Picadillo Empanadas with Cornmeal Crust

April 26th, 2009

Crusty food appeals to me. Pizza, quiches, pies and sourdough baguettes are all high on my preferred foods list. This recipe for empanadas came from another old Gourmet magazine that is part of my collection going back so many years that I hate to count. Actually this recipe appeared in the September 1992 issue so it is not that old, but one of these days I am going to post a recipe from the 1970’s to see how well it holds up after all of these years. The empanadas were part of a picnic menu and I can see that they would be a good addition to any picnic because they transport easily and can be eaten without utensils if you wish. They remind me of the pasties that the Finnish people introduced to the upper peninsula of Michigan around the turn of the last century. Many Finnish men worked in the copper mines and the pasties were easy to carry for lunch and could be reheated on a shovel held over a headlamp candle. Some say the origin of the pasty is Cornish and indeed when we were in England we ate pasties there. But what I liked about this south of the border version is that the filling is spicy and cornmeal is used in the crust.


For the cornmeal dough:
a 1/4 ounce package active dry yeast
1 1/2 Tbls sugar
1/2 cup milk, heated to lukewarm
1 large whole egg, beaten lightly
1 large egg yolk, beaten lightly
1/3 cup sour cream
5 Tbls unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour ( I needed only 2 cups )
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 tsp salt

For the picadillo:
1 1/4 cups finely chopped onion
2 tsp minced garlic
2 drained bottled pickled large jalapeno chilies, seeded and minced, about 1 1/2 Tbls.
2 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbls chili powder
1 tsp cumbled dried oregano
a pinch of ground cloves
2 Tbls vegetable oil
1 pound ground chuck
1/4 cup tomato paste
28 ounce can plum tomatoes including juice chopped ( I pureed in blender )
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup finely chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives
dried hot red pepper flakes to taste

Make the cornmeal dough: In the large bowl of an electric mixer proof the yeast with the sugar in 1/4 cup of the milk for 5 minutes, or until the mixture is foamy. Beat in the remaining 1/4 cup milk, the whole egg, the egg yolk, the sour cream and the butter, add 2 cups of the flour, the cornmeal, and the salt, and beat the mixture until it forms a dough. With the dough hook knead the dough, adding as much of the remaining 1/2 cup flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking, for 4 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball, transfer it to an oiled bowl, and turn it to coat it with the oil. Let the dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours and punch it down. The dough may be made 1 day in advance and kept covered and chilled. Let the dough return to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.

Make the picadillo: In a large heavy skillet cook the onion, the garlic, the jalapenos, the cumin, the chili powder, the oregano, the cinnamon, the cloves, and pepper to taste in the oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, add the chuck, and cook the mixture over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up any lumps, until the meat is no longer pink. Add the tomato paste, the tomatoes with the juice, the raisins, the olives, the red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste, simmer the picadillo, stirring occasionally, for 10 to15 minutes, or until it is thickened and most of the liquid is evaporated, and let it cool. The picadillo may be made 1 day in advance and kept covered and chilled. Let the picadillo return to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.

Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time and keeping the remaining pieces covered with plastic wrap, on a lightly floured surface roll our the dough 1/8 inch thick and with a 6 inch round cutter cut each piece into a round. Put about 1/3 cup of the picadillo onto the bottom two thirds of each round and fold the rounds in half, enclosing the filling. ( I brushed the edges with egg wash before folding ) Seal the edges of the dough and crimp them decoratively. Transfer the empanadas with a spatula to a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake them in the middle of a preheated 450 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they are golden. Transfer the empanadas to a rack and let them cool. Makes 12 empanadas.

We have had beautiful Spring weather lately so we made a picnic of these on our screened porch.
I loved the empanadas. My husband was only lukewarm about them. You would think he would love them because his Mother’s family was Finnish and settled in the Upper Peninsula where pasties reign supreme. Oh well, they reheat well and I have enjoyed several more lunches of them on the porch. So glad that Spring is here.

Printable recipe

7 responses to “Picadillo Empanadas with Cornmeal Crust”

  1. girlichef says:

    I love food like this too! These sound great 😛

  2. Katy ~ says:

    Sounds splendid!

  3. Mary says:

    That cornmeal crust takes the empanadas to another level. This sounds really, really good.

  4. I love empanadas. I think it’s OK if you don’t share them with that husband. I wish my husband and kids didn’t love them so much and I could eat them all.

  5. Grace says:

    i love crusty foods too–i think it’s something to do with the extensive chewing. empanadas are terrific regardless of the filling, but your choice of innards is particularly fantastic–bravo!

  6. BMK says:

    I never would have thought of that for a picnic, sounds perfect. Will keep in mind when we go to an outdoor concert this summer.

  7. jenn says:

    That empanada looks so good. I love the flavor of corn meal, so that looks especially great to me. This is my first time to your blog, and I am totally jealous of your kitchen! It’s gorgeous!


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