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Cook the Book

Cook the Book: Beef Empanadas

Cook the Book: Beef Empanadas

[Photograph: Caroline Russock]

When it comes to foods we enjoy while watching sports, most have a few things in common. Hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn—no utensils needed, easily eaten with your hands, and maybe a napkin or two.

Football food is no exception. For this week's Cook the Book giveaway we asked you to tell us about your favorite game day foods, and the responses so far have been heavy on the finger food—lots of chips and dip, wings, and pizza.

In an effort to mix up the rotation of snacks being served this Super Bowl Sunday I turned to Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn to see what kind of hand-held food might lie within. As it turns out Quinn is a big fan of pocket pie.

Her boys would come home asking for the Hot Pockets that they'd eaten at a friend's house but Quinn was not one to feed her loved ones frozen pastries filled with all kinds of nasty preservatives. Instead she decided to make her own with homemade pastry and fillings that would even include fresh vegetables in place of nitrate-filled ham and low grade cheese.

I decided to try my hand at Quinn's Beef Emapandas, figuring that they would make an ideal football watching snack since you can eat them with one hand and still comfortably hold a beer in the other.

The first step was to make the Cream Cheese Pastry, a shockingly simple food processor dough that came together in seconds and rolled out with barely any effort at all. Once the dough was chilling in the fridge I set about making the filling. It's a great sweet, savory, salty mix of ground beef, raisins, and pimento-stuffed olives.

Usually any type of stuffed pastry involves a pretty serious time commitment but these empanadas where successfully assembled and in the oven in about an hour, thanks in a large part to the virtually fool-proof dough.

They baked up a gorgeous gold with the help of the egg wash and the crust was rich and pliant. The filling which was great before it went into the oven went through some kind of transformation during the baking and tasted even better when paired with the buttery pastry.

I must confess that I don't have any plans to attend any Super Bowl parties on Sunday but if I were invited to one I would most definitely be toting along a mess of these beef empanadas. They are compact, handheld, and a perfect match for a cold beer.

Win Mad Hungry

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Mad Hungry to give away this week.

Cook the Book: Beef Empanadas

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About This Recipe

Yield:10 empanadas

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 cup pimento-filled green olives, sliced
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Several dashes of hot sauce
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 recipe Cream Cheese Pastry (recipe follows)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the dough
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Procedures

  1. 1

    To make the filling, heat a large skillet over medium heat, and then swirl in the olive oil. Add the onion and bell pepper. Saute until the onion is translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Raise the heat to high and add the beef. Cook, stirring constantly, to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the cumin and cook for another minute.

  2. 2

    Stir in the olives, raisins, honey, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Cook until the meat is golden brown, the liquid has evaporated, and the flavors have blended, about 4 more minutes. Cool the mixture completely in the fridge. Stir in the egg whites.

  3. 3

    Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter or line a baking sheet.

  4. 4

    To form the empanadas, work with half of the disk of dough at a time, rolling out on a floured work surface. Using an overturned bowl (about 5 inches across), cut out circles about 3 or 4 at a time from each piece of dough. Gather all the dough scraps together, reroll once, and cut. Place 1/4 cup filling on one side of the dough circle. Wet the edges of the dough with water. Fold the dough over to form a half circle. Pinch the edges of the dough together. Crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat the process until all of the filling is used. The empanadas can be frozen at this point.

  5. 5

    Place the empanadas on the prepared baking sheet and chill for a few minutes. Prick each pie on top twice with a fork. When ready to bake, beat the egg yolks with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash over each empanada. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. The empanadas can be cooled and frozen to reheat in a microwave.

  6. 6

    Cream Cheese Pastry

  7. 7

    - makes about 10 pocket pies, or one double-crusted 10-inch pie -

  8. 8

    Process the butter, cream cheese, and cream in a food processor, electric mixer or by hand to thoroughly combine.

  9. 9

    Add the flour and salt. Process until just combined and the dough holds together in a ball. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Divide into 2 pieces. Flatten into disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out. If the dough is chilled overnight, take it out 15 minutes before rolling out.

  10. 10

    Rub flour all over a rolling pin. Working with one dough disk at a time, pace the disk on a clean, well-floured work surface. Applying some pressure with the rolling pin, roll gently from the center of the dough to the top and bottom edges. Rotate the the disk, and roll to the top and bottom edges again. Reflour the work surface and rolling pin, turn the dough over, and continue to roll the dough from the center out to the edges. Turn over and roll again, rotating the disk to ensure even rolling until the dough is about 12 inches in diameter, then but not transparent.

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