post.

    • Kathryn

      Thanks, Kasey!

  • [...] Empanadas from Dramatic Pancake (Empanadas are on my 100 list and these look delicious, but these are just fillings.  More investigation is necessary) [...]

  • Lilu

    Hi!
    Kathryn: You made a lovely post, thank you so much for the time we spent together cooking these empanadas!
    I hope this recipes travel around the world and are enjoyed by all of you!!
    Love,
    Lilu

    • Kathryn

      Lilu, thank you so much for sharing! It really was a blast to cook with you, and I hope we get to do it again soon! xo

  • Cris

    Dear Lilu, gracias a la vida, gracias a ti y gracias Mercedes Sosa !!! Donde vivo no puedo comprar tapas de empanadas, es posible que me pases una buena receta para hacer la masa ? Muy agradecida Cris

  • [...] Pancake, Empanadas Three Way: These look absolutely delicious. I don’t know if they sell the wrappers in the United States [...]

  • I´ve been reading your blog for a while, I love your recipes although sometimes is hard for me to find some of the ingredientes here.
    I loved this post, I´m from Argentina (currently living in a lovely city surrounded by mountains and lakes in the south of the country called Bariloche) and I love Mercedes Sosa too. I never lived abroad but I´ve always thought it must be something really enriching.
    Great blog!

    • Kathryn

      Thanks so much for the kind words :) Glad you said hello!

  • Emma

    Love this post! The empanadas sound fabulous :) can these be frozen? Would I bake them first and then freeze?

    • Kathryn

      Hi Emma! Yes, I would bake them first and then they should be fine to pop in the freezer. Enjoy!

  • [...] Recipe at dramaticpancake.com [...]

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