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Empanadas make dinner easy

Savory handpies perfect for quick springtime meals

By Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Published: March 27, 2024, 6:03am

Spring weather is here, and I’ll bet you can’t wait to get outside and enjoy the sunshine.

My bike is already at the ready in the backseat of my car, awaiting the days when I can hop onto a bike path or trail after work and ride with the wind on my face and setting sun in my eye.

Spring is also a good idea to have a few hand-held meals like these easy Mexican meat-and-potato empanadas waiting in the fridge. When it’s time to eat, all you have to do is throw them into the oven for a few minutes to reheat.

If the thought of making fresh dough scares you, it shouldn’t. The dough in this recipe has just five ingredients (plus ice water) and comes together like a dream.

It quickly mixes into a soft and pliable ball using just your fingers and a fork, and it’s extremely forgiving as long as you let it rest in the fridge for a spell before rolling it out on a flour-dusted work surface.

I made these empanadas with ground chorizo sausage because I like spicy foods, but any ground or finely chopped cooked meat or vegetable, or combination thereof, makes a great filling. You also can add shredded cheese if you’re so inclined.

I precooked the potatoes with 1 tablespoon of water for 3 minutes in the microwave, but you also could parboil them with a little salt until they are fork tender.

Serve with salsa verde or chimichurri for dipping. I made mine with cilantro, garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil and a pinch of red pepper. You may end up with a little extra filling — I had enough for two street-sized breakfast tacos.

Chorizo and Potato Empanadas

Makes 8 large or 16 small empanadas. Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette

For dough:

21/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

11/2 teaspoons salt

8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1 large egg

1/3 cup ice water

1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

For filling:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup chopped white onion (1/2 large)

1/2 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)

2 hot chili peppers, seeded and chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 pound loose chorizo sausage

2 Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces and cooked

Generous pinch of Mexican oregano

1 teaspoon salt

Generous grind of fresh black pepper

Egg wash, for sealing and brushing tops of pies

Make dough: In a large bowl, mix flour with salt until blended. Add butter chunks and blend with your fingertips or a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal or sand with some pea-size butter lumps.

In another small bowl, beat together egg, water and vinegar with a fork. Add to the flour mixture, and stir just until the wet and dry ingredients are incorporated. Don’t worry if it looks a little shaggy, as it will soon come together!

Pour flour mixture onto a lightly floured work surface and after gathering it into a loose ball with your hands, knead it gently once or twice until it comes together in a soft dough. Form the dough into a rectangle, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for at least a half-hour while you prepare the filling.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and baking pan with parchment paper.

Prepare filling: Heat oil in a large nonstick frying pan. Add onions and cook until soft and slightly translucent, about 3 minutes.

Add peppers, stir to combine and continue cooking for another minute or two. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add chorizo to pan and cook, breaking it up with a wood spoon, until well browned and cooked through.

Add cooked potatoes and stir to combine. Add oregano and season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Assemble empanadas: Divide dough into 8 portions (for large) or 16 portions (for small). On a lightly floured work surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll each into a 7-inch circle (for large) or 4-inch circle (for small).

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For large empanadas, place about 1/3 cup of filling in the center of the dough circle; for small empanadas, use about 2 tablespoons.

Brush a little egg on the outer edges, then fold the dough over to enclose the filling and form a half moon. Use a fork to press the edges to seal, then place on prepared baking sheet. If you like, brush egg wash on top. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Bake empanadas for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is a picture-perfect golden brown.

Remove from oven, allow to cool for a minute or so (so you don’t burn your tongue) and serve warm, with salsa verde or chimichurri, for dipping.

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