Friday, May 28, 2010

The Food Desert Project - Empanadas De Atun - Latin-style tuna fish turnovers

I'd been thinking about making baked empanadas (which we often keep in the freezer for fishing trips; they usually unfreeze by lunchtime and are easy to eat with icky fingers) and I realized suddenly that they might fit the parameters here. So, off to the internets for a little background, as my mother's recipe was somehow absent from my recipe book, and, searching in Spanish, I come across a recipe entitled "Empanadas de Cerveza." Instantly, my mind is swirling with the sensation of pastry exploding in your mouth with a gush of foam, like soup dumplings but with Modelo Especial...or of an eggy, beery, dessert custard...I'd be the toast of Chicago, of Firehouses everywhere.......Sadly, after google-translating the recipe three or four times, I realize it's beer pastry you can fill however you like (what threw me was the ingredient ROYAL{sic} which is apparently a Latin brand-name baking powder and not a custard)

Still, beer pastry seemed like a good idea, but I needed at least one filling without ground meat (although many food deserts do offer frozen ground beef patties, and I'll include the recipe for the ground beef filling I grew up with, sometimes called pino in South America or picadillo in Mexico - but my mother's Argentine version includes hard boiled eggs as well as raisins and olives)  I thought of spinach, or ham and cheese, both common fillings - but I wanted something more.  I finally stumbled across Empanadas de Atun, or Tuna fish turnovers, which immediately piqued my interest.  (I also stumbled onto an amusing 12-page argument about the correct translation of "empanada" into American English: turnover? pie? pasty?)

The Argentine empanadas I grew up with trace their history to the Empanada Gallega or Galician Turnover - a (usually) codfish pie that was the hallmark of the Celt-influenced northwest corner of Spain.  Often, the individual versions of these savory pies are historically linked to the Cornish Pasty; but considering the ingredients and method, I think it's more likely that Latins copied the size and shape of the convenient handheld Pasties and retained the recipes' otherwise Spanish roots.  Still, in many other ways this recipe shows off the incestuous relationships of international foods - note the similarities between the recipe below and this one.

So, I offer several options, all beginning with -

Masa de Cerveza: Beer pastry (Traditional Galician empanadas use olive oil and wine in the same proportions as beer and oil below)
1 cup of beer
1 cup of oil
4 1/2 - 5 cups of flour
1 tsp salt

Mix beer, oil, salt and add flour until a soft, but not sticky, dough forms. Let stand while preparing filling.

Empanadas De Atun
2 6-oz cans tuna
2 hardboiled eggs
4 slices Bacon (because Argentines like a little extra protein with their meat)
2 tbsp dried minced onion, rehydrated in 1/4 cup wine
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 jar roasted red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green olives with pimiento
Tomato sauce to moisten
Egg wash or oil

Fry the bacon until rendered, drain fat to taste - add chopped onion, garlic and pepper and fry until fragrant. Remove from heat, mix in a bowl with tuna, tomato sauce and chopped hardboiled eggs.

Gallega-style:  Divide dough into four parts.  Form each part into a ball, and roll out two balls into a disk about 1/4 inch thick, slightly larger than a dinner plate.  Place one round on cookie sheet, and top with half of your filling, spread out, leaving a 1" edge (an aesthetic change I'd make next time: reserve the olives and eggs, slice them, and put them on the pastry in separate layers with the tuna mixture in between)

Top with second pastry round and crimp the edge all the way around by pinching it between your finger and thumb, rolling the pinched part inwards and pinching again


Paint with a little oil or egg wash (this isn't crucial, truthfully, I forgot it - but you'll get a more lovely golden-brown crackly looking exterior.)  Bake at 400 degrees for 1/2 hour until pastry is golden brown and delicious.

Cut into wedges and serve warm.  Makes 2 Empanadas Gallegas, or 1 large and 4 individual: serves about 8. Nutritional Information.

To make individual empanadas, divide your remaining dough balls in half again (one recipe makes 8 empanadas,) roll them into dessert-plate sized disks (or use a tortilla press) and fill the center with tuna mixture.

Pull both sides to meet at the top, and crimp as shown here. Place on a cookie sheet and bake as directed for Gallegas.

Other empanada fillings (follow dough and filling directions for individual empanadas above):

Creamed spinach
1 1/2 cups of chopped spinach (frozen would be better than canned)
3 tablespoons of shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup of chopped olives
3/4 cup white sauce*
2 chopped hardboiled eggs
salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

Mix ingredients together and stuff empanadas.  (Note: it's easier to get wet fillings into an empanada if you use a dough press, like those linked below)

* White sauce - fry 3 tbsp of flour in 3 tbsp butter until fragrant, add 1 cup milk and bring to a boil until thickened.

Ham and cheese (layer the ham of your choice and cheese of your choice, just that simple)

Pumpkin (use 1 can sweetened canned pumpkin pie mix straight-up, or for a firmer filling, combine it thoroughly with 2 eggs and 2/3 cup of evaporated milk.  You can also use a can of plain pumpkin, add 2 eggs, seasoning of your choice, and 2/3 cup of sweetened condensed milk)

Pino or Picadillo

2 tbsp dried minced onion, rehydrated in 1/4 cup wine
1 tsp minced Garlic
Ground beef  1 lb
Paprika  1 Tbsp
Ground Cumin 1 tsp
Oregano  1 tsp
Water or stock  1 cup
Flour  1 Tbsp
Raisins (opt.)  1/2 cup
Olives, green (opt.) pitted, chopped 1/4 cup
2 chopped hardboiled eggs.

Fry the onion and garlic in the oil in a heavy skillet.  Add ground beef; after the fat has rendered, drain, reserving fat.  Sprinkle the flour over and seasonings, fry briefly until fragrant.  Add water or stock, raisins, olives, and cook for a few minutes - the beef should be fragrant and saucy, with a red hue from the paprika -add back some fat if it's too dry.  Cool slightly and add the chopped hardboiled eggs.  Stuff into empanada pastry.

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