I find inspiration in the oddest places. A few weeks ago, The Bean and I were in the middle of our favorite morning routine: coffee, cuddles, and Arthur...the children's show based on the children's book series. I watch Arthur every morning at 6 a.m. while drinking my coffee. It matters not if The Bean is with me; I am watching 30 minutes of sheer happy, innocent entertainment. I believe watching Arthur is a wonderful alternative to watching the news. Arthur puts me in a good mood, there is just the right amount of adult humor, and my favorite characters are Buster Baxter and Binky Barnes. I like Arthur so much that I named my canine BFF after his best friend, Buster Baxter.
In this particular episode of, Arthur, DW, and Bud have a friend from Africa who is going through the naturalization process to become a US citizen. The friend brings a version of empanadas for lunch and shares them with DW and Bud. Thus began my obsession with making empanadas. I know; I told you strange things inspire me. I researched various recipes and settled on one from Argentina, shared by the New York Times. I tweaked the recipe to suit our tastes and the available ingredients, but overall, the empanadas were put onto the make-again list. They were so well-liked that one of The Bean's friends asked her for the recipe after she had tried Jordan's at lunch. I consider that a win.
I have an aversion to making anything with dough. I do not make bread, pie crust, or pastries because I am bad at it. I have shared with you before that I can't make bread because I always kill the yeast. I don't have the patience for a pie crust of pastries. Honestly, it is best I am not good at making these things because I would eat them. Eating carbs at 51 is not an ideal diet plan. Sigh. Making the dough for empanadas was surprisingly easy. Probably the difference is I have a genuine interest in making them, so it felt less daunting. I have always been the kind of person who will give it 150% if I'm interested. If I'm not interested, I lose focus and half-ass it.
Empanadas were surprisingly easy to make, and once I got onto rolling the dough, it went rather quickly. Without further delay, my tweaked version of Beef Empanadas.
FOR THE DOUGH
1/2 cup lard or butter, plus more for brushing tops
1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
6 cups all-purpose flour, more as needed
FOR THE FILLING
1 pound extra lean ground beef
Salt and pepper
Lard or butter, or a combination, for sautéing
1 cup diced onion
½ pound potatoes, peeled and diced
4 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste
2 teaspoons chopped thyme
2 teaspoons chopped marjoram or 1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon paprika
Large pinch cayenne
Beef broth, as necessary, or use water
Make the dough: Put 2 cups boiling water, 1/2 cup of butter, and 1½ teaspoons salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir to melt butter and dissolve salt. Cool to room temperature.
Gradually stir in flour with a wooden spoon until dough comes together. Knead for a minute or two on a floured board until firm and smooth. Add more flour if sticky. Wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Make the filling: Season the beef generously with salt and pepper and set aside for 10 minutes. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a wide, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and fry until nicely browned, stirring throughout to keep pieces separate, about 5 minutes.
Turn heat down to medium and add onion. Keep turning mixture with a spatula, as if cooking hash, until onion is softened and browned, about 10 minutes. Add potatoes, garlic, thyme, and marjoram and stir well to incorporate. (Add a little more fat to the pan if the mixture seems dry.) Season again with salt and pepper and let the mixture fry for 2 more minutes. Stir in tomato paste, paprika, and cayenne, then a cup of broth or water. Turn heat to simmer, stirring well to incorporate any caramelized bits.
Cook for about 10 more minutes, until both meat and potatoes are tender and the sauce just coats them — juicy but not saucy is what you want. Taste and adjust seasoning for full flavor. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Divide chilled dough into 1-ounce pieces and form into 2-inch diameter balls. Roll each piece into a 4½-inch circle. Lay circles on a baking sheet lightly dusted with flour.
Moisten the outer edge of each round with water. Put about 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each round. Wrap the dough around the filling to form an empanada, pressing the edges together. Fold the edge back and finish by pinching little pleats or crimping with a fork.
8. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place empanadas on the parchment-lined or oiled baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Brush tops lightly butter and bake on the top shelf of the oven until golden, 20-30 minutes. Serve warm.
For the original recipe, check out NYTimes.com.
On this overcast Foodie Friday, stay safe, be smart, take inspiration from all sources, enjoy good food, and keep washing your hands.