Monday, April 4, 2011

Colombian Empanadas and “Aji”

I picked up my kids at Sunday school and my 7-year-old asks me what is for lunch. I told him I was tired and asked him how pizza or nuggets sounded. He got really upset and told me he wanted real food. My children are like that. Junk, frozen food is not something they really enjoy and I am proud of them for that. But sometimes I wish they did like this because even a Halal mama doesn’t feel like cooking sometimes.

I am still craving Colombian food. These empanadas are a bit different than the most traditional empanadas made in Argentina and Chile as they are made with Precooked Yellow Corn Meal instead of regular flour. Don’t be intimidated as these are so easy to make, even my 4-year-old can do it (see video). These empanadas are usually served with Aji, a Colombian spicy sauce usually made with jalepeno. I didn’t have any so I made a sauce I usually make to eat with steak and added some crushed red pepper flakes.

Colombian Empanadas of Beef and Potato

Makes about 16

2 cups precooked yellow corn meal
2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Sazón con Azafrán (about ½ Tbsp)
A little over a teaspoon salt or to taste

1 cup potato, peeled and diced
Chicken browth for boiling the potatoes (optional)
½ lb ground beef
Extra virgin olive oil
½ cup onion, diced
1 or 2 garlic cloves, pressed
½ cup, about 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 Tbsp Parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp turmeric

Canola Oil to fry empanadas

Make the dough

Mix cornmeal, salt and goya sazon in a large bowl. Add warm water little by little trying to incorporate all with a fork. Add the oil and start kneading the dough until smooth. Set aside and let it rest for about 15 minutes.

Make filling

Boil peeled and diced potatoes in chicken, beef broth or water and salt until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside. Save a couple tablespoons of the broth in which the potatoes were cooked in case you need a little bit for the meat later.

Saute onions until soft and then add garlic. Add ground beef, salt, pepper, cumin and turmeric. Let cook until the meat is no longer red but still not completely cooked.

Add tomatoes and let cook a bit. If it starts to dry out too much add about a tablespoon of the reserved broth.

Add potatoes and with a wooden spoon smash some of the potatoes letting it all cook together for a couple of minutes more.

Set aside and let it cool.

Making the empanadas

Divide the dough making 1½-to-2-inch balls. Line your work surface with a piece of plastic wrap and oil it. Oil another piece of plastic wrap.

Put ball on top of plastic wrap on the surface and cover with the second piece, oil side down. Flatten ball with bottom of a sauce pan.

Lift plastic on top and place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle of dough disk.

Using the bottom plastic, fold the dough over forming a half circle.

Press to seal with fingers or a fork.

After you have made all the empanadas, deep fry them until crunchy.

Transfer empanadas to plate lined with paper towels.

Serve with Halal Mama’s Aji. (recipe follows)

Halal Mama’s Aji

1 Tbsp minced garlic (more or less to taste)
3 Tbsp onion diced really small
2 Tbsp parsley, chopped fine
2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped fine
1/4 to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil to taste
About ½ Tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice (more or less to taste)
Sea salt to taste
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, more or less to taste

Mix all ingredients well and set aside in room temperature until you are ready to serve.

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