Friday, April 8, 2011

Empanadas Venezuela

Today Ladies & Gents is National Empanada Day. Nothing bad can be said about Empanadas as they encompass so many great things, a flaky crust wrapped around an uncountable amount of possible fillings, from meats, to fruits to even vegetables these are the original on the go treat used to sustain people who had to endure long journeys where food wasn’t always readily available.

Living in Southern California, if you don’t know what they are, or you haven’t had one, first I must say what rock have you been living under and second why the hell haven’t you tried one?
Today’s Recipe of The Day comes from Venezuela, where Empanadas are commonly found just about everywhere you look. The recipe calls for a simple cut of beef that is broken down by slow cooking which results in tender juicy pieces of perfectly seasoned beef wrapped in a warm flaky crust in every bite.

For those that aren’t up on these great treats, an empanada is a stuffed bread or pastry baked or fried in many countries of Latin America and the south of Europe. The name comes from the verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread. Empanada’s, are made by folding dough around any firm of stuffing you desire and baking or frying them until they are crispy enough to eat.
The stuffing can consist of a variety of meats, vegetables, or even fruits.
Enjoy a few of these today, this weekend or sometime soon, you have no clue what your missing out on.
(Read The Entire Recipe After The Jump)

For the Fillings:
1 ½ lbs beef roast, cut into 4 pieces, trimmed
4 bay leaves
Kosher salt
2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
½ medium onion, diced
¼ green bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, diced
1 scallion, chopped
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp sazon completa (Spanish seasoning blend, found in the spice aisle)
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp ground cumin
Freshly ground pepper

For the Dough:
3 TBS sugar
1 ½ TBS vegetable oil, plus more for greasing and frying
1 ½ TBS unsalted butter
1 TBS salt
3 ½ cups precooked cornmeal
¼ cup plus 2 TBS all-purpose flour

For the Sauce:
1 ¼ cups cilantro (leaves and stems)
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium avocado, halved, seeded and peeled
¼ green bell pepper, chopped
1 scallion, chopped
4 tsp white vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Make the filling:
Place the beef, bay leaves, 1 TBS salt and water to cover in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the meat is almost falling apart, about 1 hour 30 minutes.
Transfer the meat to a bowl and shred with a fork; cool. Reserve the broth.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and shallot; cook until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.
Stir in the scallion, paprika, sazon completa, oregano, cumin and ¼ tsp pepper.
Add the beef and 1 cup of the reserved broth and cook over medium heat until thick, about 10 minutes.
Season with salt.

Make the dough:
Mix 3 ½ cups hot water, the sugar, vegetable oil, butter and salt in a medium bowl until the butter melts.
Stir in the cornmeal and flour until a soft dough forms, then knead on a clean surface until the dough comes together.
Shape into 12 balls, using about ½ cup dough for each.
One at a time, sprinkle each dough ball with water, place between two pieces of lightly oiled heavy-duty plastic wrap (a cut re-sealable bag works well) and roll into a 7-inch circle.

Remove the top sheet of plastic and place 2 to 3 TBS filling in the center of the dough.
Use the bottom piece of plastic to fold the dough in half over the filling and press to seal. Trim into a half-moon shape with a knife or press down with the round edge of a bowl. 
Remove the plastic and place the empanada on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F
Heat 1 inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet until a deep-fry thermometer registers 365 degrees F.
Fry the empanadas in batches until golden, about 4 minutes per side.
Transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet; keep warm in the oven.

Make the sauce:
Combine the cilantro, olive oil, avocado, bell pepper, scallion, vinegar and garlic in a blender.
Add 1 tsp salt and 2 tsp pepper and puree until smooth.
Thin out the sauce with up to ¼ cup water and serve with the empanadas.

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