Culinary Curious

Beef Empanadas Photo: Daniel J. van Ackere

Beef Empanadas

Presented by America's Test Kitchen

Serves 4 to 6

The alcohol in the dough is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor - do not substitute for it or omit. Masa harina can be found in the international aisle with other Latin foods or in the baking aisle with the flour. If you cannot find masa harina, replace it with additional all-purpose flour (for a total of 4 cups). After step 5, the empanadas can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Ingredients

FILLING

  • 1 large slice hearty white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 pound 85 percent lean ground chuck
  • Table salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 4 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup raisins, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
  • 4 teaspoons cider vinegar

DOUGH

  • 3 cups (15 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) masa harina (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
  • 1/2 cup cold vodka or tequila (see note)
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil (for baking empanadas)

Method

FILLING

  1. Process bread and 2 tablespoons chicken broth in food processor until paste forms, about 5 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add beef, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and pulse until mixture is well combined, six to eight 1-second pulses.
  2. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, cumin, cayenne, and cloves; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add beef mixture and cook, breaking meat into 1-inch pieces with wooden spoon, until browned, about 7 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup chicken broth and simmer until mixture is moist but not wet, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl and cool 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, eggs, raisins, olives, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour. (Filling can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

DOUGH

  1. Process 1 cup flour, masa harina, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and process until homogeneous and dough resembles wet sand, about 10 seconds. Add remaining 2 cups flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle vodka or tequila and water over mixture. Using hands, mix dough until it forms tacky mass that sticks together. Divide dough in half, then divide each half into 6 equal pieces. Transfer dough pieces to plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
  3. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions, place 1 baking sheet on each rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. While baking sheets are preheating, remove dough from refrigerator. Roll each dough piece out on lightly floured work surface into 6-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick, covering each dough round with plastic wrap while rolling remaining dough. Place about 1/3 cup filling in center of each dough round. Brush edges of dough with water and fold dough over filling. Trim any ragged edges. Press edges to seal. Crimp edges of empanadas using fork.
  4. Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over surface of each hot baking sheet, then return to oven for 2 minutes. Brush empanadas with remaining tablespoon oil. Carefully place 6 empanadas on each baking sheet and cook until well browned and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Cool empanadas on wire rack 10 minutes and serve.