“An empanada is a stuffed bread or pastry baked or fried in many countries in Latin America,Southern Europe, and parts of Southeast Asia.” – Wikipedia
Here in Montevideo all the empanadas we have run across have been baked instead of fried. Across the river in Buenos Aires they have baked empanadas that they call “salteñas”. Empanadas are available at a variety of venues in Montevideo. At the supermarket they can be found near the bakery items. Empanadas can commonly be found at rotiserías that also sell fresh pasta and torts, and occupy little hole-in-the-wall stores that are hardly big enough to display their food. Empanadas can also be found at empanada specific restaurants or delivery centers.
At supermarkets and the small rotiserias the fillings are fairly limited and usually include carne (beef), pollo (chicken), acetuna (olives), jamón y queso (ham and cheese), and espinaca (spinach). At empanada restaurants and delivery centers there is much more variety, including dessert empanadas. El Taberna del Diablo (a restaurant and delivery center near our house) has 46 different kinds of empanadas.
One of the confusing things about buying empanadas, especially if you get different varieties, is coming home to a collection of stuffed pastries that all look alike. On closer inspection, each type of filling is shown on the outside using a unique marking. Small rotiserías will sometimes use pieces of dough to make shapes on the tops that correspond to their filling. Large delivery centers will use a combination of small holes punched in the edges and folded corners to distinguish the fillings. Though, without a guide map to the markings, the only thing to do is take a bite. Things could be worse!
Empanadas are so prevalent in the culinary sphere of Montevideo that most supermarkets carry pre-made empanada dough disks. All one needs to do is buy them, stuff them, and bake them to have a delicious snack or entire meal.
So, that’s exactly what we did! I made two types of empanadas, beef and apple. Below are the recipes that I created:
Beef Empanadas (recipe makes about 30 empanadas)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 med onion chopped fine
1 large green bell pepper chopped fine
1 tbsp garlic chopped fine
2 peppers chopped (don’t know what kind, they call them “picante” here but jalapeños would work great)
1 tomato chopped
1.5 lbs ground beef
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp black ground pepper
0.5 tsp salt
1. Saute onions, garlic, bell pepper and hot pepper in olive oil until just browned and soft.
2. Add meat, tomatoes and seasonings. Cook until meat is browned and broken into very small pieces.
3. Cool mixture in the fridge for 1 hour, then add one spoonful to the center of a dough disk. Wet the edges of the disk with your finger and then fold over and seal. There are lots of different ways to seal empanadas including with a fork or with a braid. This video shows how to do it using the different techniques.
4. Brush the tops with egg yolk to help brown them in the oven. Since the oven here is a bit funky… I’ll just suggest that at home you bake the empanadas at 350 F for about 15 min.
Apple Empanadas (recipe makes about 15 empanadas):
3 large granny smith apples chopped
2 tbsp margarine
0.5 cups sugar
0.25 cups dulce de leche (like caramel)
1 tbsp flour
1. Place the apples, margarine, and sugar in a pan and sauté over low heat. When the apples are soft, add the flour to thicken the mixture. Off heat add the dulce de leche and mix.
2. Place in the fridge for an hour and then fill the empanada disks with goodness! Use the same cooking instructions as above. Enjoy!