VENEZUELAN STYLE CRACKED CORN VENISON EMPANADAS
Updated: Sep 14, 2022
This is a Venezuelan inspired empanada that is one of the easier kinds of empanadas to make. Here we use "precooked cornmeal" that's used when making arepas and sometimes pupusas. It's a super convenient and easier way to make empanadas versus making your own crust with fresh masa or pastry dough.
Once you learn the technique of making these, you will be able to get creative with the fillings. For this recipe I use a slow cooked venison shoulder that's shredded, crisped in a pan and then cooked again with peppers, onions and other ingredients to make for a delicious filling. To keep this recipe simple I did not add in any other filling ingredients to the instructions, but feel free to add some of the others that I suggested below in the cooks notes.
Servings: About 14 Empanadas
Optional Special Equipment: Rolling Pin, Tortilla Press, Empanada Press
Special Ingredients: Precooked Cornmeal
When working with precooked cornmeal it is important to keep the dough covered with a damp cloth while working. This dough can dry out very easily, which will make it crack. Keep the empanadas covered while waiting to be fried as well.
My favorite brand of precooked cornmeal is P.A.N. They sell a regular version and a sweetened version. If you purchase the sweetened version, omit the sugar for the dough recipe.
For extra flavor try adding chopped fresh cilantro, cheese or seasoned beans to the filling mixture. Just make sure that the total filling amount for each empanada is no more than 2 tablespoons or you will have trouble sealing them without splitting.
For the Empanadas
2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups precooked corn flour (P.A.N. is my favorite brand)
Cooking oil (for frying the empanadas)
For Simmering the Meat
1 pound boneless venison shoulder, cut into roughly 3" pieces
1 white onion, quartered
1 bell pepper, seeded and quartered
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 quarts venison or light chicken stock
For the Sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup white onion, small dice
1 cup bell pepper, small dice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Optional Additional Filling Ingredients
Fresh chopped cilantro
Seasoned black or pinto beans
shredded cheese of your choice
Simmer the venison. Add all of the ingredients for cooking the meat to a medium sized pot. If there isn't enough stock to cover the meat, add a little more or use water. Bring to a slow simmer, cover the pot and cook until the venison is tender enough to easily shred apart. This can take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. Once the meat is tender, strain the cooking broth into a bowl and place the meat in a separate bowl. Discard the other solids that were strained out. Shred the meat as finely as you can, using either two forks or your fingers.
Crisp the meat and make the sauce. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Once the oil starts to smoke add in the shredded venison in one flat layer. Cook undisturbed for a few minutes or until golden brown. Stir meat meat around and cook for another few minutes until most of the meat is golden brown and crispy. Add the bell peppers, onions, garlic, oregano and cumin. Cook this mixture while stirring often for 5 to 7 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid and Worcestershire sauce. Bring the mixture to a very slow simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
Make the empanada dough. Place the warm water in a large bowl. Add the sugar and salt to the bowl and stir until they have dissolved. Slowly stir in the precooked corn flour while mixing. After adding all of the corn flour, kneed the dough in the bowl for 3 minutes or until it is smooth.
Assemble the empanadas. Divide the dough into 14 equal sized balls. Remember to keep the dough covered with a damp cloth while you are working so that it does not dry out. With two square pieces of plastic cut from a gallon freezer bag or parchment paper, start to roll out your dough. Place one of the balls between the plastic or parchment. Using either a rolling pin or a tortilla press, flatten the balls out to a 5 inch circle. Remove the top piece of plastic or parchment. Place about 2 tablespoons of the filling in the center of your dough circle. Fold the dough over top of the filling creating a "half moon shape". Using your fingers or a fork, seal the edges of the empanada. After completing each empanada, cover them with a damp cloth to keep from drying out. If you get any holes in your empanadas you can easily patch them with a little extra dough.
Fry the empanadas. Heat your cooking oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or deep fryer, making sure you leave room so that the vessel doesn't overflow with hot oil once the empanadas are added. Working in small batches, fry your empanadas for about 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown. Turn the empanadas if you need to while frying to ensure equal color on both sides. Remove from the oil and let drain on a cooling rack or paper-towels.