I am making “pigs in a blanket” for Sundays dinner, but man does not live on bread and meat alone—as much as some might try. I had found how to make the perfect crust dough, so I thought I would make a vegetable empanada. I decided that broccoli was a good choice, with maybe some onion and a little potato and some sharp cheddar to give it some bite.
After Dinner Note: One “pig in a blanket” and one empanada was a full meal, although most of us managed to stuff in another half of an empanada. None of us dared to even try to start a second sausage.
Karl’s Broccoli and Cheese Empanada
2 cups flour, AP
½ Tbs. Kosher salt
1 tsp. onion powder
1 stick (1/2 cup) frozen unsalted butter
1 large egg
½ cup ice water
1 Tbs. distilled white vinegar
1½ cups Yukon Gold potato, shredded
½ tsp. Kosher salt, separate uses
½ lb. broccoli crown (about 1½ cups)
½ cup onion, finely diced
2 Tbs. butter
½ cup red bell pepper, finely diced
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 tsp. savory
½ tsp. black pepper
2 Tbs. dry Madeira
½ cup sharp cheddar, shredded
1. Place several ice cubes into a cup of water.
2. Sift the flour, salt, and onion powder together several times in a large bowl to get a complete and even mixture.
3. Use a box grater to shred the butter into the flour.
Tip: As the butter shreds build up in the bowl, stir them into the flour to coat them.
4. Use a pastry cutter to chop the shreds into tiny pieces.
Tip: To get a flaky dough, the butter must remain cold so that it does not bind with the flour. You want to handle the butter and dough as little as possible with your warm hands.
5. Measure out one half cup of ice water and add the egg and vinegar. Whisk the mixture to blend.
Note: The vinegar inhibits the proteins in the flour from forming gluten. There is not enough vinegar to make it taste “sour.”
6. Make a “well” in the flour and add the liquid.
7. Use a spatula to mix the liquid into the flour, until most of the dry flour has been incorporated into the dough.
8. Turn the dough out onto a clean, smooth surface and knead the dough 3-5 times.
Tip: Not 3-5 minutes, only 3-5 kneads, the more you handle the dough the more the butter will melt and the more gluten will form, making your dough tough.
9. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator to chill for at least one hour.
10. Shred the potato and sprinkle the salt over it.
11. Mix one quarter teaspoon of the salt into the potato and place the shreds in a sieve over a bowl.
Tip: Potatoes can release a lot of liquid that would make your empanadas soggy. The salt both seasons the potatoes and dries them out a bit.
12. Chop the broccoli finely.
Tip: I cut off the tips of the dark green florets and then used a box grater to shred the rest of the stem. Some of the outer skin of the broccoli did not go through the grater. I cut the shreds off the stem and minced them finely.
Note: You could just use a knife to chop the broccoli finely, but you do not want any poky edges on the bits. Any sharp points might jab through the dough, when you try to wrap up the filling.
13. Add the onions and the rest of the salt to a large pan over a medium high heat. Sauté them for five minutes.
14. Add the bell pepper, garlic, savory, and pepper. Sauté the vegetables for five more minutes.
15. Mix the shredded potatoes into the vegetables.
16. Add the Madeira and stir the ingredients to mix completely.
17. Cover the pan and simmer, over low heat, for three minutes.
18. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool down undisturbed.
Note: You are not trying to cook the potatoes completely at this point. The empanadas will be baked and that will finish cooking the potatoes.
19. While the filling is cooling, divide the dough into 16 equal balls.
Tip: Divide the dough ball in half and roll the half into an inch thick “sausage.” Cut the sausage in half. Cut the halves in half again and finally cut the quarters in half, to produce 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place them on a plate. Return these to the refrigerator. Repeat with the second half of the dough.
Note: You want to keep the dough as cold as possible at all times until you place them in the oven.
20. When the filling has cool, use a quarter cup to measure 16 equal portions onto a plate.
Tip: You do not have to do this, but I find it convenient not to have to struggle with measuring as I am rolling out the dough and filling the empanada. This also make sure that the last one does not get shorted on filling.
21. Take the dough balls 2-3 at a time and, on a well floured surface, roll them into five inch circles.
22. Place about one teaspoon of shredded cheese in the center of the dough.
23. Place the quarter cup of filling on top of the cheese.
Tip: I tried putting the cheese on top of the filling, but it made it very hard to seal the empanadas. One or two strands of the cheese always managed to fall just over the edge of the dough.
24. Pull the far edge of the dough over the filling and lay it against the lower edge.
Tip: As you try to pull the dough over the filling, it will try to fall out the front of the empanada. Use the back of the fingers on your left hand to keep the filling in place, as you pull the dough over it with your right hand. [Lefties do the opposite]
Note: In my first empanada recipe I called for wetting the edge of the dough. I have found that this is not necessary. Crimping them just with a fork seals them well enough.
25. Crimp the edges together with the tines of a fork to make the edge look decorative.
Tip: Leave one corner of the empanada un-crimped at this point. When you settle the filling you want any trapped air to have a way out.
26. Use your hands to settle the filling inside the empanada to make a flat half moon and crimp the last corner.
27. Place the empanada on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
28. Preheat your oven to 425º F.
29. Continue rolling and filling the dough balls, until you run out of dough and filling.
Note: I was able to fit eight empanada on each baking sheet.
30. Bake the empanada for 20-22 minutes, until well browned on top.
31. Remove to a wire rack and cool to warm.
32. Serve warm.
Tip: Two to three empanada is a full meal for one person.