Recipe of the Week: Fun With Empanadas

Categories: Cooking!
Dave Lieberman

Last week, I talked about how easy it was to make panisses, and the photo (taken with my old iPhone, yeah, yeah, haters gonna hate) had some empanadas in the background. Empanadas are, with about $10 worth of equipment you might not already own, the easiest appetizer to make.

The $10 worth of equipment you'll need is a tortilla press, which you can buy in so many places in Orange County that I won't even begin to list them. I mean, you can even buy them in grocery stores. The square, wooden ones are very nice and make a slightly better tortilla, but they're expensive, and I'm not convinced it's worth it. I have a round, metal tortilla press that I bought in Tijuana for about $6.50; the same model costs about $10 here.

While you're at the store buying the tortilla press, get yourself a bag of masa fina--better known to most slightly Spanish-speaking Anglos as masa para tortillas. This is just nixtamalized corn that's been ground and mixed with water. Do not buy masa preparada! It contains a bunch of lard and is intended for tamales. Prices will run from about 30¢ per pound for the chalky stuff at El Super to about $1 per pound for the best non-homemade masa fina in the county at La Reina Market in Anaheim.

You'll also need plastic wrap or a cut-open zip-top bag, so if you don't have one, get one at the store.

Finally, you'll need a filling. The empanadas in the picture last week were stuffed with sautéed dandelion: caramelized onion, shredded fresh dandelion greens from Sweredoski Farms at the Irvine/UCI Farmers Market, lemon juice and salt. That's it. You can also stuff with beef (or, better yet, picadillo), seafood, cheese, other vegetables. The only rules are that the filling must be cooked beforehand if necessary, and it must be dry enough to not ooze liquid everywhere.

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