Thursday, August 21, 2014


Son3 is leaving to go back to school in a few days and this week I am letting him drive the proverbial food train.  He has asked for a few of his all time favorites and I agreed to make them and not complain.  How is it that most of his favorites are the most labor intensive dishes I make ( which is why we seldom have them).  I hope he enjoys them enough that the memory will carry him through until Christmas vacation ( next time he will be home).  By then I will be up for cooking more time consuming food again. Maybe.

Tonight's meal is actually looks and tastes like pretty simple fare . Picadillo filled empanadas are probably Son3's all time favorite dish.  Picadillo is a Cuban beef stew? hash?  Everyone seems to have their own recipe and everyone thinks theirs is better than their neighbor's or cousin's but not as good as their grandmother's.  My family has no Cuban roots so I did not grow up with in a picadillo competitive environment.  In fact I never had it until I was an adult and ordered it in a restaurant.  It was so incredibly delicious that I bought the restaurant's cookbook just to have the recipe.  I am sure they left out an ingredient or two that keeps it from being service perfect but, man, is it ever delicious anyway.  And as I said, we have no old family recipe to compare it with so it works perfectly for me.  Now imagine this deliciousness wrapped in flaky pastry and you have empanadas.

                                                     Picadillo Filled Empanadas


2 pounds ground beef
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 bell peppers, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
3 bay leaves
5 tomatoes peeled and chopped in a small dice ( can substitute 2 cans diced drained tomatoes)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup raisins minced
1/4 cup pimento stuffed olives, minced
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 cup burgandy

In a large pan, cook the ground beef until it loses its pink color.  Add the onions and peppers and cook until they wilt but are not browned.  Add the garlic and cook until it is golden. By now the beef should be browned.  TIlt the pan and, with a spoon, remove as much of the beef fat as possible.  Add the remaining ingredients except for the burgandy. Cover the pan and cook on mid low for about 20 minutes.  Add the burgandy and cover the pan again.  Cook for about 20 more minutes on low.
Traditionally this is served over rice and it is delicious that way, but in empanadas it is almost to die for.

*Pie crust (2 crust recipe)

For 25 emapnadas it took enough dough for 4 pie crusts but I don't re-roll the  cut pieces because it gets tough. If you had rather re-roll the scraps go ahead.  It would take  considerable less dough that way.

2 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon shortening or lard
about 1/3 cup ice water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a medium bowl stir the flour and the salt.  Cut in the shortening using a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles cornmeal.  Add about half of the water and blend it with a fork.  Add the remainder 1 teaspoon at a time using your hands to work it into the dough.  Stop adding when it feels like a nice consistency pastry dough.  If it requires a bit more add it. Pastry dough is not a precise recipe so you have to go by touch.  If it is too crumbly it will fall apart and if it is too wet you can't roll it well.
When the dough feels "right and gives a bit when pressed, put it in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.  On a lightly floured board or pastry cloth roll the dough out to pie crust thickness.  Try to roll it in a rectangle for less waste.  I use a large yogurt container to cut my dough into circles.  It is about 3 inches in diameter, but I have made them smaller for appetizers.

 To make the empanadas

On a large cutting board or cookie sheet lay out the cut dough circles. With a slotted spoon place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle of each circle, being careful to get none on the edges.  Fold over the top half to the bottom half and crimp the edges. ( You will have half moon shapes with fancy crimped edges.) Transfer these to a clean baking sheet. ( I spray a very light coat of Pam)   As long as they are not touching you can put as many as you can squeeze onto your sheet.  There is virtually no spreading when they cook.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is dry and lightly browned.  Serve and enjoy!

Unless you make enough dough for about 5 pies you will have a lot of the filling left over.  It freezes wonderfully and the next time you get ready for empanadas you are just a thaw away. Or you could be a traditionalist and serve it over rice, but why?

I cannot begin to tell you how much we love these.  I make sure to have 4 per person, with a few extra for whoever asked me to make them.  We had a plate of 25 and at the end of the meal the plate was empty.  When you look at the ingredients you might get hung up on the combination of minced raisins and minced olives.  All I can say here is sometimes you just have to have faith.  I have served these to guests several times and without fail they have liked them and asked for the recipe.  Without fail they have balked (gagged?) at the idea of the raisin olive combo.  Without fail when they made them with the odd ingredient pairing they loved them.  These might even be last meal worthy.

I like these plain, but you might like them dipped in pineapple salsa. I have a weakness for Trader Joe's pineapple salsa and could eat it with almost anything. ( I hope someone in Trader Joe's corporate office hears about this and will consider building a store in Birmingham.  Please!  I am begging here!)

And now I am off to the Pig to buy chicken for  special request number 2.

* You can save a boatload of time by buying already made pie crusts sheets.  They are delicious and I have been known to use them just to speed up the process.  They are a little pricey though.  Usually during the fall Aldi has them for a very discounted price.  I stock up that week and keep them in the freezer for about 6 or so months.


  1. Lucky son3!!! MY son was heading off to college and I ended up making lasagna.
    I think maybe I'll cheat and give this recipe to Den. I'm sure it would taste better if he made it. LOL