One of my favorite dishes to make for special occasions are empanadas, or meat pies. They are a traditional food in my family during the Christmas season and are always a big hit at parties and pot luck dinners. When my son was in elementary school his Spanish class looked forward to them every year. These tasty little meat pies are easy to make and you can tweak all the seasonings to your own taste. The best part is you can do all the prep work the night before and fry them when everyone’s ready to eat.
Here I’ll take you through the process step by step:
Step 1: The first step is to make the sofrito – this is the seasoning in which you will cook the meat filling. You can use these measurements as a guide, there are no strict rules when making sofrito – at least not for me! If you like a little more red bell pepper than green or more cilantro than flat leaf parsley, go for it!
2 red bell peppers
2 green bell peppers
1 Spanish onion
3 Roma tomatoes
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup cilantro
Ground coriander seed
Packet of Sazon
I use the food processor to dice the veggies and then add the spices to taste. I like to make a big batch of this and freeze it in small quantities (about 4-5 tablespoons) for use in soups, stews, beef and chicken dishes – I added 4 tablespoons to a pot of arroz con gandules (yellow rice with pigeon peas) I made for Christmas Eve dinner and it was delicious.
Step 2: Now for the meat filling. Start with 1lb. of ground sirloin or meatloaf mix, seasoned with salt and pepper or adobo. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan; when it’s sizzling add about 4 tablespoons of sofrito. Stir that for about a minute and then add your meat, breaking it up and stirring until cooked through.
Step 3: I use Goya Dough Discs for Empanadas to make the pies. They’re readily available in most major supermarkets and should be easy to find.
Steps 4 & 5: Place a disc on waxed paper on a cutting board to keep it from sticking. Place about a spoonful of meat in the middle of the disc as shown.
Step 6: Fold over the disc into a crescent shape, pressing down on the edges of the disc with your fingers to seal.
Step 7: Press the sealed edges of the empanada with the tines of a fork to secure the seal.
Step 8: Here’s what your empanadas should look like. I usually make them ahead up to this point and put them in the refrigerator until I’m ready to cook them, and make between 12 – 20 empanadas at a time.
Step 9: When you’re ready to fry them, add enough canola oil to a heavy frying pan to cover the empanadas; heat the oil to sizzling and carefully place the empanadas in the oil; fry until each side is golden brown as shown.
Empanadas also make great appetizers: cut the dough disc in half, fill and fold into little triangles as shown below. They are easy to tailor to any taste level from mild to spicy and are always a welcome addition to any table – maybe add them to your Super Bowl menu this year!