Turkey Empanadas aka: Lunch!

Earlier this week while meal planning with my husband, I asked him “what do you want to eat for lunches this week?” his response, “anything but cold cuts” 

I confess that I like to pack him lunch like a happy housewife (more to keep him from buying junk food than anything else) but I am a lazy lunch maker and more often than not turn to over processed lunch meat out of sheer convenience.   Lunch has to be convenient for him too. Rarely does anything that requires heating or a fork qualify as a convenient lunch for him, so leftovers are usually out. 

After taking a quick inventory of whats in the kitchen, I suggest empanadas, and get an enthusiastic response! 

Empanadas have may variations throughout the world with seemingly every country having their own variation.  Variations include the Cornish pasty, Italian calzone, Jamaican patty, and south and central american versions including fruit and cheese fillings.  They are portable, freeze well, and hold with no refrigeration for up to a week (that’s how we eat them in my house but don’t ask my nutritionist sister or she might say otherwise).

The version that I happened to make was a rich and flakey crust stuffed with ground turkey and mexican style seasonings.  To begin, I made the dough.

1 batch dough + 1lb ground meat = approx 15-20 pastries depending on size

for the dough:

  • 3c ap flour
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1c cold butter
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2-4Tbs ice water

In large bowl whisk together flour and salt. Then work cold butter into flour until it resembles cornmeal (or no chunk of butter is larger than a pea). I like to use my fingers but a pastry blender works well, too. Adding the egg, begin to work flour/butter into dough and use water sparingly to form a smooth ball.  Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for about an hour. (While dough is resting prepare and cool filling. *if filling is too warm it will begin to melt the butter in the dough!) 

After the dough has rested, roll it out to approx 1/8″ thick and use a large biscuit cutter to cut rounds of dough.  I then roll each circle just a little thinner and larger.  This is what determines the size of your empanadas. It might take some trial and error to find out what size and thickness is manageable for you.  The thinner the dough, the flakier the crust.  When the dough round is ready to be filled, spoon filling into the center of the circle, carefully fold into a half-round and crimp the edges with a fork.  I like to ensure a good seal by using an eggwash on the edges before I fold and crimp. To do this, beat an egg with a tsp of water and, using you finger, dab a little bit of eggwash onto inner edges of dough. 

Place on cookie sheet and bake 30-40 min@ 350 or until golden

for the filling:

  • 1lb ground turkey (or other ground meat)
  • 2-3Tbs cumin seed
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 sm green pepper, diced
  • 2-6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ~3Tbs chile powder
  • 1Tbs oregano
  • ~2Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 spicy chile, roasted, peeled and diced
  • 1/4c cilantro, chopped

Begin by browning and draining meat. Dont forget to season well with salt & pepper! Set aside. Fry cumin in a small amount of oil till fragrant, add onion, pepper, and garlic and cook till soft. Add chile powder and oregano. Return meat to pan adding tomato paste and chile. Cook for 2-3 min till flavors work together. Remove from heat, and stir in cilantro. Taste. 

Dont be afraid to adjust proportions or ingredients, you might find that you want to add some lime juice, olives, raisins, cheese or hot sauce.

For me this is a wonderful pantry meal needing only ground meat, while the remainder of the ingredients can be found at home. The ones that are not in stock can be easily substituted or omitted with a little creativity.