Empanadas de Picadillo Oaxaqueño
Adapted from Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless
I’ll admit it. When the class I’m teaching tonight asked me to make empanadas, I wasn’t even sure I’d ever eaten an empanada- much less made one.
These were surprisingly easy. Better still, the filling is simple to make in large batches. With some picadillo in the freezer, fresh, warm empanadas are easy to throw together as an appetizer or snack.
Empanadas are usually deep-fried but I prefer the lightness of the baked version. You could always opt to deep fry if you’re feeling naughty.
For the dough
2 ¼ cups flour Use all-purpose or a combination of all purpose and whole wheat. Whole wheat only works fine as well, but the resulting dough is a bit tough.
3 tablespoons lard or non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cup very warm tap water You may need a bit more if you’re using whole wheat flour.
For the filling
One 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, pureed with their juices in a blender or food processor
1 small onion, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
¾ pound lean, ground pork I buy pork shoulder and grind it myself.
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
½ inch cinnamon stick, ground or about 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon chili powder of your choice New Mexican would be a good, mild choice. Chipotle would add some heat and smokiness that would compliment the sweetness of the dish. Rick’s recipe doesn’t include chili powder but when I tasted the dish as it cooked, I felt like it needed the warmth of chilis to compliment the sweetness of the dish.
3 cloves, ground or about 1/8 teaspoon ground
2 tablespoons raisins
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted lightly
½ teaspoon salt
To finish before baking
1 egg white, whisked
A small rolling pin, pilfered from your kids’ Play-doh set if necessary
Make the dough
1. Pulse the flour and lard or shortening in a food processor until incorporated. It will have a sandy appearance. Add the water and pulse to incorporate.
2. Open the processor and pinch the dough. If it sticks together and feels pliable, you’re happy. If it feels sandy or breaks apart when pinched, add 2 teaspoons more water and pulse again.
3. Divide the dough into 12 equal-sized pieces. Roll them into balls and place them on a cookie sheet. Cover them with plastic wrap and rest them in the refrigerator while you prepare the picadillo.
Cook the picadillo
1. Sweat the onions over medium low heat for about 4-5 minutes, until just translucent. Add the garlic and cook about another 90 seconds, taking care not to burn the garlic.
2. Add the pork and cook until done. Drain the pork of excess liquid.
3. Add the ground spices, tomato puree, raisins and vinegar.
4. Simmer uncovered over low heat for 30-45 minutes. You want to concentrate the liquids of this dish and take time to develop the flavors. When you drag a spoon through the bottom of the pan and the pan remains dry for 7 seconds or so, you’re done. Add the almonds and taste for seasoning.
Stuff and bake the empanadas
1. Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Lightly flour your countertop. This dough is quite stable, so you may not need the flour at all. Better to try it with the flour for the first one, however.
3. Place a dough ball on the counter, smoosh it down with the palm of your hand and then roll it out to a round of about a 1/8” thickness.
4. Brush the edge of the round with a little bit of water, about ½” around.
5. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of filling into the center of the empanada. Gather the empanada in your hands and form a little pocket that encloses the filling. If the filling is concentrated in the middle, smoosh it a bit to distribute it. Line up the edges of the dough and gently press them.
6. You can close the emapanada by crimping the edges with the tines of a fork. Alternatively, you can create a decorative edge by pinching and twisting the edge between your thumb and forefinger as shown below.