Once the wedding was over, I thought about going back to my cooking blog, but I didn't want to write about such a narrow topic. Thus, Dr. Princess was born. I'm glad that I've developed an avenue that allows me to write about a broad range of topics, but I miss my little cooking blog from time to time. So, if you'll let me, I'd like to recycle some of my old Cuban cuisine posts. They will appear on this blog in a new series:
The first post in this series is one of my all time favorite dishes. Have I ever told you that my husbad makes the best empanadas in Atlanta? Well, he does. We've tried lots of other empanadas all over the city and his really are the best (The appetizer at Two Urban Licks are the only thing I've found that comes close). He, of course, is Cuban, so he was born with the ability to make them off the top of his head and add the perfect amounts of everything just by tasting it along the way. My brain doesn't function that way. I asked him to do his best to create a recipe out of what he does and here's what I got:
Bear with me because this is a LONG shopping list.
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 red peppers, chopped
- 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 4 Roma tomatoes
- juice of 2 limes
- 1.5 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons pepper
- "a healthy dump of cumin" (not sure what that means...I'm guessing 3 tablespoons)
- 1 handful of raisins
- 1 handful of sliced almonds
- 20 discos (Goya sells them frozen in packs of 10)
- 1 handful of grated sharp cheddar
- 1 egg, beaten
- And finally...Dave's secret ingredient: 1.5 shots of tequila
If discos are frozen, leave out for half an hour to thaw. They should still be slightly frozen (you don't want them defrosted all the way to room temperature as they will be too sticky), but they need to be flexible enough to work with. If they become too crumbly, use a little bit of water on your fingers to close any holes or tears.
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large stock pot. Add onions, red peppers, and garlic and cook until soft. Add the ground beef and cook until brown. Drain the fat and return pot to heat.
Add next ingredients, tomatoes through almonds, as well as the tequila. Continue to cook uncovered at low heat for 2-3 minutes or until raisins have softened.
Once you have this nice mixture fully combined and cooked, spoon the filling onto the discos.
This part is difficult to quantify because it depends so much on the skill level of the cook. I can get the disco to close with about 1 tablespoon of filling. Dave can get it to close with at least 2. Start small and try to put more filling in once you've developed your skill. Top with a pinch of grated cheddar.
Next, fold the disco over the filling and close the edges with a fork, like so:
Place closed discos on a greased cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 350˚. Use a pastry brush to brush over each empanada with the beaten egg.
Next, stick those things in the oven. They don't need to cook for that long (remember, your meat is already browned). You're really just crisping the crust. The important step in the cooking process is to make sure the empanadas cool appropriately. Once you take them out of the oven, you need to let them sit for a while. There is heat trapped inside the pastry, which means that 1) the inside will continue to cook even when out of the oven and 2) the steam trapped inside will make everything nice and moist.
Dave says to cook it at 350˚ "until golden brown" and to let cool "until you can't take the anticipation anymore." I say cook for 20 minutes and let cool for 10. Close enough.
Serve as appetizers or side dishes, but either way serve with salsa verde!
These things are an absolute hit at every potluck we bring them to. What's your favorite Cuban or Latin dish?