Folded pastry around meat and veggie stuffing is probably the most accurate definition of my true Filipino comfort food. It is among the simple gastronomic treat that immediately reconnects me with home ……… family, relatives, childhood friends and everything in between. It is an ordinary snack which every bite for me is capable of educing flashes of happy thoughts, retrieving golden memories and subsequent feeling of divine-like contentment. It could somehow serve as a mother’s tender touch or spouse’s caress that provides warmth, consolation, sense of security and peaceful refuge even when you are actually so far away from home. I am referring to the tasty stuffed bread called “empanada”. :-)
Popular in many countries of Latin America, southern part of Europe and South East Asia particularly the Philippines, empanada refers to the stuffed bread or pastry, either baked or fried, made by folding a rich buttery dough or bread patty around the stuffing. The fillings usually composed of varieties of meats, seafood, vegetables or even sweetened fruits. It can be served as a small meal, a starter before a meal, finger foods in parties, dessert after a meal in case of sweet fruits fillings, morsel while watching TV or movies or sporting events and snack at any time of the day.
There are many international variations. In Argentina, their empanadas are often served at parties and festivals. The fillings are mainly chicken or beef spiced with cumin and paprika. In Brazil, they have fried turnovers filled with seasoned ground meat, shredded chicken, cheese, seasoned ground shrimp, hearts of palm and various other fillings. In Jamaica, they have their Jamaican patty that contains various fillings and spices baked inside a flaky shell, often tinted golden yellow with an egg yolk mixture or turmeric. Puerto Rico’s “empanadilla” is a small empanada that uses flour or cassava flour dough and lard. In Spain, empanadas are often made from thin, flexible, but resilient wheat pastry. The variable filling includes tuna, sardines and chorizo in a tomato puree, garlic and onion sauce.
However, the type I will be preparing here is of course the Filipino empanada. It usually contains ground pork or beef or chicken meat or chopped shrimps, diced potato, green peas, chopped onion and raisins in sweetish-buttery dough made from wheat flour or all-purpose flour. The dough can either be doughy or flaky and plain or covered in bread crumbs. The empanada can either be baked or deep fried with the former being my preferred method as it does not involve a degree of oil accumulation to the finish product. The golden brown tasty crust without the hint of fat (from frying) complemented with the sweetish meaty fillings is such a delightful delicacy to me. :-)
Outside of the generic or common empanada preparation popular in Manila and other key cities in the Philippines, there are regional types which are uniquely delicious like the deep fried crisp-crusted Vigan empanada of the Ilocos Region where shredded green papaya, bean sprouts, egg and sometimes chopped local sausage called “longanisa” are used as stuffing covered in a thin orange pastry made from rice flour with annatto (“achuete”). I hope I would be able to feature this soon as I have long been planning of doing my humble version of this snack dish slowly getting widely popular as it penetrates the mainstream food market.
But first, let’s prepare this common chicken and pork empanada. It’s been a while since I last made this stuffed bread. Cooking the filling is not really difficult but kneading and rolling the pastry and assembling the empanada is sometimes too demanding for a tired body that just retreated from a 10-long hours of office works. Okay, okay, sometimes there is some level of laziness involve here. :)
For the pastry, the ingredients are: 2 cups wheat or all-purpose flour, ½ tsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt, ½ cup butter or margarine, softened, ¼ cup sugar, ½ tsp vanilla, 1 pc egg yolk, 6-8 tbsp cold water.
In a wide bowl sift the flour. Add in baking powder, sugar and salt and combine together. Cream the softened butter or margarine with the dry ingredients. Add about four tablespoon of water. Continue mixing until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Lightly knead the dough until it just about comes together. Add small amount of water as necessary. Knead until the dough is smooth then form it into a ball.
Rest the dough ball. Wrap it with plastic or cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
The meat ingredient is a combination of minced chicken and ground pork, about 300 grams each. My chicken came from skin-on chicken legs (and thighs) and the pork came from pork leg with some fatback which I both personally minced using meat grinder. Please choose meat with 80-20 lean to fat ratio ……… unless it’s medically prohibited.
The other ingredients needed are 1 cup finely diced hotdog or any sausage, 2 tbsp butter or margarine, 4 gloves garlic, minced, 1 large medium onion, chopped, 1 pc potato, finely diced, 1 pc sweet potato, finely diced, 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, ½ tbsp sugar, 1 small pack frozen peas, 1 small pack raisins, chopped, 1 tsp ground pepper and 1 tsp salt or to taste. Additionally, we need about ½ cup chicken broth and if you like, 6 hardboiled quail eggs, halves.
In a wide non-stick pan, heat butter or margarine and fry garlic followed by onions. Add in minced pork and continue cooking until it renders its liquid. Continue sautéing with occasional stirring until the liquid is reduced and the meat sizzles in oil and own fat. Add in Worcestershire sauce, sugar, ground pepper and salt and continue cooking.
Add in ¼ cup chicken broth, minced chicken followed by hotdogs and continue cooking. Add in sweet potato, potato, green peas and raisins.
Add in remaining broth and simmer further until everything is cooked through. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Cook further until liquid has dried up.
Transfer in a large bowl and set aside. If you are starving get some steamed rice mix in some of the filling and eat away. Yummy! :-)
Preheat oven to 400 ˚F or 200 ˚C. Don’t be like me that always forgets this step.
Take the rested dough out from the fridge. Form into a log and divide into 10 equal cylindrical pieces. Don’t worry if you can’t cut swiftly and straight and some ends up resembling truncated prisms or elliptic disk, though highly technical and very engineering, it’s not actually important here. :)
Using rolling pin, flatten each piece to a thin round sheet of about 3 mm or 1/8 inch thick and 150 mm or inches diameter in a floured surface. Use extra flour to easily work in the dough.
Put about 1½ heaping tablespoons of fillings on one side of the pastry sheet. Add halve hardboiled quail egg on top, if using. With a small brush wet the pastry edges with water then fold the other half to cover the filling forming a half circle. Carefully work in the edges to stick side by side for a nice seamless seal. Don’t worry if it’s not too perfect though. Finish off the edges by pressing it with the tines of fork for that pretty looking empanada.
Do the same for the rest of the 10 pieces rolled out dough. The stuffing is good for about 20 empanadas so you will still have half of it at the end. Keep it in the fridge or freezer for future use which I’m sure will be very soon.
In a baking sheet thinly coated with oil and dusted with flour, arrange the folded empanadas. Don’t bother asking why I have eleven and not ten. :-) Apply a thin coating of egg wash on the top of empanada for that golden brown color after baking. I scrimped a little and just use the excess egg white from the pastry mix instead of 1 egg + 1 tsp milk for egg wash. Don’t be like me, you’ll see why later.
Stick it in the oven and bake for around 25 minutes or until the pastry is cooked through and top is shiny golden brown. Since I scrimped on the egg wash, mine came out pale and flat in color :( ……… but sure tasty nonetheless. :)
Transfer in a serving platter and serve while still hot alongside a refreshing drink. I prepared this for more than 2 hours and yet the 10 empanadas are gone in 10 minutes. Plainly saying tasty or yummy is an underestimation. :-)
Try and you’ll surely love it even if empanada is not your comfort food. By the way, I secretly kept the extra one for my snack the following day at the office. You bet it’s still delightful! c“,)