Monday, September 23, 2013

Guest Post: Homemade Empanadas

Today I have a really special treat for all of you readers. I'm welcoming my first guest post on the Fruitful blog and it's from Sam Dinger, who is a lover of food and words. He blogs at The Plumstone and I think you will really enjoy his fantastic and detailed storytelling style of writing about food. Enjoy and thanks, Sam!

I spent the better part of June in Costa Rica this past summer with my friend, Jose, and his family. Jose’s mother, Margarita, was wonderful to me while I was there, offering me coffee and things to eat around every corner of the day.

Before I left, I asked her to teach me about cooking a few of the things she had made for the family and me during my stay. The night before my flight we convened in the kitchen. There was a towel over her shoulder, her hands were wet from constantly washing them and the stove was hot.

Empanadas had to be the most fun to learn how to make--mushing the masa into a paste with water, forming circles, stuffing them full of whatever we had, folding them over, pinching them together, and finally, pan-frying them. We made a few varieties: leftover stewed beef, ham and chicken, and rice and beans.

I loved feeling the soft, grainy masa and gently pinching the dough to close it. It was also fun to slide them carefully into the pan and hear them sizzle and watch them firm up.

Empanadas are a great way to innovate on leftovers from tacos to stew meat. And you could get even more creative with them--maybe you’re into the vegan thing. Try putting spicy tofu inside!

Heck, the empanada is just a vessel. It’s ready to hold whatever you put in it--that’s what I learned from Margarita. She made great food for the family and for me when I was there, all while being simple, thrifty and creative in the kitchen.

Recipe for Ad Hoc Empanadas:

They’re easy! I just gave you the whole method. All you’ve got to do is get masa from the store, and generally all you do is add water. Mix it so it’s fairly wet--wetter than you would want for making tortillas.

Form it into circles about six inches in diameter and about a quarter inch thick on top of a piece of plastic wrap. Fill half of the circle with the filling you’re using and use the plastic wrap to help you fold it over, pressing the edges with your fingers or a fork to seal it. You could bake or pan-fry these, whichever you prefer--though I suppose you could deep fry them if you had the equipment.

Do be careful if you cook them in the oven, however. The masa can dry out easily since there’s no added fat in it. In a pan, cook them on about medium. Too hot, and you’ll burn the outside before the inside cooks through.

Follow Sam's blog by going to The Plumstone website or Facebook page.

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