Making these savory treats is not difficult, but it is time consuming. When I made them in Colombia, there were five of us working on them which made the process go quickly. Since I am only one person, I split the process into two parts over two days. One day one I make the filling. On day two I assemble and fry the empanadas.
So, with no further ado, here is my recipe for Colombian empanadas, my gift to you this Christmas.
|Beef, pork, and spices go into the crock pot
I put the meat into the crock pot along with a quartered white onion, several cloves of garlic, the stems from a bunch of cilantro and a pinch of salt and cumin. Add water till it just covers the meat then let it cook on low for six to eight hours.
|You'll know the meat is done when you can easily shred it with a fork
|The potatoes added to the shredded meat
While the potatoes are cooking I usually make the hogao. This is a type of a sauce used in many Colombian dishes made from tomato, onion, garlic and cilantro. I start the hogao by putting the tomatoes, garlic and onion into a skillet with a packet of Sazon Goya with Azafron and a little water. I add a generous drizzle of olive oil and then let it cook down till the vegetables are nice and soft.
Since I make these during winter when it isn't easy to find nice ripe tomatoes, I usually use canned. One can of small diced tomatoes, four bunches of scallions and three or four cloves of garlic should about do it. If you don't have scallions, you can use regular white or yellow onions instead. Although the traditional recipe doesn't call for peppers, I also add five or six finely minced Serrano peppers in with the tomatoes and onion, just because we like a little extra bite to our food.
|Add the cilantro when the hogao is almost done
Add the cilantro and adjust the salt when your sauce is just about cooked down.
|Now the filling is ready to use
The assembly and frying is the most time-consuming part of the process, so make sure you have plenty of time to devote to this step.
Start by mixing up your dough. You will need white or yellow pre-cooked cornmeal, usually found in the Latin section of your grocery store or in your local Latin market. There are many different brands, but the one you want will usually be in a fairly small packet and will have the word "arepa" somewhere on it.
|Goya Masarepa brand masa harina precocida
If you are using yellow masa precocida you don't need to add any color, but if you are using white you will want to add a bit of Sazon Goya. Mix up the masa according to the instructions on the package, using hot water and salt to make a soft dough. I usually use about two packets of the size shown above. Although it takes some practice to recognize when the dough is "right," you'll want it to be wet enough that the edges don't crack when you form a patty between your palms, but not so wet that the dough is too sticky. You want it to be firm, but supple.
|Cover the dough with a damp towel to keep it soft
To form the empanada take a golf-ball size piece of masa and roll it out into an oval on your plastic sheet. (Lightly oiling the plastic, your hands and the rolling pin will help keep the masa from sticking). You want to roll it out very thin, about a 1/8th of an inch thick.
|Don't use too much filling. A teaspoon is plenty!
Put about a teaspoon of dough at the bottom end of your oval, then fold it over, using the plastic, and use your cup or glass to cut out a half-moon shape. The edge of the cup will seal the edges of your empanada. Resist the temptation to use more filling - if you use too much the seams on your empanada will burst during cooking.
Fry your empanadas in hot oil (around 350 degrees Fahrenheit) for about five minutes. When you put them into the oil the oil will bubble and froth furiously. When the bubbles have mostly died-down you'll know the empanadas are done. I fry mine in canola oil using my beloved cast iron skillet, so I have to turn the empanadas over halfway through cooking.
|The empanadas frying
If you let the empanadas cool completely first, you can freeze some for later. Once defrosted they re-heat very nicely after ten minutes in a 350 degree toaster oven.
|Empanadas ready to eat! Buen Provecho!
For those of you who like a bit more precision, here is a great recipe from fellow blogger Erica, at www.mycolombianrecipes.com. Erica's blog has many other delicious recipes to enjoy, too, so take a browse around while you're there.