Friday, February 17, 2012

Baked Empanadas

The last year we lived in Puerto Rico, my mother owned a small cafeteria. It was located on the grounds of a gas station and across the street from the town's public hospital ("el cdt" as is called in these neo-liberal times). There was also a mechanic’s shop next door, and the buzzing world of hospital goers, gas getters, and customers who brought their broken-down jalopies to the mechanic’s shop. La plaza del mercado (central market) was located right beside my mom’s cafeteria, and a little further down the street was the middle school where I was enrolled. The kids from my school, me included, went to the tiendas (stores) right across from the school: a pizza shop that served the most delicious and cheesiest pizza ($1.00 per slice), and the candy/icey/malta/empanadilla/alcapurria/bacalaito store to which kids flocked during lunch (.50 for a empanadilla de pizza and another .50 for a coca-cola).

My mother’s cafeteria catered to the adults. And so her mainstay was empanadillas (chicken, beef, pizza, or seafood), and beer—very cold cans of Budweiser to be exact (it was the early 1980s). (It was at this very cafeteria that my mom--to her great delight--sold one of her chicken empanadillas to Raúl Juliá !) It was a time when our home-town was still buzzing with life, before everyone, or seemingly everyone migrated pal' norte (to the north), leaving as my aunt says: “the old and the dead” to run the town.

And so my point: growing up I saw (and sometimes) helped my mother make hundreds upon hundreds empanadillas, which she would then bring to her cafeteria in proper food boxes, freeze, and fry day after day for her customers. (She would make her own empanadilla dough too). I have always loved eating empanadillas, and so in honor of that most special childhood favorite, here is a vegetarian (or vegan, if you do not add eggs), simple recipe you can make at home any day of the week!

-discs for empanadas (I get the goya brand, pictured here)
-bella mushrooms, diced 1 cup
-black olives (pitted) diced, 1/2 cup
-raisins, 1/3 cup
-5 garlic cloves, minced
-2 potatos 
-2 carrots
-sweet peas, 1/2 cup
-2 eggs (optional)
-sofrito, 1 Tblspn
-olive oil, 1 Tblspn
-sazón, 2 packets
-tomato sauce (salsa de tomate), 1/2 can
-oregano, 1/4 tspn
-garlic powder, 1/2 tspn
 -water, 4 Tblspn
-salt and pepper to taste

What to do? (makes enough filling for 15 empanadas)

1. Cube your potatoes and cut your carrots into small pieces and add to a sauce pan with boiling water.
2. Boil your eggs--you want hard boiled eggs-optional-if vegan, skip eggs!
3. In a large pan set to low, add the olive oil, the sofrito, mushrooms, raisins, black olives, and garlic--mix gently, let it come together (see photo 1).  
4. When potatoes and carrots are soft (and cooked) add it to the mushroom mix--also add the eggs (which should be cut into small pieces) (see photo 2)-let this come together for a few minutes.
5. Then add the sweet peas, the water, tomato sauce, oregano, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste. 
6. Cover and let it cook in low-medium heat for about 10 minutes (see photo 3).
7. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
8. Take the discs out of the bag and fill your empanada.
 9. Use a fork to close the edges.
10. Place empanadas in cookie sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the shell is brown and cooked on all sides.

You can freeze your empanadas for up to two-weeks (but I warn you, these are SO delicious that they won't last very long)!


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