Empanada-licious March 31, 2011Posted by Toy Lady in baking, Cooking, Rochester.
I may have mentioned a time or two (or twenty!) that I was raised a Mid-western Swede. I repeat this not as an excuse, but by way of explanation.
Our versions of “ethnic” foods included tacos (the basic hard shells, ground beef, lettuce, tomato, cheese and jarred sauce – this was even before salsa was
invented available!) and Pizza Hut. Well, that, and the occasional take-out from my mother’s favorite Italian place.
And so it was that I was, what, 40? before I ever had an actual empanada. Which is a sad, sad thing.
See, it happens that, locally, we have an honest-to-goodness empanada joint – Juan & Maria’s.
The Empanada Stop is one of the food places at the public market – there’s a row of, essentially, concession stands. I mean, yeah, they have roofs and walls.
It’s more like a shed with water and electricity. And in the summer, the walls, well, they come right off.
So anyway, they don’t do a lot of advertising – they’re a tiny little business at the public market, and they’re only open on market days – Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
However. They do get some press – I first heard of them a few years ago, when a local talk radio host was talking about them – he mentioned that Juan & Maria were sending cases of frozen empanadas to troops stationed in the Middle East. They were sending the food, but they were accepting donations for postage costs.
I’m guessing shipping frozen empanadas in case lots from Rochester to Iraq can NOT be cheap, huh?
Then I started paying a little more attention to the Home Repair Clinic on the radio on weekend mornings, and I realized that, round about the middle of the show, sometimes one of the hosts sounded like he was talking with his mouth full.
They were talking about how Juan had just dropped off some empanadas and how delightful they were.
So of course, the first time we went to the public market, we made it a point to visit the Empanada Stop.
The preparation area – where they cook and package the food – is all open, surrounded by a counter. There’s a cash register at one end of the counter, where we placed our order, with stools surrounding the rest of the counter.
A type-written menu hangs on a pole beside the menu, along with a sign requesting that “first-time customers” let the cashier know that this is their first time.
Which was what we did – we told the courteous young man that this was our first time, though we’d heard many good things about the place, and that’s when we noticed the big brass dinner bell hanging next to the cash register – when that guy rang the bell. Everyone stopped what they were doing (which was eating) to look at us. And then Juan, Mr. Empanada himself, came out from a back room to welcome us.
What a nice gesture!
Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway!), we absolutely loved the empanadas – egg and cheese, pork, veggie, beef and onion – it doesn’t matter. They’re all wonderful – a handful of deep-fried, tasty goodness.
And me, being me, I was determined to make them at home. After all, if I bought as many of these things as I’d like to, I’d be (a) as big as a house, and (b) poor as a churchmouse.
Now I’ve seen directions for baked empanadas around, which is definitely a good idea – after all, if I’m going to drag the deep fryer out, I’m going to make it worth the trouble, and nobody wants that!
Maybe I should say, everyone would be only too happy if I did that.
I whipped up a meatless filling – sauteed some minced poblano peppers and scallions, added a little corn, some black beans, some cream cheese, and then some shredded pepper jack cheese. I knew better than to try to imitate Juan’s fillings.
Meanwhile, I had a single pie crust left in the fridge from something earlier in the week – yes, I know I can get empanada dough at the supermarket, and I assume Goya actually knows more about it than I do, but there you go. For my purposes (that would be the purposes of a Midwestern Swede!), pie crust worked just fine. I took that crust and divided it into six balls, each of which I rolled into a 5-6 inch circle (well, a round-ish shape, anyway).
Then just about 1/4- 1/3 cup of filling (we do NOT want to over-stuff these!) kind of centered on one side of the “circle,” and then I folded them in half, crimped the edges shut, and pricked the tops with a fork.
Since we’d already decided to bake – not fry – these guys, I left them on the lined sheet pan and sprayed them with a little cooking spray, hoping that they’d taste almost fried.
Oven fried, that’s it.
We baked these in a moderately hot oven (425 maybe?) for about half an hour – just until the crust started to brown (and the one that had a crack on top started to leak – leaking is always a good indicator of melty cheese!), let them rest for a few minutes (hot cheese!) – and. . .
not quite Juan & Maria’s, but still. . .
. . . empanada-licious!