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A Tale of Empanadas (and the Need to Have Them)

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March 8, 2016 / South American / By
Katie Schenk

Some people buy microwaveable dinners to keep in the freezer– I’m not one of them. Others are organised enough to cook for the freezer every week or month. I am, on occasion, one of them… but only when I really have a weekend stretching in front of me without too many commitments (because good cooking generally goes with a good glass of wine).

Mostly, my freezer is filled with meats, vegetables, and breads so that I can cook something to eat, even if the fridge and pantry are barren (and it almost never gets to that point).

But, there are exceptions. You see, there are things that we absolutely need to have on hand all the time. Swedish Meatballs are a new addition to the freezer family, but the absolute staples are empanadas. These are the snacks we grab when we’re too lazy to make a sandwich, too hurried to eat before leaving the house, or when (on those rare evenings), there’s no one else to cook for, and a little something is all you need.

Sounds good, right?

Well, they’re absolutely delicious, they freeze well, and they reheat in two minutes (without defrosting them first)… so they’re about as perfect as any freezer food could be… except they take hours to make.

I don’t live in a place where empanada dough is readily available; in fact, I’ve never seen it for sale in South Africa. So in addition to making a filling, I’ve got to worry about the pastry too. Not just kneading it and rolling it, but also cutting it into circles and pressing it into form.

And when I think about the process, I’m often filled with a strange anxiety. I’m not scared or worried, mind you. It’s just that after going through it so many times, I know just how long I will be working on them.

So why go through it?

We can’t live without empanadas in the freezer. During the week between the consumption of the last one and the fresh batch made on a free Saturday, we all lamented the empanada-less freezer.

“Oh, I wish we still had empanadas….”

“Did someone take the last empanada?”

“When are you making more empanadas?”

“This is the exact moment when an empanada is exactly what’s needed.”

And, before you think that I have an inexplicably greedy family that expects me to slave away in the kitchen when I really should be relaxing, just remember that I joined in the chorus of empanada wants/needs… perhaps louder than anyone else.

They’re that good, that fast, that portable, and perfectly portioned to fill empty bellies. And the reason I need to spend so much time making them has to do with the fact that making a single batch just doesn’t cut it for us. We need more, and each one needs to be individually wrapped before freezing. Incidentally, they’re the only thing in the freezer without labels. They don’t last long enough to wonder, “what’s this?”

And actually, our empanadas are more Cajun-styled than anything else. You can pick up the recipe here… though, I tend to brush mine with oil and bake them for 18 or so minutes at 400ºF/200ºC rather than frying them.  And, you may want to add half the salt to the beef and pork mixture. I find the full amount to be too strong. Also, if yours make it to the freezer, your best bet is to wrap them individually. I find two minutes in the microwave (on high) is all that stands between you and the empanada of dreams.

Empanadas

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