Sip Snap Savor Test Kitchen – the Morales’ Empanadas

For the first official Sip Snap Savor test kitchen, it seemed appropriate to jump right in with something a little flashy. Empanadas fit the bill perfectly  – intensely flavorful, crispy pockets of pure fried goodness. Following the instructions provided by the Morales, I set out to recreate a bit of their magic.

First up was the filling. I opted for ground beef – 85% lean to keep it on the moist side – and flavored it heavily with cumin, coriander, garlic, and cilantro. The filling by itself was a bit intense, but per the Morales’ recommendation I trusted that it would work out will once stuffed in the masa pockets.

Having worked with masa before, I was well aware of the tendency of the dough to dry out quickly, so I went ahead and made the dough a little moist. My first few pockets were muy feo, but just as Claudia said they got progressively more beautiful as I went along. By the time I folded my sixth empanada, i was cranking out perfect half-moons.

I ran into two problems at this point. The first was my inability to keep the oil at the correct temperature – too hot and the masa burned on the outside before it cooked through, too cold and the dough simply soaked up the grease rather than frying correctly. It takes a bit of balance, and you should err on the high side at first since adding multiple empanadas will lower the heat of the oil. give it ample time to heat up and test it first with a lump of dough to make sure it isn’t too hot. On the whole, you will probably try and cook before the oil is hot enough, so let it get a little hotter than you think you ought. As always, be extremely careful working with hot oil.

The second problem was my utter inability to follow Claudia’s directions, and overfilling most of the empanadas to the point that they burst when i was trying to cook them. Later efforts with less filling were perfect, so trust #3 on her list and use less filling than you think you need.

Overall i’d rate this an 8/10 for awesomeness and a 6/10 for ease. I cranked out about 20 empanadas in an hour, which was more than enough for a small crew of us. Served up with the hot sauce and some cold ones, they made an incredible evening snack.

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.

Empanada Filling:

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.

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