turkey empanadas

be a little overbearing ::::

This is not my doing — this is all my mom with a little help with assembly from my brother. I documented this empanada making when we were in Illinois recently, it now resurfacing as the weather chilled a little in California. I must get the use of the oven out of the way before the heat sneaks in, only worsened by my pregnant sensitivity to ambient heat.

I remember our family first excited by empanadas when a co-worker of my father’s had talked of a recipe. I was young but remember how my dad really wanted to somehow obtain some authentically-made empanadas from this friend without coming off too overbearing or pleading. I don’t remember if we ever ended up having any. There was a sopapilla interest in the same time frame too, so my memories may be overlapping.

I had my share of them in Chicago when living there, the dipping sauces making the bites even better. When my mom announced that she would be making some empanadas most recently, I couldn’t wait to try them. And they were more impressive than I remember the former. My brother and mom formed the pastries large, almost like a hearty Cornish pasty, bulbous and overflowing, the pregnant doppelgängers of the previous empanadas I tasted. I loved the chipotle salsa served on the side for a nice smokiness and spicy kick. How perfect for this season in my life: pregnant with a very active kicker. Eat and I are fully expecting a fiery personality from this baby, not to be unmatched by her older sister and brother.

Recipe type: meat
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: a crowd
  • FILLING: 1 large slice hearty white sandwich bread , torn into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons plus ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • salt and 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
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ cup packed cilantro leaves , coarsely chopped
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs , coarsely chopped
  • ⅓ cup raisins , coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup pitted green olives , coarsely chopped
  • 4 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • DOUGH: 3 cups (15 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour , plus extra for work surface
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) masa harina
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter , cut into ½-inch cubes and chilled
  • ½ cup cold vodka or tequila
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  1. FOR THE FILLING: Process bread and 2 tablespoons chicken broth in food processor until paste forms, about 5 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add ground turkey, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ½ 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 ½ 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; my mom did it overnight.)
  3. FOR THE DOUGH: 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.
  4. 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 (my mom also prepared this the night before).
  5. TO ASSEMBLE: 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 ⅛ inch thick, covering each dough round with plastic wrap while rolling remaining dough. Place about ⅓ 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 (or fingers like my mom and brother did).
  6. TO BAKE: 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. We liked a chipotle salsa served on the side for dipping.

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