Flaky Empanadas

There’s a bottle of rendered lard in my refrigerator and every time i open the door I’m reminded that I have a world of delicious flaky pastries right there at my fingertips. Empanadas are the first thing that came to mind but I knew I didn’t want the doughy, insipid kind that leaves you feeling like you just chewed on a piece of cardboard box. I want lard in my dough. For me empanadas are only worth it if the dough is flaky, and the filling is rich and flavorful. To play against the rich pastry I used a soffrito along with a mixture of pork, veal and beef and finished it with a drop of sesame oil, vinegar and a pinch of sugar (remember what I did with the leftovers in my last post?). There’s nothing traditional about it but it hits all the right notes. It’s sweet, salty, sour and nutty all at the same time and it comes in a deliciously crisp package that will make you praise the lard for full salvation.

This is not a low calorie food by any stretch of the imagination but second-rate empanadas aren’t either. Since they’re so rich I like to make them smaller, about half the size of a regular empanada, but what you loose in quantity you win in quality and that’s all that matters at the end of the day. This dough is not meant to be used to make pretty little twist to seal off your empanada. You could do it but the pattern won’t show after deep-frying. Big deal!

  • Flaky Empanadas

  • Serves 4
    • For the empanada dough:
    • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 5 tablespoons lard (keep cold)
    • 3 tablespoons butter (keep cold)
    • 1 egg yolk
    • 1/3 cup ice water
    • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
    • for the soffrito/ground meat:
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 onion, minced
    • 1 red pepper, minced
    • 2 plum tomatoes, grated
    • 1 garlic clove, chopped
    • 1 1/2 lbs ground meat (beef/pork/veal)
    • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
    • 1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo, chopped (optional)
    • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
    • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • To finish:
    • oil for frying
    • For the empanada dough:
    • Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a Kitchenaid equipped with the paddle attachment. Cut the lard and butter into chunks and scatter them over the flour mixture. Mix on low to medium speed until the butter and lard are fully incorporated and the mixture looks like coarse meal.
    • Add the egg yolk, water, and rice wine vinegar  and keep mixing until the dough forms. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. When ready to proceed, roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut out as many as possible 3 1/2 inch circles.
    • For the soffrito/ground meat:
    • Add the olive oil to a skillet over low heat. Add the onions and peppers, stirring occasionally, for as long as possible, until the mixture is fragrant and translucent. Add the garlic then add the grated tomatoes. Keep cooking until the mixture starts caramelizing. Add the tomato paste and adobo stirring until combined. Add the ground meat, season, and stir until the mixture is cooked. Add the cilantro, the sesame oil and sugar. Let the mixture cool fully before filling the empanadas.
    • To finish:
    • Fill the dough rounds with about 1 tablespoon of the filling. Brush some water around the edges and seal it to make half-moons.
    • When ready to serve, heat the oil to 375’F and fry the empanadas until golden. Drain on paper towels.
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  • Haumea

    Chef, I have some Grimaud Duck fat can I use that instead of the lard?

  • http://www.debskitchencreations.blogspot.com/ Debs @ DKC

    Sounds delicious, thanks.

  • http://colloquialcooking.com Colloquial Cook

    Horreur! de la friture! Je cours chercher mon heaume en fer blanc!
    Ta désinvolture me fait frémir.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve never tried with duck fat but I’m sure it’d be quite tasty.

  • Anonymous

    Il en faut du courage, hein? :)

  • Shirley@kokken69

    This looks like our popular snack curry puff! Filled with curried potatoes, chicken and a quarter of hardboiled eggs, it is one of our local favorites. If you ever get to Singapore, look out for it :)

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been to Singapore but i missed out on that. It’s a good enough reason to book another trip (loved the food in SG by the way).

  • http://www.mind-over-batter.com Angela @ Mind Over Batter

    Empanadas are meant to be eaten and savored – Who cares about pretty twisty patterns? These look delicious!

  • http://www.threemealsaday.com Chef

    Nicely done. Looks like a great TGIF treat to make. Thanks for sharing and congrats on the TOP 9


  • Margaretmt

    Oooh, those look good! I’ve always wanted to attempt making them. Thanks for the inspiration! Congrats on the Top 9!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3E373X2XKMJNG6UPP7ECQ3CWTI Alison

    I love how you keep your lard in a Belgian beer bottle. Cheers.

  • Anonymous

    It’s real Belgian beer. I got thirsty during the photo shoot. :)

  • Anonymous

    Cache toi derriere mon dos que je te protege, ma cherie. :)

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    I have never made empanadas with lard and now I can see clearly what I am missing. Duck fat sounds like a great alternative to my boring butter.

  • http://weareneverfull.com Jonny

    Bravo, Zen! Typically, empanadas from the northern parts of south america are fried (and made with cassava or corn flour/meal) and in argentina and chile and Spain they’re made from wheat flour and baked, so these are like a beautiful trans-national package, especially with addition of the chipotles in adobo and the white belgian ale to accompany. Lovely photography as usual, with charming use of the newspaper as a prop – reminds me of a bistro cook book I have by Gerald Hirigoyen.

  • http://twitter.com/Plum_PieCooks Brooke Dowdy

    These look amazing. I can’t wait to make them. What a cool blog!

  • http://vodkitchen.com Jon

    I love empanadas – we have some great ones here in DC from Julia’s Empanadas. This makes me want to try and make them at home! Thanks.

  • Costaricafrankie

    can I bake instead of fry

  • zenchef

    Yes, you can. 350’F for 20-25 min.