Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sweet Potato-Black Bean Empanadas

When I told my half-Latino brother-in-law that I planned to bake these vegetarian empanadas, he told me that the act of baking these babies instead of frying them would have his grandfather rolling in his grave.  But when he tasted these flaky morsels, he told me they reminded him of his aunt's cooking, and that if his grandfather's ghost decided to haunt him after eating these, he would simply shove a hot empanada in his mouth.

You're welcome to bake or fry these, I've included directions for both, but I assure you that either way these small turnovers will be light and flaky with a fun surprise of sweet potato and black bean inside.  The filling was so good we decided it could easily act as a side dish on its own, so feel free to double the filling recipe and serve it crustless if you'd like.

Sweet Potato-Black Bean Empanadas
Makes about 2 dozen
(Crust recipe adapted from Food Network Kitchens)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks), diced
2 large eggs, beaten
Flour, for rolling the dough

Extra-virgin olive oil, for sautéing
1/2 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/4 cups)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 tsp. ground cumin, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup drained and rinsed canned black beans (1/2 a 15.5 oz can)
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 cup water

1 egg, beaten

Add the flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse twice until combined. Add the butter and pulse until it becomes mealy with pea-sized bits of butter, about 10 times. Add the egg and pulse 10 more times until the egg absorbs into the flour, but do not let it form into a ball in the machine. Remove the dough to a work surface and bring the dough together by hand. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 1 hour.

Lightly coat the bottom of a sauté pan with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the sweet potato, salt, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, and sauté until lightly browned and tender. Remove to a bowl.

In the same pan, drizzle more oil and add the onion and garlic and briefly sauté until softened, a few minutes. Add the black beans, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, ground coriander, chili powder, and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until heated through, and then add the water to deglaze the pan. Use the back of a wooden spoon to smash some of the black beans to thicken the mixture. When the mixture is somewhat saucy, but thick, remove it from the heat and combine it with the sweet potato. Allow the mixture to cool before assembling empanadas.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Use a 3 3/4-inch round cookie cutter to cut out circles of dough. If the dough circles are warm and soft at this point, return them to the refrigerator to chill for 10 minutes. Gather the dough scraps, reroll the scraps, and cut out more circles, until you have used as much of the dough as you can. Put 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of each dough circle. Lightly brush the edges with the beaten egg and fold the circles in 1/2 to form semi-circles. Reserve the remaining egg wash after assembling the empanadas. Using your hands, pinch around the edges of the dough semi-circles to seal. Crimp the edges with the tines of a fork. Transfer to 2 parchment paper-lined baking sheets and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the reserved egg wash over the tops of the empanadas, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown, rotating pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Serve hot.

*Alternatively, fry the empanadas. Fill a wide-heavy bottomed pot 3 inches deep with vegetable oil. Heat oil to 365 degrees F over medium heat. Omit the egg wash over the top of the empanadas. Fry in 3 to 4 batches until golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 5 to 7 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a dry paper-towel lined baking sheet to drain. Sprinkle with salt immediately. Return the oil to the proper temperature between batches. Serve hot.


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