Classic hand-cut beef empanadas a.k.a.
The La Porteña empanada is a classic hand-cut beef empanada, and a crowd favorite. In Argentina empanadas are made with care and attention to detail. There are endless meat and vegetable varieties offered in shops and restaurants in every corner of Argentina. Hand-cut beef is a premium variety favored by Argentinians. Empanadas made with ground beef is more common in American cuisine. If you want to use ground beef, the variation is given in the recipe instructions.
This is a straight forward recipe that makes humble ingredients shine. Onion, carrot, and scallion bulbs are cooked slow until creamy and sweet. Red peppers are roasted, highlighting their flavor, and adding another dimension of flavor. This creamy onion mixture “sofrito”, is used in many of the empanada mixes Kiyas Delicias makes, and as a staple in Latin American and Spanish cuisine. Sofrito appears in dishes like paella and soups.
The natural juice or “jus” strained from the cooked meat gets reduced, defatted, and added back to the mixture. Jus or creates a natural flavor versus salty bouillon cubes found in many recipes. Rice flour is the glue that holds the mixture together, locking in juiciness and moisture, and keeping the outside crisp and chewy. This recipe can be modified with good results using a moist vegetable base, binding ingredient, and premium quality beef.
Oil as needed
2 pounds beef chuck, boneless* or (ground beef)
1 bunch of scallions, bulb and stalks separated, and sliced, 4 ounces
1 large onion minced, 6-8 ounces
2 large carrots minced, 6oz
2 roasted red peppers, peeled, seeded, diced
½ cup chopped tomatoes*
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tbsp tomato paste
2-3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
¼ cup capers
2-3 teaspoons of red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme
Scallion stalks, sliced
Beef jus* (see sear)
1 tablespoons rice flour or starch
2 tablespoons butter*
Drain and pat beef dry with a towel. Cut beef into small cubes, season with salt and pepper. Heat a large pan for 2 minutes and add oil. Once oil start shimmering and lightly smoking, add a layer of beef. Keep space between pieces of meat and sear in batches.
Put cooked beef in a colander/strainer with a bowl underneath to collect juices. Place bowl of jus in the freezer or fridge to congeal fat, (10 minutes). Remove fat and discard, or use part or all to cook onion mixture. Stir in rice flour and set aside.
Lower heat to medium-low, let any liquid evaporate. Add oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add onions, carrots, and cook until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add scallion bulbs and cook for a minute more.
Add tomato paste, tomatoes, oregano, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, and cook a minute.
Add vinegar, capers, scallion tops, fresh parsley, thyme, and oregano. Cook for a minute. Return beef, jus, and rice flour mixture. Let cook for two minutes, stirring well to incorporate.
Turn off heat, pour mixture into a bowl. Taste mixture and adjust flavor adding more vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir butter into mixture and taste again. The seasoning should be concentrated to account for the wrapper.
Spread mixture out to cool 10 minutes at room temperature. Cover loosely with parchment paper and refrigerate. After an hour, put mixture into a container and finish empanadas the next day. Empanadas could be made the same day, let mixture rest for 4 hours before filling.
*Buy grass-fed beef if possible, the flavor cannot be denied. Grass-fed meat is typically aged and this creates heightened flavor. Stew meat of fattier cuts like chuck is a good option. Meat used for empanadas needs a good fat ratio.
Ground beef variation
Heat pan for two minutes and add a small amount of oil. Once oil starts moving around, flatten ground beef into pan with a spoon/spatula. Check a small section for doneness, and turn once caramelized. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove to a strainer with a bowl underneath to collect juices. Cook in batches. Crumble the meat in the colander. Continue with recipe above.
4 cups all-purpose flour* (unbleached, not enriched, preferably organic) 18 ounces
4 ounces butter, melted (1 stick)
1 large egg
3/4 cup water, 6 ounces
1½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
Make the Dough
Melt butter on low heat. Measure flour and salt. Mix egg to break up and add the water. I hand-mix the dough using the pasta technique. If you don’t like feeling dough on your hands, use a wooden spoon. Using a heavy duty stand mixer to make the dough is an option.
Make a volcano with the flour mix, creating a hole in the center, and add butter. Work butter into the mixture. Break up pea sized balls, leave a few small balls. Make another volcano, add the water and egg mixture in three additions. Mix the dough just until liquid is incorporated.
Gather the mixture into a rectangle, press the heel of your hand into the dough. Fold the dough in half and do this two-three more times. Leave shaggy bits and flour aside. Allow dough to rest covered in the refrigerator for twenty minutes. Dust the counter with rice flour or all purpose flour. Thai rice flour is super fine and doesn’t absorb as much into the dough like wheat flour. This is my go to however another brand will work.
Look for something with a straight edge to cut the dough, 4-1/2″diameter. I use a cookie cutter container. Roll out dough to 1/8-1/4 “ thick and cut into rounds. Remove scraps of dough before picking up rounds. Stack scraps up and press them down, and gather the edges. Roll all of the dough out before assembling empanadas.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment and lay out dough, with a little bit of overlap (6-8 pieces). separate with another sheet of parchment and continue process. Let the rounds chill for 10 minutes. Rest scrap dough covered in the refrigerator for 30 minutes minimum before re-rolling. The dough rounds are called tapas or discos in Spanish.
Mix an egg with a splash of water. Lay out eight discos and lightly brush ¼ “ of the outer edge with egg wash. Add a heaping tablespoon of mix to all eight discos. Leave ½” border around the filling and close one empanada. Press the tines of the fork along the outer edge to seal the empanada. Survey the rounds adding more filling if necessary.
Close all remaining empanadas. Then crimp them all at once. Place empanadas on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and chill while oven is heating. Bake at 375-400 in the bottom part of the oven for 10 minutes. Rotate pan 180* and bake on the top shelf for 8-10 minutes more.
Empanadas will bake faster with a fan. Depending on the oven, cooking time and temperature varies.