Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

April 27, 2017

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Argentinean beef empanadas

These panzudas (big-bellied) empanadas are a delight when fresh from the oven, begging to be eaten with tangy chimichurri. The best are made with hand-chopped beef, but if you use ground, buy ground top sirloin or chuck. If you’d rather not make the dough, use 12 store-bought empanada disks. The La Salteña brand comes in two styles: a flaky, buttery kind and a drier, less flaky type labelled criollas para horno, which are the ones you want here.

For the dough


6 c. (1.5 L) extra-fine flour (preferably Argentinean Blanca Rosa 000) or cake flour
2 tsp. (10 ml) salt
2 tsp. (10 ml) sugar
1 c. (250 ml) homemade or store-bought suet or lard
2 extra-large eggs
1¼ c. cold water or as needed

For the filling

1 lb. (500 g) lean beef, such as boneless shin or top sirloin, or ground sirloin or chuck
¼ c. (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large yellow onions, finely chopped (about 4 c./1 L)
4 scallions, finely chopped (white and 3 in./7.5 cm of green parts)
1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded, deveined and finely chopped (about 1 c./250 ml)
1 tbsp. (15 ml) salt or to taste
2 tsp. (10 ml) freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. (5 ml) ground Argentinean hot red pepper (ají molido) or ground cayenne
1 tsp. (5 ml) hot Spanish smoked paprika (pimentón)
2 tsp. (10 ml) ground cumin
2 tsp. (10 ml) dried oregano
3 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
24 Manzanilla olives, pitted and quartered (about 1 c./250 ml)
2 large eggs, beaten with 2 tbsp. (30 ml) cold water, for glaze

Place the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, place the suet or lard in the middle, and work it into the dry ingredients with your fingertips or a pastry blender.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and water. Add the liquid to the flour a little at a time, mixing to form a dough. If the dough feels too dry to hold together, add more water one tablespoon (15 ml) at a time.

Transfer to a work surface and knead vigorously for 5 minutes or until smooth. Divide in half. Roll each half into a 12-inch- (30-cm-) long log. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably up to 24 hours.

Unless you’re using ground meat, cut the beef into ¼-inch- (0.5-cm-) thick slices, then into ¼-inch- (0.5-cm-) wide strips and chop into ⅛-inch (0.25-cm) dice. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch (30-cm) skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until golden, 40 seconds. Stir in the onions, scallions, bell pepper and spices, and cook until the onions are soft, 7 minutes. Add the meat and cook, stirring to break it up, for 4 to 5 minutes, until cooked, but still juicy.

Transfer to a container 12 inches (30 cm) square and 2 inches (5 cm) high. Smooth the surface with a spatula and let cool. Spread the chopped eggs and olives evenly over the meat so when you scoop out a portion, it’ll have equal amounts of both. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°F).

Unwrap the dough and cut each log into twelve 1-inch (1.25-cm) sections. Keeping the unused dough covered with a kitchen towel, knead one section briefly with the heel of your hand. With a rolling pin, roll out a round ⅛-inch (0.25-cm) thick. Using a large round cookie cutter, cut the dough into a 5-inch (10-cm) circle. (If using defrosted frozen empanada disks, trim them into 5-inch/10-cm circles.)

Holding the disk in the palm of one hand, place 2 generous tablespoons (30 ml) of filling in the centre, then fold the two edges together, as if you were making a taco. Pinch the middle together, then seal the empanada by making a triangular pleat at one end then continuing to make triangular pleats all the way around the edge (a decorative border called repulgo). Place on a baking sheet. Fill and seal the remaining empanadas.

Brush lightly with the egg wash. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crusts are golden and the empanadas sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let cool slightly, and serve warm with a bowl of chimichurri. Makes 24 empanadas.

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