Versions of empanadas can be found across the globe, from Brazil to Ghana, ranging in size, shape, and seasoned fillings. Empanadas are fine finger food for socialites and working class alike in how easily they lend themselves to rushed blue collar schedules or cafe style lounging accompanied by wine or coffee.
Italy knows them as impanatas, stuffing the pastry with ingredients of the region such as mozzarella, eggplant and olives. Bolivia enjoys their version of the dish (saltenas), filled with potato, peas, hard boiled egg, or raisins. In Nigeria, empanadas are commonly filled with greens, carrots, beef or chicken.
During my stay, years ago, in Australia, I recall a version of empanadas, referred to locally as meat pies, stuffed with (you guessed it), various kinds of meats.
The World Cup has put me in a global state of mind, and I love how this dish, like futbol, unites so many regions.
Although it would be a challenge to classify empanadas as health food, if made with high quality ingredients and baked rather than thrown in the deep fryer, they really are lovely fare.
This local Carolina Bison version turned out brilliantly. Garden carrots, spinach, onion and a bit of blue cheese, really bring it all home.
If you have a party to attend, or just want to treat yourself, give this recipe a whirl. People have been doing such things, all over the world with much enjoyment for centuries.
Carolina Bison Empanadas: (makes about 12)
*1 cup organic AP flour
*1/4 cup organic whole wheat flour
*1/2 tsp. sea salt
*8 Tbsp cold, high quality unsalted butter, cubed
*3-4 Tbsp ice water
Blend dry ingredients in a food processor, or in a large mixing bowl. Add butter. Pulse. With blade running, slowly add the water, one Tbsp at a time, until dough forms. Turn out onto a floured work surface. Shape into a disk, wrap in parchment and place in freezer for approximately 15-20 minutes while preparing filling.
Filling: (amounts are approximate, play around)
*1 sweet onion, chopped
*1 carrot, diced
*1 celery stalk, diced
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*1/2-3/4 lbs. ground local bison
*1 small garden tomato, diced
*1 Tbsp dried oregano
*1/2 tsp mustard seeds
*1/8 cup dry red wine
*1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
*sea salt and pepper
*1 tsp. cumin
*3 cups fresh spinach leaves
*1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
*2-3 Tbsp blue cheese
*1 egg yolk
*splash of water
Saute onion, carrot and celery in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, until onions are translucent. Add garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add bison. Brown to medium rare before adding the tomato, oregano, mustard seed, red wine, balsamic vinegar, and cumin. Simmer briefly. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add spinach leaves. Allow to wilt and remove pan from heat. Stir in cilantro. Set aside.
Line a baking sheet with parchment. Preheat oven to 375.
Roll dough out on a floured work surface, to about 1/4''. Using a round biscuit cutter or the rim of a water glass, cut out as many circles as dough allows. Gently roll out each circle additionally to create a large enough surface for stuffing.
Working in batches, place about 2 Tbsp of filling to one side of each dough circle. Sprinkle with a small amount of blue cheese.
Fold dough over filling to create a pocket. Crimp rim of empanada with the back of a fork to seal sides together. Trim away excess dough to make a nice looking seal. Transfer to baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Slash each empanada with a sharp knife to create small steam slits.
Whisk the egg yolk in a small bowl with a splash of water. Coat empanadas with egg wash using pastry brush.
Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until pastry is golden and beautiful. Allow to cool before sprinkling with additional chopped cilantro and serving.