Monday, March 1, 2010

Chilean Empanadas - Empanadas de Pino

My partner, J's stories of childhood dishes have become a fun inspiration for many new kitchen experiments.  However, they weren't the beginning of my empanada journey.


My Porteña friend L. had introduced me to empanadas many years ago, when I reaped the benefits of her homesickness by enjoying an amazing (decadently carb heavy) meal of freshly made flaky pastries filled with cheese, followed by the lightest, most delicious, homemade gnocchi I've ever tasted. On a trip to Argentina in 2005 empanadas of the fast food variety, sold by every pizzeria, provided deliciously naughty vegetarian food - but nothing like the homemade delicacies to which I'd first been introduced.  My Puerto Rican friend E., to my delight, also took care to introduce me to vegetarian versions of Puerto Rican empanadillas.


For his birthday, though, J. wanted Chilean empanadas, specifically, empanadas de pino, which use a classic Chilean combination of minced meat, hard-boiled eggs, olives, and raisins.  At the same time, he was quite convinced I couldn't make them, and really didn't want me to try. He had thus set an irresistible challenge! I secretly wished I could have met his mother, with whom I am sure I would have enjoyed many hours of learning in the kitchen, but sadly this was not to be.


So, combing recipes online, I constructed these empanadas, adapted slightly to lower fat and sodium content.  They proved a success - even by J.'s high standards!

Vegetarians: I have made vegetarian versions using a mixture of fresh baby spinach and soy crumbles  - just saute together until greens are wilted, then drain.

DOUGH
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp coarse salt
8 Tbs non hydrogenated margarine or butter
2 egg yolks
2 Tbs apple vinegar
9 Tbs cold water

FILLING
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp spanish paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne
2 Tbs non-hydrogenated margarine or butter
2 medium onions -- chopped fine
1/2 lb extra lean ground beef
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp coarse salt
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup vegetable bouillon
3 Tbs golden raisins
8 kalamata olives -- chopped
1 hard-boiled egg -- chopped

BRUSH ON TOP
2 Tbs cold water
3 egg whites

1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the butter, egg yolks, and vinegar and mix quickly and thoroughly with fork. Add 5 tablespoons of the water and continue mixing, adding just enough of the remaining water, a little at a time, to make a firm dough. Refrigerate until ready to use.

2. For the filling, heat the margarine or butter in a saute pan. Saute onion slowly until carmelized, about 10 minutes. Add the beef, oregano, salt, and bay leaf and stock and continue cooking until the stock has almost -- but not quite -- evaporated. Mix in the raisins and olives. Remove from the heat and let cool. Stir in the chopped hard-boiled egg.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces.  Roll each into a circle about 5-inches in diameter. Place a heaping tablespoon of the meat filling about 1/2-inch from the edge of each circle. Brush the border of the circle with juices from the filling or with water. Form a trapezoid by folding the bottom up, then the sides in, then the top down. Prick the top of each empanada once or twice with the tines of the fork. Repeat until all empanadas are assembled.

4. Beat the egg white with the water. Spread parchment paper on a baking sheet. Arrange the empanadas on top and brush with egg white mixture. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden. Serve hot.

Servings: 8

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