Ground Beef Empanadas

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a lover of all things Disney, especially Walt Disney World and all its wonder. I have always loved the parks and have learned to appreciate them in a whole new light as I have grown up. As you can tell from seeing this blog, our favorites are exotic flavors, interesting takes on new dishes and lots and lots of wine. Needless to say, one of my favorite things about the Disney parks (and another reason I wish I could live in Florida like Amanda) is the annual EPCOT Food and Wine Festival that occurs each fall. Last year, I had the pleasure of experiencing this with Amanda as we were set to run the Wine and Dine half marathon (although Mother Nature had other plans–more on that later), and we were able to wander the entire world showcase sampling everything our hearts desired….well until about Japan and then we were very full  but that’s about half way around the “world.”

When we first arrived at EPCOT that weekend, we were absolutely famished. I’d like to say it was because we meticulously fasted to prepare for this gastro-event but I think it may have just been a mix of waking up late and laziness. Either way, my first stop was the Patagonia booth where I was served with the most delicious, wonderful, spicy Empanada. I know hunger is the best spice, so I wanted to make some of my own inspired by the Disney recipe to see if my version lived up to this happy memory. Let me tell you, these are amazing, and they are perfect to make if you have a free afternoon and want to stock up on some snacks for later. They freeze and cook wonderfully, and they are so flavorful, convenient and the crust is so flaky. My mouth is watering as I think back on them. Fortunately for me, I still have a few of these bad boys in my freezer. I think I might go grab one…

To make these delicious Ground Beef Empanadas, you will need:

Crust:

  • 6 cups all purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 6 oz cold vegetable shortening, cubed
  • 2 oz cold butter, cubed
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 2 eggs, kept separate

Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 2 lbs ground beef*
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, color of your choice, diced
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (i used chipotle smoked salt if you have it) plus a pinch
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon of ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground garlic

*As an experiment for this dish I used half traditional ground beef and also made half the empanadas with Beyond Beef crumbles which are a vegan meat alternative, and both types were delicious.

The crust:

  • Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl and mix in the shortening with your hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. It is important to leave some of the fat still intact in large clumps as this adds the classic pie crust flaky texture. This can also be incorporated in a food processor if you have one large enough or could be done in batches.
  • Beat together 1 of the eggs and 3/4 cup of  the ice water and add this to the flour mixture slowly and incorporate with a spoon. Depending on the day, you may not need additional water, however add the extra 1/4 cup as needed if it looks too dry.
  • Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead 4-5 times and work the dough into two disks as evenly divided as possible. It is important not to over work the dough; as long as it is coming together the kneading is less important in this instance.
  • Place each disk into a zip-top bag, seal and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until you are ready to put everything together.

For the filling:

  • Heat oil in a large saute pan and cook onions, bell peppers and a pinch of salt until soft.
  • Add the beef and the seasonings listed above and stir constantly until meat is browned and mixture is fully incorporated.
  • Allow to cool slightly so it’s easier to work with as you roll out your dough.

Assembly:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Flour a large surface and roll out one of the dough disks to as thin as you can get it–ideally about 1/8 inch thickness. This is the most labor intensive portion and if you are lucky enough to have a tortilla press, I highly recommend using it (although you probably already have an awesome empanada recipe if you have one but hey).
  • With a 5 inch diameter cutter (I used a bowl and a pizza cutter), cut 10 circles from the dough reshaping as needed. Repeat the rolling and cutting with the second disk until you have at least 20 circles.
  • Beat the second egg with 1/2 tablespoon of water and brush the outside edges of the circles to allow for easier sealing. Add about 2 tablespoons of your now cooled filling to the center of each circle, and fold the dough in half to form a crescent shape. Try to get as much air out of the inside as possible and press the tines of a fork into the edges to hold the seal.
  • Now that all of your empanadas are sealed, divide them between two baking sheets and brush the remaining egg wash onto the tops of each empanada.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or golden brown. Serve warm or, if you don’t want to each 20 empanadas right away, these freeze fantastically. Place however many you want to freeze, uncooked, on a baking sheet and place in freezer for 1 hour. Once the outsides are frozen, transfer them all to a zip top freezer bag (freezing on the pan first will prevent them sticking together) and bake at 400 for 25 minutes whenever you’re hungry–no defrosting necessary!

Wine Pairing: Since these empanadas had a little kick, I thought something with some deep berry flavors might match nicely and complement, so I paired these with a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon (Inti is the brand I chose) to keep with the Patagonian theme. This wine also had a peppery hint to it which meshed with the zing of the empanadas quite nicely. Enjoy!

Original recipe here: http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/2013/09/16/epcot-food-and-wine-festival-recipe-beef-empanadas/

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