Burger Leftover = Mini Empanadas (Recipe)

The other day I was invited to a bbq get together with friends I hadn't spoken to since middle school. I was startled by this framing of the years that had passed. Time to rekindle old friendships! A few of us were going to supplement the meat part of the bbq with a potluck of snacks and I wanted to bring something more creative than my usual contribution of the latest baked good recipe from my stockpile of "to trys." A quick peek into the fridge uncovered some ground beef leftover from hamburgers D. and I had made a few days prior.

Aside: the burgers were incredible by the way. I hardly ever crave burgers, amend that, never crave. Yet even I was interested in the burger topped w. melted Saint Agurs blue cheese, thick grilled onion rings, sauteed mushrooms, and mesclun from the garden.

But back to scavenging through the fridge for odds and ends I could fashion into a picnic snack. Some wrapped pâte brisée (pie dough) was hiding out in my cheese compartment (is that actually meant for cheese? I've always wondered) along with a small portion of minced waterchestnuts. My first inclination was to form curried beef dumplings that you can buy in Chinatown bakeries or occasionally at a dimsum pallor. Waterchestnut = Chinese dish in my mind. I've always reverted back to my Asian roots when pressed for an idea, however this time I wanted to work with different flavors.

South America's response to dumplings, or empanadas, can be found baked or fried and stuffed with a variety of fillings from cheese and vegetables, ground meats, and even fruits and jams for a sweet bite. Variations are specific by region and the dough can range from a simple savory wheat flour pastry dough to a coarser cornmeal or plantain dough. The savory ones are often served with a dipping sauce of pureed cilantro, vinegar, lemon, salt, pepper, and scallions called aji.

Perfect, a simple alteration of spices from Asian to South American and I was good to go. The empanadas or empanaditas as I like to call them were wonderful. The parcels puffed up beautifully in the oven and the beef was nicely flavored by the spices and herbs. D. loved them too, his only remark was that he could have done with more of the filling since the dough rose away from the meat during the cooking process. Por supuesto!

I baked the dumplings the night before and they heated up nicely on the bbq grill. They also recrisp nicely in a 350F oven or toaster oven for a few minutes.

South American Mini Beef Empanadas
(for ~ 20+ dumplings)
- 2 C flour
- 1/2 stick cold butter in small cubes
- 2-3 tsp shortening
- ice water
- pinch salt
1) Add flour & salt to a bowl. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and quickly work the butter into the flour to form a cornmeal-like consistency. (Alternatively pulse a few times in a food processor).
2) Add shortening and work into the dough in the same manner; the fat should be thoroughly dispersed throughout the flour with as minimal handling as possible.
3) Sprinkle the mixture with a tablespoon of ice water at a time and use a fork to scrape dough together to form a loose mass (3-4 Tb or more).
4) Lightly knead the dough just so it comes together in a ball, adding a little more water if necessary.
5) Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 min.

- 1/2 lb ground beef (I used 23% fat, leftover from burgers)
- 1/4C waterchestnut, finely chopped
- 1 scallion, finely chopped
- 1/4 C cilantro, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder (or fresh minced)
- 1/4 tsp coriander powder (or less)
- few shakes each cayenne, paprika, and white pepper
- a few pinches salt
- beaten egg, for brushing
1) Place beef in a large bowl and add the other ingredients.
2) Massage together with your hands or a fork until everything is thoroughly combined
3) Cover and place in the fridge to allow the flavors to marinate.
4) When you dough is chilled, unwrap on a floured smooth surface and roll into a thin sheet about 1/8" thick
5) Using a 2.5" round cookie cutter or round cup, cut out circles from the dough. Transfer to a floured baking sheet. Gather the dough scraps into a ball and re-roll for extra dough circles.
6) chill the dough circles 10 min
7) Preheat oven 350F
8) Take a dough circle and roll a bit larger (the dough will have shrunk a bit while resting in the fridge). Fill with a teaspoon or more of filling. Fold over to form a semi-circle, pressing the edges together tightly and crimp with a fork.
9) Transfer to a lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining pastry and filling
10) Brush the pastry tops with a beaten egg. Bake for 10 min and check, flip the pastries and bake another 10 min or so.

*Play with different fillings to suit your palate. Tuna and hardboiled quail eggs, salted fish, ground turkey etc.


alice2 said...

testing comment box

Rhyleysgranny said...

These look delicious. Sort of Empanadas meet Cornish pasties which I love. I will be trying this. Thank you

marissa said...

I cannot wait to try these. There is a restaurant that has the best empanadas down the street but I'd rather make all these instead of pay 2 dollars for each little treat

alice2 said...

it's true, so satisfying to make your own - especially when you get to eat them hot from the oven. It's also great to have some pastry dough always on hand (keeps nicely in the freezer, thaw overnight) it can be used for sweet or savory pastries. Enjoy!