I am continuing a series on some of our favorite Cuban dishes. I got started cooking Cuban and Brazilian foods after friends of ours introduced us to this wonderful cuisine. As I mentioned before, we have a favorite restaurant in Fort Lauderdale called, Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine Restaurant. It was there that I had my first Beef Empanada. I can make a meal on just those and sweet plantains! Oh, and let’s not forget to top it all off with a Cafe’ Con Leche. My oh My, I could make a trip to Fort Lauderdale for just that meal alone! Just saying…
When we got home from our last trip to Florida, I went on a mission to learn how to make these Beef Empanadas. I wanted it to be as authentic as I could possibly make them. I connected with a group for Cuban recipes on facebook and started asking questions. I’m here to tell you, they have not only informed me and shared with me their stories from “back in the day”, but they have inspired and even humored me.
These Beef Empanadas are a Spanish appetizer made with a beef filling called Picadillo. It is folded, half moon shape, inside a round flour pastry then sealed and fried. Simple as that!
Here’s how I make it.
First you will need to make an easy Picadillo for the beef filling. My last post shares the story behind my favorite Picadillo recipe for these Beef Empanadas. Check out that post! I have also attached a recipe card for easy printing. Go to Picadillo recipe card.
Tip: You can make the Picadillo ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator for convenience. Just before making the Beef Empanadas, warm it up a bit to make it easier to scoop and spread.
If you’re up for the task, you can make your own dough for these Empanadas. Me? Well, I go to the frozen section of the grocery store and buy Goya’s 5 inch Discos and thaw them in the refrigerator overnight. Yep, I take the easy way out and they are perfect for empanadas and even fruit turnovers! I’ll tell you more after we make these Beef Empanadas. There’s 10 discos in a 14 ounce package and this recipe makes enough filling for 10 empanadas!
Lay one thawed disco on a dry flat surface. Dip your fingertips into a small bowl of water and moisten around the outside edge about 1/2 inch. Place about 3 Tablespoons of meat filling in the lower half, leaving the moistened 1/2 inch border of dough for sealing.
Fold the top half over the meat filing, using your fingers to keep the meat mixture tucked in. Using the tip of the fork prongs, press the top and bottom edge of the empanada together.
Turn over the empanada and again, use the tip of the fork prongs and press the two sides together.
This just ensures a good seal during frying.
Add about a half inch of vegetable or peanut oil to a large skillet. Over medium high heat, get the oil hot. When you notice a shimmer in the oil, take the tip of an empanada and dip it in the oil. If the oil bubbles around the tip, then it’s ready. If not, remove the tip, wait another minute and try again. You do not want to put an empanada into oil and it just lay there, you want it frying.
One thing the Cuban community told me on several occasions is to not over cook them. After making several batches, my sweet spot for time is about 2 minutes on each side and it’s done. You’re just going for a nice golden color. Adjust the heat up or down to get the oil to the right temperature. If you’re noticing some black spots on the empanadas, lower the temperature a bit.
Tip: Have all of your empanadas filled and sealed before you start frying. The frying process moves rather quickly and you don’t want to be filling new ones while frying. Yep, did that once and realized that just doesn’t work well.
As for fried fruit pies, here’s what I’ve done. Open a can of your favorite pie filling (cherry is mine), put a nice fat dollop of the filling in the lower half of the disco, fold the top half over the filling and seal with a fork. Fry about 2 minutes on each side. How easy is that?
Here’s some other Cuban dishes you may be interested in:
Here’s the printer friendly recipe.