“My grandmother used to make tortillas. So this empanada making is similar.” – Polo Morales
Fusion is a common theme amongst most families we encounter during our culinary road trips. But no where was it as prevalent as in our most recent dinner in Alameda, CA with Claudia (6months pregnant) and Polo Morales.
He is the son of Mexican parents, his Father is from the Zacatecas and mother & grandmother from Jalisco. His mother is very proud of her cooking and passed along recipes and techniques to her children. Stews in his family were common and were based on what part of the pig was being used for that nights meat portion of the meal. “The cut of meat makes the meal!” – Polo
She is the daughter of a Colombian-born mom and an English-Canadian dad. Since her mother handled most of the cooking in their family most of everything she knows is steeped thickly and heavily in the culture of her mother’s family back in the Quindio coffee region of Colombia.
“Je no soy gringa!” – Mama Ross
Claudia recounts the story of her mother and how she came to the United States.
“My mother saw her sisters and cousins getting married very young, around 13 years old, and starting families. She wanted more for herself. So she went away and became a nun. She earned her degree and eventually became a superintendant of a local school district. And at 25 years old when she decided she wanted a family she was essentially an old spinster.
The War of Colombia had diminshed the marriable male population. She saw how equal the gringos in the peace corps were. How the women were treated the same as the men. And she wanted to marry a gringo. So she came to the US, met my father, had my brother and I.” – Claudia Ross
“The filling needs to be really strong, because you only use a little bit of filling for each empanada and the masa is almost tasteless.” – Claudia
1. Firm Binding Technique: use wax paper to fold over the empanada, it won’t stick and it will help you get the hang of creating the dumplings.
2. Keep practicing.
“They get better as you go, just watch, they’ll be beautiful.” – Claudia
3. Use less filling than you think you need
4. To make the ridges, “just pop your finger in and create them manually.” – Polo
5. Use a cup to form the domed shape of the empanada.
Smashed Plantains: Slice 4 plantain “bananas” into 1/2″ thick disks. Heat 3-4 inches of corn or vegetable oil in a skillet. When hot, add plantains. When the float, fish them out of the oil, smash them with a spatula, return to the oil for another 3-4 minutes, Drain and salt them.
Empanada Masa Dough:
Take 2.5 C of warm water, 2 C Pan Masa (found in hispanic grocery sections or supermercados) and 8-10 cucharditos (teaspoons) of salt and mix in a large bowl. Knead until smooth and let rest for a few minutes.
Fry 4 potatoes diced, 2 whole, diced onions and 4 cloves of garlic on medium heat with a little oil to coat the pan. Add a pound of ground beef or ground turkey for a lighter filling. Also add a bunch of diced cilantro, several tablespoons of cumin, salt and pepper to taste. As the mixture cooks add the juice of 6-10 limes and a cup of fresh peas (canned or frozen are fine).
Empanada Hot Sauce:
Create this fresh, raw sauce for topping off your fried empanadas. Combine 1 onion, diced, 1 fresh chile diced & 1 bunch of cilantro, diced into the juice of 10-15 limes. Salt the sauce to taste.
1. Form a disk in your hand the size of your palm, about 1/4″ thick.
2. Add filling in small spoonfuls, fold the disk in half.
3. Use a small cup or bowl to secure in place.
4. Pinch in place and to seal closed.
5. Fry for 3-5 minutes per side, in corn or vegetable oil.
Top with hot sauce and serve alongside, hot salted plantains.