Tuesday, February 2, 2016


During dinner on Sunday while we were feasting on enchiladas, Ann mentioned something about loving empanadas and how we should (I should) make them some time, so I resolved to make empanadas on Monday night. And to go with them, I made a cabbage slaw called curtido and an avocado and tomatillo salsa verde.

Empanadas, Curtido, Salsa Verde
Ready to Roll
I've been using the same empanada dough recipe for years, even at the restaurant. It's a little finicky and crumbly, but it makes the best empanadas ever. I must have ripped it off from somewhere because it is written in English units of measure, even using cups for flour. The vast majority of recipes that we develop for the restaurant are done in metric units and by weight. I rolled and cut the pastries and Ann filled them. I had a good time poking fun at her for being messy and I think she had a good time being mock offended.

Picadillo Dulce of Pork
You can stuff just about anything inside an empanada. Black beans are among my favorites, but this time I decided to do a sweet and sour ground pork called picadillo dulce. I had to keep it less on the picante side because Ann's mom Mary can't handle the heat. I usually add golden raisins and almonds (both showing the Moorish heritage of this dish) but for this filling, I decided to keep it simple. I cooked the ground pork with finely minced red onion, cilantro stems, garlic, and green olives seasoned with cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and pimentón (smoked paprika). Once this cooked out, I added sherry vinegar and brown sugar to taste to yield a sweet-tart final product.

Ann's Handiwork
I always seal my pastry with egg wash and crimp the edges with a fork, then do a final wash of egg on top. This is how it has always been done in my family. Some people crimp the edges by hand and others roll the crust over on itself to form a lip. They all achieve the same thing: sealing the goodness of the relleno on the inside. After Ann finished sealing all the empanadas, I put them in a moderate oven until they were a light golden brown all over, about 40 minutes.

Curtido Fresco
To go with the empanadas, I wanted to do something light and fresh, so I opted for a quick cabbage slaw that the Salvadorans call curtido, a slaw that is usually fermented like kraut or kimchee. I call this curtido fresco because there is no malolactic fermentation: it's eaten within hours of being made. It is finely shredded white cabbage, red onions, and carrots seasoned with lime juice, rice vinegar, salt, oregano, a splash of olive oil, and a touch of agave syrup to take a bit of edge off the acid. Left on the counter for a few days to ferment, this would be a very fine curtido indeed. Ann said it needs a bit of heat and while I love to put finely slivered hot chiles in curtido, there is no way that my mother-in-law could handle that.

Salsa Verde
I had it in mind to do chimichurri for a dipping sauce for the empanadas, but I was suckered in by an avocado at the market. I ended up making a smooth green sauce of avocado, canned tomatillos, rice vinegar, and cilantro. This sauce is addictively good!

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