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Our Nicky's Sunshine State Empanadas

Our NickyOur Nicky Posts: 5
edited 6:41AM in Appetizers
IngredientsFor the pastry
2 cups water 1 1/2 tbs salt 3 1/2 tbs good quality lard 6-7 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling
1 1/2 - 2 lbs good stewing beef chopped into 1/8" cubes 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter 1/4 cup EVOO or good quality lard melted (I used EVOO) 3-4 med onions chopped 4-6 med potatoes in 1/8"dice 1 tsp - 1 tbs crushed red pepper flakes - to taste (I used 1 tbs) 1 tbs ground cumin 1 tbs smoked paprika 4- 6 green onions - chop white and green parts separately 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves Salt and pepper to taste Half a cup of pitted green olives 3- 5 hardboiled eggs coarsely chopped InstructionsPart I  The dough
It is a stiff dry dough traditionally made by hand and rolled out with a rolling pin.  I mix the dough initially by hand but prepare the pastry in an old Simac extrusion pasta maker. If you have a pasta machine it simplifies the job, makes the pastry shells consistently thinner than you can by hand rolling. Rolling is more traditional though and no one notices any minor imperfections - I have to press two strips of pastry together from my pasta machine's lasagna die to make a wide enough piece, so it's not perfect either.
Make 'salmuera' by boiling the water and dissolving the salt in it. I don't really know if it makes a difference but Argentine cooks routinely use salmuera in varying concentrations as seasoning rather than adding dry salt.
Pour the salmuera into a wide bowl in which you will make the dough. Melt the lard in the salmuera and allow to cool to room temperature. Measure 5-6 cups of flour into a separate bowl and add the flour in handfuls to the water until you can form a ball. The lard will have started to re-coagulate at the edges of the bowl. As you fold in the flour it will be absorbed.
If you don't have access to a pasta machine, flour a work surface and knead the dough adding more flour until you can't add any more. Wrap or cover the dough well and chill it for an hour or more - overnight will work fine if you need a break.
Having mixed the dough by hand I use my pasta machine to do the final kneading.
You can freeze the dough for several weeks if it is well wrapped.
An aside about lard: in my humble view, it makes the best pastry. Good lard may contain saturated fats but no hydrogenated anythings.
 
Part II, Filling
The measurements are deliberately approximate as there really isn't a hard and fast set of rules about proportions of ingredients. If you make more filling than you have pastry for freeze it or eat it on its own - it's great eating, even without the pastry.  If you have more pastry, freeze it as long as it's well wrapped.
The last two ingredients and about 40% of the butter are better added when the empanadas are assembled. I added all the butter and the green olives to the mixture and omitted the hardboiled eggs as I needed to freeze the empanadas for transportation to the Sunshine State Eggfest.
I think chopping the meat works better than grinding or buying already ground, it retains its juices better. I used outside round and chopped the meat but I had already seared it on the egg and cooked it sous vide for 24 hours.  Sirloin or tri-tip would be good.
Saute the onions in 6 tbs butter and 1 tbs of lard until translucent. Fold in white parts of green onions, cumin, smoked paprika and red pepper flakes.  Set aside.
Cut remaining butter into small pieces for later assembly and keep cool - the butter that is.
Sear the meat in batches and spread it on a tray so it doesn't steam.  When all the meat is seared add to the onions mixture
Add diced potatoes to a pan of cold salted water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 6- 7 minutes until tender.
The easiest way I've found to dice potatoes in a 1/8" dice is with one of those 'as seen on TV' dicers that press a 1/8" slice through a 1/8" grid - doesn't work well for the meat though.
Add coarsely chopped oregano leaves, potatoes and EVOO to meat and onions mixture.
Stir in chopped green parts of green onions. Cover and chill - overnight is fine. Test for seasonings the next day when the flavours have melded.
Part III Assembly and cooking
If the filling has been chilled take a spoon full - let warm to room temperature and test for seasoning. Adjust seasoning if and as necessary. I generally feel the need to add around 1 tbs of coarse salt.  Gently reheat the filling to mix in any additional seasonings. Allow to cool and chill.  The filling should be fairly stiff but it should hold together.
If the dough has been chilled, bring to room temperature or if frozen, thaw in a refrigerator overnight then bring to room temperature. If you have a pasta machine use a lasagna die to make approx 12" strips of pastry. Moisten the edge of one strip and overlap another strip 1/4" or less and press together to make a strip around 4" wide.
If you are rolling by hand, you will need to cut the dough into manageable sized chunks that will depend on the size of your floured work surface but try cutting it into quarters; flour a work surface and roll to 1/8" thickness or less.
Empanadas are finger food so you can make them finger sized that will take two bites or fist sized so they will take more. They can be messy to eat with your fingers if they are too big. The ones I made for the Sunshine State Eggfest were two biters.
Two biters will require a 3 1/2" circular pastry cutter or wine glass. Cut out pastry circles. Save the trimmings for re rolling or recycling through the pasta machine. As you cut the circles set them out on a sheet of plastic wrap. A standard sized sheet will hold three abreast. Fold over the wrap and set the next three on top repeating until you need another sheet of plastic wrap. It keeps the pastry from sticking together should you be distracted or otherwise have to leave things for a while.  You can also refrigerate or freeze them in this state - being careful to wrap everything well so no ends are exposed to air.
With the dough used in this recipe I made about 160 empanadas but you will make fewer if you roll the pastry by hand. The lasagna die on my pasta maker is about 1/32" thick so if you roll it to 1/8" you should have around 40. That means you will have filling left over - so put it in the fridge and make some more pastry!
Set out the filling, the pastry circles, a small bowl of water along with the cut up butter, (remember the butter you kept cool?) the chopped green olives and the chopped hardboiled eggs from Part II assuming you haven't already added them. Also set out trays with parchment paper inserts to hold the assembled empanadas. If you are planning to freeze the empanadas you should freeze them on the trays so make sure the trays will fit in your refrigerator; just make sure the empanadas aren't touching.
Take a circle of pastry in your left hand (if you're right handed!) and scoop with a small cookie dough scoop a small walnut sized portion of filling.  Spoons will work but it's easier with a cookie dough scoop. The filling sticks to the spoon. Place the filling in the centre of the pastry circle. Add 1/2 tsp of olives and 1/2 tsp hardboiled eggs and top with a piece of butter. You are going to dip your finger in the water you set out and moisten the edge of the pastry circle. Fold it over into a half moon shape until the edges meet and press together with finger and thumb all along the seam. If you have trouble getting it to close over the filling, adjust the scoop size accordingly. If the seam is wide and closes easily, add more filling next time. You can decorate the seam with fancy pinches, pleats or set it down and press a fork into the seam, or not. 
Place the empanadas on the tray and when it's full take it to the freezer or to a 350F Egg set up with a pizza stone or if you don't have one you can use a platesetter legs down. If you are going to freeze them omit the hardboiled eggs.
Bake for 15- 17 minutes. Check the underside after about 10 minutes just to see they're not burning.  In another 5 - 7 minutes they should be browning on top.
Serve with Chimichurri - and be careful they will be really hot on the inside.
If you think this all seems like a lot of work, I did 160 over two days in less than probably 6 hours total. For my own family that would keep me in empanadas for several weeks - months. You could make fewer but frankly it doesn't take a lot longer to do a bunch and your friends will really like them.
If you have friends who hate olives - don't tell them there are olives in them - if they don’t notice and comment on how good they are you can say, “It’s the olives.”
Ok you can leave them out - they will still work.NotesWith acknowledgements to Francis MallmanNumber of Servings: 40 - 160Time to Prepare: 6 hours
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