True story: you should be able to find empanadas at any mexican restaurant in Southern California. They are staples dishes, stuffed breaded pastries that are sometimes spicy, sometimes sweet, and taste as good as cute as they look. While there are many variations of empanadas in various cuisines (Indian, Afghan, Nigerian, and many more! google it) within Mexican cuisine empanadas serve as somewhat of a pastry eaten after dinner or even for breakfast (kind of like pie)! Even within Mexican cuisine there are many variants as well, and in this installment of Mexicali Cooking, I will guide you through a cheesy vegetarian recipes for empanadas.
In an odd sense, empanadas are likes sugar cookies- you can literally make 100 in a night. It’s not particularly easy, but it is worth it. So, since it’s officially summer, and I am assuming that we all have a little more time to spend doing hobbies, why not make a lot of empanadas? Maybe not 100, but 20 is a good amount. They are pretty easy to make, VERY delicious, and perfect for saving for the next day or the day after that. Although, I will confess, since it is a dough-based recipe it does require some time, but hey, if your friends are coming over in packs of four why not make 20? If you want an afternoon snack, they also serve as the perfect finger-food. Like sugar cookies, they are eaten in 3 bites or less but leave a savory taste on the tongue.
The trick here is making them more spicy and savory than sweet. Empanadas usually have pumpkin, sweet potatoes, or cream filling, gearing them toward after-dinner snack. Here, I made an “it’s 3pm, and I want a snack that I can just warm up in the microwave, but remains tasty” type of empanada. So, to go for the afternoon spice instead of the after dinner sweet taste, you can substitute more sugary fillings with potatoes or a chopped array of bell peppers and cheese. The potatoes have a meaty consistency without all the dense calories, while the cheese adds the melt-in-your-mouth sensation that makes you grab yet another one!
The recipe below can be altered in several ways- all to your liking. The joy of making a staple Mexican dish like empanadas is that you can add your own chef ‘signature’ to them. For me, the cilantro in the dough and addition of curry is what makes them zesty and new. I suggest making alterations of your own as you make this recipe and you cultivate your own signature.
5 1/2 cups instant corn Masa mix
2 cup warm water
1 1/2 tablespoon vinegar
2 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp of chopped cilantro
6 tablespoons melted butter
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed or 12 small potatoes
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 green peppers, finely chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon curry
1 cup corn
1 cup cream cheese, softened
1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
oil for frying
Makes about 20; Serves 10-12
I like to make the filling first, than the dough.
For The Filling
- Cook potatoes in boiling water for 10 minutes or until soft. Drain.
- In a large skillet, sauté onions and green peppers in oil.
- Season vegetables with curry, black peppers, red pepper flakes, and salt.
- Add potatoes.
- Add cream cheese, and mix well.
- Add Cheddar cheese.
- Add corn, combine well, and add more curry if you want it a bit more “zesty”
- Combine the filing into a paste.
For the dough
- Combine Masa, water, melted butter and vinegar in a large mixing bowl. .
- Season with salt.
- Add cilantro.
- Mix and work dough with hands until well combined.
- Form half of the dough into a long roll and cut roughly equal 10 pieces.
- With each pieces, spin the dough between your palms so it forms into a ball.
- Slowly apply pressure to the ball making it more and more flat, but still having thickness
- With your index finger and your thumb, press the thick edges of the coin shaped dough, spinning the circle as you do it, and slowly moving toward the center so the dough is equally thick.
- Slap the now disk shaped dough on the cutting board to flatten it, and repeat for the other side.
- Place between 1 tablespoon to 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of the disk
- Pick up the disk in the palm, as you wet the edge with water for sealing
- gently fold over one side of the disk, in a half moon shape, add water to places where cracks may appear
- Seal the empanada with you finger, lightly pressing on the junction
- Using a fork, gently press on the edges of the empanadas to seal it further, and to achieve that classic Mexican look.
- Fry the empanadas in oil for about 35 seconds on each side, or until they golden brown.