The best empanada recipe is a mystery in itself, since every household in every province in Argentine has a different recipe, all claiming they are the best!
Baked or fried, fillings vary according to taste and local ingredients, but we can definitely agree that the traditional Argentine empanada is made of meat. And when I say meat I mean COW meat! Yes, there is no other meat for us Argentine carnivores!
We eat them with our hands, wrapping the still-warm empanada in a paper napkin, and bending forward, to avoid juicy spots on your shirt. They are great for picnics, car journeys and even as a snack. I love them with salad on a plate too, and even enjoy them cold the next day.
Makes 24 empanadas, 3-4 per guest (men and teens can eat more)
Heat oven temp: 350 F
For the filling:
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 medium onions, diced small
- 4 scallions onions, diced small (slice the green part but keep it separate)
- 1 tablespoon crushed peppers flakes
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon paprika (pimenton dulce)
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 4-5 drops of tabasco (If you like them hot go ahead and add more!)
- 1 beef bouillon cube
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
- 1 cup pitted green olives, chopped (We found these at the olive bar at Whole Foods)
- 1 cup seedless raisins
- 1 lightly whisked egg
For the pastry dough disks: I could give you a complicated, brain wrecking recipe, that no one in Argentina has used since el tiempo de Matusalen (Methuselah), but, you know, let’s keep it simple.
You can find the pastry in two places that I know of in Chicago:
Buenos Aires Deli (Great Argentinian wines)
3100 North Cicero, Chicago
El Mercado next to Tango Sur restaurant
3767 N. Southport Ave., CHicago
There are 2 kinds of pastries “para horno” (for the oven) and “para freir” (to be fried). I like mine in the oven.
1. Before you start, add boiling water to the ground beef, which will turn the beef a grayish color, but fear not, it’ll keep the juices in. Strain it, but keep some of that water. (Editor’s note: I had never seen this before, but Bene calls it her “granny tip.” It also works with tacos or sloppy joe’s.)
2. Once you have all ingredients ready and properly chopped, melt butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add all the ground beef and 1/2 cup of the spare water you added to the beef. Spread and season with salt, pepper, paprika, crush red pepper flakes, oregano, cumin, sugar, bouillon and tabasco. Stir with wooden spoon. Do not over cook. Add onions and white part of scallions until the onions are transparent. Stir and turn off the heat. Add green part of the scallions. Add boiled eggs, raisins and olives. Adjust seasoning, cover and let it cool. (Filling can be made one day in advance)
3. To assemble: get a small bowl of water next to you, oil baking sheets if you are going to bake them immediately and heat the oven to 350 F. Lay 1 pastry circle or disk in the palm of your hand. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling onto the center of the empanada disk, leaving a 1/3 inch border. With your finger, moisten the edges of the dough with water, then fold the dough over the filling in a half moon shape. And here comes the complicated part: el repulgue. It’s the way we pinch and pleat edges together to seal the dough. This system has been taught in Argentine kitchens by women while they sit together chatting at “siesta” time. Give it a try, but if you can’t get it right, don’t despair just get a fork and seal edges with a fork.
4. Place empanadas separately on a baking sheet, as you finish them. If you want to freeze them, wrap them in the plastic papers that separated them in the package and then put into a freezer-safe bag or container.
5. Paint each empanada with whisked egg, and bake for 15 to 17 minutes until golden brown. Let them cool for a minute and serve.
From Argentina with love!