The day after Thanksgiving last year, Sergio made empanadas from his hometown of Mendoza, Argentina. This year, on the morning after Thanksgiving, he said, "I'd like to make empanadas."
I think we've got a tradition on our hands.
What makes Sergio's empanadas distinctive from the many beef empanadas out there are the onions. You use double the amount of onions as beef. Sergio says this was the way cooks stretched the filling, "el picadillo," when beef was very expensive. Mendoza-style empanadas are also baked, not fried.
In addition to onion and beef, Sergio puts hard-boiled eggs, olives, green and red pepper, cumin, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper. No potatoes. He did add some raisins, although that's not typical for Mendoza. I think he added those in a nod to my mother and Filipino empanadas, which are the empanadas we're used to.
The filling is cooked before filling the disks of empanada dough, and as Sergio taught me, there must be a lot of fat and juice. With Filipino empanadas, we usually drain the extra liquid, because when you deep fry them, liquid is not your friend. But with baked empanadas, you need the extra liquid to keep the filling juicy and moist.
My nieces joined Sergio to seal the empanadas. With his energy and enthusiasm, Sergio is a lot of fun for adults and kids alike. Cooking with him is very entertaining.
Sergio taught them how to seal the empanadas, a series of pinching and folding over, so it looks like braided rope. I found a video of this technique, called repulgue, here, although Sergio does the technique holding the empanada in both hands which is much faster.
Sergio baked the empanadas until they were a golden brown, and we served them for lunch, along with turkey soup with sotanghon (mung bean thread noodles), siopao (steamed pork buns), fried rice with canadian bacon and eggs, and a green salad.
Sergio's Empanadas alla Mendocina
Makes about 25-40 empanadas, depending on how much filling you put in each empanada
1 lb. beef (20% fat)
2 lbs. onion, diced
1/2 cup oil, shortening or lard
1/2 can Goya black olives or 3 oz. olives, diced
2 boiled eggs, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1-2 stalks celery, diced
2 bay leaves
Cumin (about 1 tbs.)
Kosher salt and pepper
Paprika (about 2 tbs.)
Oregano (about 1 rounded tsp.)
Goya empanada disks, defrosted (40-50)
A bowl of water
A beaten egg with a little milk and a pastry brush
Heat a dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil over medium heat and add onions, green and red pepper, and celery. Salt to season the onion mixture and cook until translucent (about ten minutes). Add ground beef, breaking up the beef as you cook and turning and mixing in the onion mixture. While cooking, add your seasonings -- two bay leaves, cumin, salt and pepper, paprika, and oregano -- and olives. When the meat and onion mixture are almost cooked, add diced eggs and raisins. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Do not drain the filling. It needs to have fat to be juicy. Let the filling cool.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Lay out a disk and put a tbs. of filling in the center. Dip your finger in the water and wet the outer edge of the empanada. Seal by bringing the edges together and pressing them together, making sure none of the filling is breaking the seal.
Create the decorative edge by following this video. Of if that seems like too much trouble, use a fork to press down the edge, going all the way around until you go from end to end. Place on a baking sheet that's non-stick or is lightly greased. Or you can use Silpats on top of your baking sheets. Continue until you are done.
Brush the tops of the empanadas with the egg wash and put in the oven.
Cook empanadas at 375 for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.