Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Argentine Beef Empanadas with Sofrito

Argentina is one of the world’s largest producers of beef and has the highest per-person consumption rate of the meat. Given that, you can bet there are as many great beef dishes as there are people who enjoy them, and empanadas are one of the most popular.

These little stuffed pastries are filled with a variety of ingredients and are enjoyed throughout Latin America and Spain. Common ingredients in Argentina include beef, onions, bell pepper, raisins, olives, eggs, and spices. Parsley, cilantro, spicy chiles, tomatoes, and corn make their way into empanadas in other parts of South America, as well as Central America and Mexico.

A note about the dough: Making your own empanada dough is easy and lets you control the size of the meat pies you want to make. Yes, some recipes call for wonton wrappers or frozen puff pastry, but there’s nothing like fresh dough to stuff with fresh filling. This recipe makes enough for 6-7 large, dinner-sized empanadas, but you can make between 15-20 small ones if you’re serving them as appetizers or party food.

And a note about the sauce: “Sofrito,” in a very broad sense, is the Spanish word for a rich, savory sauce commonly made in Spain simply with tomatoes, garlic, and onions cooked in olive oil. Latin American sofrito is similar to Spanish, with the addition of mild peppers (often roasted) and fresh herbs.

Try the empanadas with Argentine chimichurri as well.

Makes 6-7 dinner-sized empanadas


For the Dough
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup very cold water (plus more, as needed)
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled in the freezer for 15 minutes
  • 1 tbsp milk
For the Filling
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lb ground sirloin
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 hardboiled egg, finely chopped
Filling Ingredients
For the Sofrito
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large cubanelle or anaheim pepper, chopped 
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes, from a 28-oz can
  • 1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper        
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Sofrito Ingredients
Vinegar and Parsley

For the Dough
  1. Whisk 2 1/4 cups flour and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk 1 egg, vinegar, and water in a small bowl.
Dough Ingredients
  1. Place the butter cubes in the flour. Pinch the cubes into the flour until a chunky meal forms. (Be patient—it takes times to get the butter incorporated.)
Flour-Butter Meal
  1. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture with a fork, combining until a wet dough forms. (If the dough seems too dry, add a little water, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Mix gently with your fingers a few times, then turn onto a floured surface.
  2. Knead the dough a few times (don’t over-knead because the dough will toughen), then shape into a small disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 hours.
Empanada Dough
Wrapped Dough Ready to Chill
  1. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness (about a 16-inch-diameter circle).
  2. Press a 6-inch-diameter dough-cutter into the rolled dough. (If you don’t have a 6-inch cutter, use a saucer or bowl to press into the dough and run a sharp knife around the edge to cut out a circle.) Continue with the remaining dough, rerolling the leftover dough until there’s not enough left to cut out. 
  3. Transfer the dough rounds to a work surface.
Dough Rolled Out  
Cut Out Dough Circles
Dough Circle 
Circles Ready to Fill
  1. Whisk the remaining 1 egg and milk in a small bowl and set the glaze aside.
For the Filling
  1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the beef. Season with salt and pepper and cook 6-7 minutes, crumbling the meat into very small pieces as it cooks. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
Beef Beginning to Cook
Cooked Beef
  1. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the oil in the pan. Add onions and peppers and cook until just softened, 3 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, olives, raisins, and spices and cook 2 minutes.
  3. Return the beef to the skillet and cook 1-2 minutes, until liquid has evaporated. Stir in the chopped hardboiled egg. Cool to room temperature.
Peppers and Onion Beginning to Cook 
Garlic Mixture Added 
Cooked Filling
For the Sofrito
  1. Heat a skillet or saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. Add the garlic, pepper, and onion and cook until beginning to soften, 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes and paprika and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until thickened, 15-18 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley and vinegar.
Sofrito Beginning to Cook 
Cooked Sofrito
(Sofrito may be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Re-warm gently before serving.)

To Assemble and Bake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of filling on one side of each dough round, leaving a 1-inch edge.
  3. With your fingers, dampen the edges of a dough round with water and gently fold the empty half over the filled half, lightly pressing down the filling and seam. Use a fork to crimp the seams tightly together. Repeat with the remaining empanadas.
Filled Circles 
Dampen the Edges with Water 
Crimp the Edges with a Fork
Empanadas Ready to Bake

  1. Place the empanadas on the baking sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes, until the crust begins to brown. Brush with egg wash and bake 5 minutes longer, until golden brown. Remove and let cool 3-4 minutes.
Baked Empanadas
Empanadas with Egg Wash
To serve, place the empanadas on a platter with the sofrito in a serving bowl.

Argentine Beef Empanadas with Sofrito

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