Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fuss-Free Empanadas

I used to work as a class assistant at The Wooden Spoon, a great kitchen store in the Andersonville neighborhood here in Chicago. It was such a fun job, and I loved being an insider in this food-centric neighborhood. Andersonville is known throughout Chicago for it's great restaurants, and there was a strong community within the area. The owner at the Wooden Spoon was always sharing insider information she learned from the restauranteurs in the neighborhood, and the trick for these empanadas was probably the best tip I heard during my time at the store.

I was surprised when I came to work one day and found out we would be making empanadas using pre-made dough. This seemed like a Sandra Lee shortcut, and not the way a professional would do things. I came to find out that one of my favorite restaurants in Andersonville made their amazing empanadas using this pre-made dough, and I was very intrigued. At the end of class I got to taste the final result, and I was sold! The dough tasted fresh and authentic, and could be fried or baked.

Recently I stumbled across this empanada dough at the Mexican grocery store by my house, and I figured it was time to try my hand at making empanadas at home. I picked two recipes online, and went to work. I figured since it was my first attempt it was best to start with a recipe someone had already created, but now that I'm more comfortable I think empanadas are the type of thing where you can invent your own filling combinations. I would highly recommend these fillings-- both were very flavorful! Even if you can't find these empanada dough discs around where you live, I recommend you try to make you own. Either recipe yields great results!

Grilled Vegetable and Goat Cheese Empanadas
By Emeril Lagasse from
2 slices of yellow squash (1/2-inch thick, sliced vertically)
2 slices of zucchini (1/2-inch thick, sliced vertically)
2 slices of eggplant (1/2-inch thick, sliced into rings)
1/2 head of endive
1 red onion ring (1/2-inch thick)
1/2 red pepper
1/2 yellow pepper
2 green onions
Olive oil
Essence, recipe follows
3 small tortilla rounds, julienned (I skipped)
1/2 to 1 cup goat cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup roasted garlic puree
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the grill. Preheat the fryer.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, toss the vegetables with olive oil and season with Essence. Place the vegetables on the hot grill. Cook for 2 minutes on each side. Remove the vegetables from the grill and dice. Place the diced vegetables in a mixing bowl. Fry the tortilla strips for about 2 minutes or until crispy. Remove from the fryer. Stir in enough cheese to bind the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the roasted garlic and crumble the tortillas into the filling. Stir in the parsley.
To assemble, spoon about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the filling in the center of each empanada dough rounds. Fold over to form a half-moon pie shape and crimp the edges to seal. Place the empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with an egg wash. Bake for 30 minutes and serve hot.

Roll out each disc so it's a bit bigger.

Green Chile Chicken Empanadas

By Tyler Florence from

8 medium tomatillos (about 1 1/2 pounds), husked and rinsed
1 to 2 jalapenos, stemmed
1 Spanish onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves
1 handful fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1 lime, juiced
2 cups finely shredded, cooked chicken, preferably dark meat
1 cup crumbled queso fresco


Bring a pot of water to a boil; add the tomatillos, jalapeno, onion, and garlic. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the tomatillos are soft. Drain and cool slightly. Combine the tomatillos, jalapeno, onion, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice in a blender. Add 1/4 cup of water and process to a coarse puree; season with a generous pinch of salt. You should have about 3 cups of this salsa verde.

Combine the shredded chicken and queso fresco in a large mixing bowl. Pour in 1 1/2cups of the salsa verde and fold the ingredients together to moisten. Use as a filling for empanadas. Serve the remaining salsa verde on the side.


Chris said...

Oh my gosh - what a fun job!! I'm so jealous.

And I don't think the premade empanada dough is cheating - we've all used frozen pizza dough from Trader Joe's from time to time, right??

elly said...

These sound delicious! I'll have to look for the premade dough. I LOVE empanadas.

Sarah said...

I never even thought to look out for pre-made empanada dough. I'll have to see if I can't find it in my grocery stores around here.