a.k.a. Mexicali Hand Pies
If I knew a food cart vendor here in the Northwest that served empanadas, I would probably eat there way too often. I am still in the hunt and since I lack patience, I made my own with the “help” of an old friend.
The first empanadas I made years ago were just “okay.” We lived in Texas at the time and I brought a batch to a friend’s house to be critiqued, Elsa Hernandez, one of the best Mexican cuisine cooks that I know. She took one look at my recipe and told me I would be better off throwing out the cookbook I used. She then invited our family to their Christmas Eve Tamale Party and the buffet of her extended-family’s dishes (including empanadas) made me stand still for just a second, it was a glorious sight (this was before cell phones, so no pictures). Elsa’s brother, who was slightly inebriated, cornered my husband and kept feeding him samples all night. Needless to say he was impressed with his new “gringo” friend as he put it, because we could handle the “hot” stuff. This was one of my favorite parties ever.
I don’t make empanadas very often (I am a Tamale/Enchilada/Taco Tuesday kind of gal), however, my family is at the mercy of what sounds good to me for dinners and happily devoured Empanadas with Pork Tinga Poblano filling. No worries, you can eliminate some of the spiciness.
You will need to have some shredded pork on hand, so if you want to make these by the weekend, you will need to get cooking soon. You can easily use shredded chicken or beef instead of pork, but other than that, the recipe is the same.
After you make the dough, divide it into 14 to 16 portions and roll into balls, about the size of a golf ball and keep them in refrigerator until ready to use.
1. Take a piece of parchment or plastic storage bag (with zip closure cut off), fold in half and press a dough ball down by hand.
2. Fold parchment or plastic bag over dough and roll to a 4-inch circle (for the first one I drew a 4-inch circle for a guide, the arrow is pointing to the fold). Add about 1 rounded tablespoon of filling (wipe fingers on wet cloth if you touched filling to keep “orange” blotches on outside of empanada).
3. Use the parchment/plastic to fold over top of dough and ease/peel off the paper/plastic with one hand while gently pulling/coaxing the dough off the paper.
4. Your empanada is ready to crimp, with your fingers, gently pull up bottom of dough to touch the top, you should not need to use water and then carefully press with a fork, careful not to puncture empanada. Once you make a few, this will go very fast.
Below, the empanada on the left was made with same-day dough (easy to crimp and seal). The one in the middle and on the right were made with dough that sat overnight refrigerated, became sticky, and I had to use some flour on the parchment, which also made them harder to seal and needed to use some water. However, these were all fried and you can hardly tell the difference afterwards (my point being: DON’T WORRY IF THEY ARE NOT SUPER PRETTY BEFORE COOKING). The empanadas below are the same as the fried pies pictured above. .
If baking these mouth-watering beauties, brush with egg wash to give them a bit of color.
Here are the baked empanadas. My family enjoyed the baked empanadas over the fried empanadas, just sayin’.
- 1-1/2 cup of masa harina
- 1/2 cup flour (or gluten free flour mix)
- 1/4 cup shortening
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/4 chicken broth or water
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 large garlic cloves, mince
- 11 ounce pork or beef chorizo sausage (Cacique brand preferred)
- 1/2 cup mild salsa or taco sauce
- 1 chipotle pepper, chopped (canned in adobo sauce) - omit to reduce heat/spiciness
- 2 cups pork, cooked and shredded (see directions below)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon water (egg wash for baking empanadas)
- Place a 2 to 3 pound boneless pork roast in slow cooker, toss in about 1 tablespoon each chili powder and cumin, add about 1 to 2 teaspoons salt; cook 6 hours on high, or 9 to 10 hours on low. Shred pork, remove fat and liquid and set aside to cool.
- Mix all dry ingredients, cut in and crumble shortening, and add chicken broth all at once. Mix with a large spoon or fork, and then pull together with your hands. Dough will be soft, but will not stick to sides of bowl. Divide and roll into 14 to 16 balls, place in refrigerator while preparing filling.
- In a skillet, saute onions and garlic in oil for about 5 to 10 minutes, add in chorizo and cook and break up sausage over medium-high heat.
- Add in salsa or taco sauce, chipotle pepper and shredded pork. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Let cool to room temperature or refrigerate until ready to make empanadas.
- Chicken or beef can be substituted for pork. Filling is also fantastic for enchiladas, tamales, tacos, burritos, etc.
- Roll dough ball between parchment paper or plastic storage bags, roll to 4-inch circle, add 1 heaping tablespoon of filling.
- Fold over the top half of dough using parchment/plastic, peel off paper, use fingers to press edges together and crimp by hand or with fork.
- Place empanadas on parchment lined baking sheet, brush with egg wash. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.
- Fry at 385 degree preheated cooking oil in deep fryer, about 5 to 6 minutes total. They will sink at first and then float to top. Drain on paper toweling.