My original idea for this recipe wasn’t Southwest at all. I was reading this cool food blog, bitchin’Camero, and got super excited by Mel’s recipe for smoked salmon, goat cheese and spinach empanadas.
My folks had just gone on an Alaskan cruise and brought us some smoked salmon as a gift. Perfect! I made the dish more-or-less the way described, but I tried to be ambitious and make my own dough. I should have read between the lines when Mel gave hints on buying pre-made empanada shells at a local grocer or even on-line. Will I ever learn? The filling for the salmon etc. empanada (I made one large pie instead of hand-held ones) tasted great. The crust, not so good: sort of brick-like.
Not to be deterred by such a minor setback, I tried again: this time with a different crust recipe and a new filling. I’d already used up the salmon so improvised here with a Mediterranean-meets-Southwest style stuffing. The empanada dough recipe comes from about.com. The dough was easy to make and turned out very well. I ended up sprinkling some sea salt on the finished empanadas before popping them into the oven, which might have been overkill. Otherwise, this was fantastic.
Southwest inspired homemade empanadas
For the filling:
½ cup olives, pitted (I used kalamata and stuffed Spanish)
3 fillets anchovy
4 sundried tomatoes
6 cloves garlic
12 small dried mild chiles (I used chile puya)
2 small onions, peeled and cut in halves
¼ cup pepitas, briefly dry pan roasted
8 spring onions, chopped
Goat cheese to taste
Salt to taste
Follow the link above or take Mel’s excellent advice and try frozen shells. Making the dough yourself brings a real sense of satisfaction if it comes out right. Plus the empanadas can take on irregular and exciting shapes, which make them seem more unique and fun.
To prepare the filling:
Using a cast iron pan on high heat, roast the garlic and onion until blackened a bit. At the same time, roast the chile peppers for about 20 to 30 seconds on each side. Immediately toss them into a small pot of boiling water. Boil, covered, for five minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest, covered, for another fifteen minutes. (This is the same preparation that I used for smoky ancho salsa but with a different chili pepper.) Remove chiles from water. Carefully remove and discard stems, seeds and inner ribs. Place peppers in food processor.
Add olives, roasted garlic and onion, sundried tomatoes and anchovies to chiles. Pulse until a thick paste is formed. Transfer to a bowl.
Mix pepitas and spring onions with blended chile filling.
To stuff empanadas:
Place a large spoon of filling in the center of each piece of dough. Top with a chunk of goat cheese. Close dough per recipe directions and bake. Allow to cool on wire racks and serve. These would be great for a picnic to wine country!