Sunday, 12 January 2014

Chorizo, Sweet Potato & Black Bean Empanadas



Not long ago on the blog, I made Jamaican beef patties. This is a similar Latin/South American favourite called empanadas. Empanadas are usually savoury fillings wrapped in pastry then baked or fried. You can be as creative as you want with your choice of fillings but common ingredients are meat, cheese and/or vegetables. I made empanadas with chorizo, sweet potato, black bean, onion, garlic, Monterey Jack cheese, cilantro, cumin and hot chili flakes. They were so good. I made these for a potluck I attended this weekend with a few of my other MasterChef Canada contestants from in and around the Toronto area. It was awesome to see them all and I will be sharing photos later of us and what they cooked. That has been one of the best things I have taken from this MasterChef Canada experience, I have a group of new foodie friends!

For a perfectly flaky pastry, all you need to make is a pâte brisée. Because this is a savoury dish, there is no need for sugar in  the pastry. Only flour, butter, salt, and a little ice water. I made about 15 empanadas so I had to triple the pastry recipe. I used a small saucer to cut out the individual circular shapes. Any excess pastry dough can be rolled up into a new ball, left to rest in the fridge for 10-15 minutes then rolled out again to make more circles. 


Ingredients

1 cup cured chorizo, diced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
3/4 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1-2 tbsps fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 cup of chicken broth (you may not need all of it)
1 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
Salt & pepper
1 egg

Try to dice your chorizo and sweet potato roughly the same size as the beans. In a heavy bottomed pan or skillet, heat oil over medium. Add the diced chorizo. Sautée to slightly crispen the chorizo and allow it to release its juices into the pan.


   

Add the onion and sweet potato. Season with salt and pepper and sautée for a few minutes or until the onions caramelize.




 Add the garlic, chili flakes and cumin seeds. Sautée for an additional 3-4 minutes.



  
At this point everything in the pan should be cooked, but the sweet potato still needs more time. Add the black beans and 1/4 cup of chicken broth. The liquid still stop the frying process and continue cooking the sweet potato with flavourful steam. The broth will evaporate as it cooks. Keep adding the broth 1/4 cup at a time, allowing it to evaporate almost completely before each application (almost like you're making risotto). Do this until the sweet potato is tender throughout and the beans are warmed through.


   

When you're done, the filling should look something like this. The starch from the potato will have also helped to thicken the consistency. 


 

Remove from the heat and let it cool down for 2-3 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Then add the Monterey Jack cheese and stir until it is melted entirely and incorporated throughout. Then add the cilantro and stir that in as well.


 

I love chunky fillings for empanadas like this. There is a variety of texture and you taste something different with every bite, but the aroma of cumin, cilantro, chicken broth and the heat from the chili is apparent throughout. A cheap, store bought empanada will likely be filled with pureed meat that's been fried off. It's nowhere near as exciting as something like this. Cooking at home gives you the opportunity to experience these rewarding, creative moments in your life. This is just something I threw together. Adapt your empanada to be exactly how you want it to be.  

Identical to our Jamaican patty recipe, take your circular rounds of pastry dough and add a generous tbsp of filling to one side leaving a space around the edge. Lightly wet the exposed area of the pastry around the filling with your finger and a little water. Then fold the pastry over to envelop the filling. The wet edges will act as a sealant to keep the empanada in place. Crimp the edges of the empanadas with a fork. 


     

Line the empanadas over parchment paper. Before cooking them, beat a tsp of water into an egg and brush it lightly over the pastry. This is called an "egg wash" and will ensure that it turns a beautiful golden colour which will be your indicator for when to take them out. 




Place the empanadas in a preheated 375 F/190 C oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let them cool off for 5-10 minutes before you dig in.


 

These are great on their own but I made a sauce for mine. The empanadas are hot, crispy and a little spicy so I wanted to pair them with a cool, creamy sauce. I puréed a little peeled and seeded cucumber with mango and cilantro. Then added the juice of half a lime, 2 tbsp of Greek yogurt with a little sugar and salt.

These were a big hit at the potluck and were a lot of fun to make.

Stay tuned because my next post will have more photos from the potluck and you'll get a look at some of the other contestants from the show. 

Until then,

B   

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