Updated: Sep 6, 2022
In the realm of Latin American comfort foods, tacos and tamales sit at the top of the list for me and right there along with them are empanadas. They are every bit as soul warming as tamales and take a little less work and time to prepare them (at least in my eyes anyway). There are multiple different types of dough's that you can use to make empanadas, but today I'm making the classic dough that resembles a pie crust in the terms of ingredients. And for the filling I'm using one of my favorite venison picadillo recipes, where I use dried cherries in place of the raisins.
You need to let the dough rest before rolling it out thinly, so that it is workable. And the most important note when it comes to making them, is to make sure that the edges are tightly sealed to ensure that they don't leak while cooking. You can roll crimp them, seal them with the end of a form or use a empanada press if you have one. Assembled empanadas can be kept in the freezer tightly wrapped with plastic wrap for around 2 months. Just thaw them in the refrigerator before frying.
Yields: 12 EMPANADAS
Optional Equipment: Empanada Press
For the Dough
2 cups - all purpose flour, (sifted)
2 tablespoons - granulated sugar
1 tablespoon - kosher salt
1/2 cup - lard or vegetable shortening
1 - large egg yolk
1/2 cup - cold water
For the Picadillo
2 tablespoons - butter
1 tablespoon - butter (save for the end)
1/2 pound - ground venison (anywhere from 10% to %20 fat content)
3 - garlic cloves, (minced)
1 - sweet onion (finely chopped)
1 tsp - cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons - ground cumin
2 tablespoons - smoked paprika
2/3 cup - stock, (venison, veal or light beef)
2 - hard boiled eggs, (peeled and chopped)
6 - green olives, (chopped)
3 - scallions (white and green parts sliced thin)
1 tablespoon - fresh oregano (chopped finely)
1 tablespoon - fresh parsley (chopped finely)
2 tablespoons - chopped dried cherries (raisins are fine)
salt and pepper to taste
6 cups of vegetable oil or lard for frying the empanadas
For the Dough
Sift the flour, salt and sugar together in a large bowl. Cut the shortening/lard into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the egg yolk and mix well. Adding 2 tablespoons at a time, knead in the water with your hands until a smooth dough is formed. Roll the dough into a round ball and then wrap in plastic-wrap. Refrigerate the dough at at least one hour or overnight before assembling the empanadas.
Make the Picadillo & Assemble the Empanadas
Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the ground venison, onion and garlic, and cook until the meat is browned and the onions are translucent (about 8-10 minutes). Add the stock, cumin, cayenne, and paprika, and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and skim off any fat you see swimming on the surface. Stir in the remaining ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let this mixture cool to room temperature to let some of the liquid be absorbed. If it looks a little too watery, either strain before continuing to the next step, or simmer a few minutes longer.
Divide the dough into 12 uniform sized 1 inch balls. Using either a torilla press or rolling pin, flatten the dough ball into a 6 inch circle that's around 1/8-inch thick. Mound about 2 tablespoons of the venison picadillo in the center of each round, and fold the dough over top to make a "half-moon" shape. Now its time to seal the empanadas shut using either a fork to crimp the edges or an empanada press. If you're nervous about them leaking, you can roll the edges over before crimping with the fork.
Cook the Venison Empanadas
Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot to 350F degrees, ensuring that you have at least 4 inches of room at the top so that the oil does not spill over after adding the empanadas.
Fry the empanadas in batches until they are a light golden brown and have a crispy texture. This should take about 3-4 minutes.
Cooks Note: Here's one of my favorite dipping sauces that I often serve with my venison burgers and taquitos.
Chipotle & Pepita Aioli
1 Cup – Mayonnaise
1 Teaspoon – Pumpkin Seed Oil
1 Tablespoon – Chopped Chipotle Peppers in Adobo
½ Teaspoon – Ground Cumin
¼ Teaspoon – Ground Coriander
Salt and Pepper to Taste