In Latin American cultures, our Christmas celebration takes place on Christmas eve, also known as noche buena, which means “the good night.” And what a good night it usually is! In El Salvador, we celebrate with either tamales, panes con pavo, a delicious “sandwich” made with a perfectly seasoned turkey. I use the term sandwich loosely because it’s packed with ton of other delicious ingredients and is anything but a typical sandwich.
Growing up in Canada, our noche buena celebrations became a fusion of the two cultures and lately, it has become mainly all Canadian style dinners. This year, my family along with our best friends are celebrating with a turkey, made Salvadoran style and all the trimmings. It will include mashed potatoes but not stuffing, salsa but not gravy, and my contribution – empanadas and a tres leches cake for dessert!
It has taken me a few years, but I’ve finally gotten comfortable with one variation of the empanada, especially the dough. The dough is of utmost importance. I use this recipe and ever since I first made it I won’t have it any other way!
I suggest making the dough first and then get going on the filling. The dough makes about 30 discs, as does the following recipe for a beef filling.
Beef filling for Empanadas
- 2 small potatoes, diced into half inch pieces
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp of seasoning salt
- 1 tsp of cumin
- 1 tsp of oregano
- 1 cup of frozen peas
- 2 hardboiled eggs, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup green olives, finely chopped (optional)
- 1 egg yolks for glazing with before baking
1. Bring water to boil. Lower heat and add potatoes. Cook for exactly eight minutes, drain and immediately pour cold water over them to stop cooking. (Also as directed in this recipe).
2. Cook ground beef. Add onion and garlic and cook until brown. Add seasoning salt, cumin and oregano and peas.
3. Meanwhile, boil eggs. Peel and chop.
4. Once meat mixture is cooked through, add the chopped eggs, potatoes, raisins and green olives (not shown in photos).
I have a handy empanada maker that I bought from Tupperware (unfortunately not available anymore) that makes filling them a cinch. If you don’t have en empanada maker, fill each dough disc with two big spoonfuls (or 4 tbsp) of the beef filling. Use the tip of your finger or brush to dampen the edges of the dough on one side (this will make edges stick together). Fold over and pinch the edges together.
To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take one egg yolk, beat it and lightly brush on top of each empanada. Bake on top rack for 20 minutes. Top with a fresh salsa! I prefer to top mine with chimichurri.