I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas with their families! I sure did with my family!! It is always wonderful just spending a full day at home with the kids, watching them open their presents, play with their toys and eat a big home cooked feast!! But now that Christmas is over, it is time to think appetizers!! I mean think about it: New Year’s is next week and the Super Bowl is just right around the corner!
Well Erik and I have a great appetizer for you! These Pork Piccadillo Empanadas are tasty, satisfying and sure to please! In fact, empanadas are just the kind of dish that Two in the Kitchen is built around! While Erik is busy making the pork filling, I am busy making the crust. I love meals where we come together as a team and contribute our own part to the dish!
So let’s talk about the crust first. For this crust, I used the Cook’s Illustrated version for empanada crusts. Now this version calls for masa harina which is corn flour. (I use Maseca brand) Masa harina is a staple in our kitchen as I use it often to make homemade corn tortillas. (Never made home made corn tortillas?? See the instructions here)
Empanada crusts are more like pie crusts than tortillas, though I still use my handy tortilla press to make them. (If you don’t have a tortilla press, these can be rolled out, though I HIGHLY recommend investing in a tortilla press as they are not too pricey) This empanada crust is light, flaky, buttery and perfect to encase the amazing pork filling!!
Now for the picadillo filling. First; what is picadillo filling? The Spanish word picadillo refers to the meat being minced, or ground and in Latin American dishes, it is quite often a ground meat filling but, as is the case here, it can also be ground pork. Picadillo is a filling that can be used in a variety of Latin American dishes like tacos and burritos or empanadas. Erik, when he interned at Rick Bayless’s famous Frontera Grill in Chicago, often made a picadillo filling that used ground meat, raisins, and chopped almonds.
For our version of picadillo, Erik took country style pork ribs, and ground them using our Kitchen Aid meat grinder attachment. He then cooked them up with raisins, chopped peanuts and a delicious tomato based sauce. The result is an unbelievably flavorful filling that is perfectly well suited to pair with the fantastic corn empanada crusts!! By saving a cup of the tomato sauce, you will have a great little tasty dip to sink your flaky empanadas into before you gobble them all up!!
Empanadas are so delicious and versatile!! Make them as a snack, appetizer or meal!! For whatever purpose you make these, you are in for a real treat!!
Crusts are from Cook’s Illustrated
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion, medium dice
- 1 28-ounce can good-quality whole tomatoes in juice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds coarsely ground pork country style ribs (either grind the pork yourself with a kitchen aid attachment, or call ahead and have your butcher do it)
- 1/2 cup peanuts chopped (roasted and salted)…not dry roast
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 3 cups flour
- 1 cup masa harina (I use Maseca)
- 1 TBLS sugar
- 2 t. salt
- 12 TBLS VERY COLD unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- 1/2 c. VERY COLD vodka (see notes)
- 1/2 c. ice water
- olive oil
- a bowl of water
- Add the oil to heavy bottomed pot and sauté the onions over low to medium heat stirring frequently until they are golden brown and beginning to caramelize on the bottom of the pan. While the onions are cooking puree the tomatoes (juice included) until smooth using a food processor or blender.
- When the onions are ready add the pureed tomatoes, cinnamon, and black pepper to the pot and stir to incorporate using a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan. Raise the heat to high, bring the pot to a boil, and then reduce it to medium heat stirring frequently until the mixture has thickened and reduced by about half the original volume. Remove 1 cup of the tomato sauce and set aside to use as a dipping sauce for later.
- In a separate skillet brown the ground pork over high heat and strain off any excess fat as necessary. Add the pork, peanuts, raisins, and cider vinegar to the pot with the tomato sauce and simmer for 5-10 minutes over low to medium heat.
- Refrigerate until cool before assembling the empanadas (May be covered and refrigerated for up to two days)
- Make the crust by processing 1 c. flour, masa harina, sugar,and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter and process until dough resembles wet sand. Add remaining flour and pulse several times until well combined. Empty mixture into a large bowl.
- Add vodka and water and using hands, combine dough until it forms a course ball that sticks together.Divide dough into approximately 20 golf ball sized balls, place in a covered bowl and refrigerate for an hour.
- Take each dough ball and dip in a bowl of water to make it easier to form into a crust. If using a tortilla press, line each side with plastic wrap and press the balls of dough to form a hand sized circle. Or roll out dough with a rolling pin on a well floured surface.
- Place a spoonful of filling onto the dough and fold over to form a half circle. Before closing, moisten the edges of dough with water using your finger tips to seal the edges. Use a fork to seal around the edges and use a small knife to cut off any jagged edges. (This is a messy process. Make sure to have plenty of paper towels handy!!!
- Once empanadas are assembled, you may wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate them up to two days or bake them immediately.
- Pre heat oven to 425 degrees and sprinkle olive oil on two rimmed baking sheets and place in the oven to slightly heat the oil.
- Remove sheets from the oven and place assembled empanadas on the sheets. Brush olive oil on the tops of each empanada, place sheets in the oven and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving them with the reserved tomato dipping sauce. Enjoy!!