My husband and I love throwing parties. Well, er…that was BK (Before Kids). Nowadays, we still enjoy throwing a good soiree, but they’re definitely few and far between and much more chill than in our single days. It’s cool because having kids forces you to rework a lot of things in life and your social life is definitely one of them. Our parties have gone from more formal dinner parties, with a few friends to bigger (everyone’s invited). We found that the more casual affairs allow us to see many friends at one time which is great since everyone’s time is always limited these days and we don’t get to see people as much as we used to.
We streamlined our party menu by sticking with lots of snacky food and recipes that are tasty, simple and mostly make-ahead. Prepping in advance gives us some semblance of control over a usually chaotic situation (isn’t ever situation chaotic after kids?) and most importantly, it allows us to spend more time with our guests since no one is slaving over a stove or serving butler style. We turn our dinning-room table into a large buffet and everyone helps themselves, this way, we can all just talk, nosh, drink and watch the kids run wild.
One of our favorite snacks to make for any party we throw is Empanadas! Seriously folks, these are killer and every time I make them, they go within the first five minutes. And I don’t think my friends would forgive me if they came to a party and these weren’t on the table. Yup. They’re that good! Empanadas are the perfect party snack because they are easily eaten with one hand while the other one is clutching a luscious beverage.
This recipe came to me by way of my Grandmother-in-law. She was raised in Argentina and I swear, I never had an empanada this good before hers. I think what makes it so unique is the combination of flavors. The addition of raisins adds a little sweetness to what’s typically a savory snack. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t sweet at all, but the raisins give it a little something extra and balances out the saltiness of the pimento stuffed olives nicely. Being Sicilian, (we put raisins in everything!), it’s a flavor I totally groove on. The beauty of this recipe is that you can easily swap out the ground beef for ground chicken, turkey, canned tuna or even keep it strictly vegetarian by tossing in some roasted veggies. The rest of the flavorings are so versatile, that really, any protein or vegetable would be delicious in this.
Empanadas can be made up to 2 months ahead of time and frozen (before being fried) between sheets of wax paper and sealed in a freezer bag. Make extra because they will go fast. Consider yourself warned.
Grandma Pearl’s Amazing Empanadas
2 tbsps olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tsps cumin
1 1/2 lbs ground beef (we like chuck), chicken, turkey or (2 cans of water packed tuna, drained)
1 tbsps flour
3/4 c pimento stuffed green olives , chopped
1/2 c raisins (you can omit if you don’t like raisins but this really makes them special)
salt and pepper to taste (go easy on the salt because the olives are salty)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
24 empanada wrappers, thawed (I like Goya)
5 cups vegetable oil for frying (grandma uses Crisco and I am sure lard if it were still easy to find)
1. Preheat a large frying pan with olive oil over medium heat.
2. Saute onions and cook for about 8 minutes or until slightly soft. Add in ground beef. Using a wooden spoon, break up lumps and cook beef until it is no longer pink, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the meat and stir in to absorb some of the oil. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool, about 15 minutes.
3. Stir in the olives, raisins, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and the eggs.
4. Spread out a few empanada wrappers on your counter (you may need to flour your surface first). Place a heaping tablespoon of the beef mixture into the center of each disk. Moisten edges of each disk with water and fold over to form a semicircle, then crimp closed with a fork (like this). Keep going until you have used all of your wrappers.
5. Heat vegetable oil in a deep 12-inch skillet or stockpot over medium heat until it registers 360°F on thermometer. Fry empanadas, 3 at a time, turning once, until crisp and golden, 6 minutes per batch. Transfer the cooked empanadas to a baking sheet to keep warm in a 200 degree oven while you fry the remaining empanadas.
TIP: When crimping edges closed, dip the tines of your fork in flour to prevent sticking.
TIP: If you are not a fan of deep frying, no problem! Brush each empanada with an egg wash, place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 15-20minutes.
TIP: Don’t have a frying thermometer? Simply drop a small piece of the un-cooked empanada wrapper into the oil. If it sizzles, you know the oil is hot enough. If it sinks, your oil is still too cold.
Christina Stanley-Salerno is a mama, recipe developer, food stylist, photographer and blogger atTakeBackYourTable.com. She loves cooking for and with her family. Life is hectic, but Christina is passionate about mealtime because she believes that family meals are the glue that holds everyone together. Creating simple, quick and healthy meals is her specialty and her trick to keeping the family meal a reality, even on busy weeknights.
Follow her on Twitter @TakeBackTables