As I mentioned in my previous entry, I recently played teacher for the afternoon, with my great-aunt as the star pupil in my empanada cooking class [though admittedly she didn't have much competition for the title]. Aunt Phyl is decidedly a foodie; she's no stranger to the pleasures of a good meal and a glass of wine. She also holds a well-deserved reputation in the family as an accomplished cook.
We decided to make two types of empanadas: the classic beef and the more avant-garde combination of pancetta and plum. Truth be told, I had never actually made pancetta and plum empanadas up 'til that point, but I had enjoyed them many times from my favorite empanada joint here in Necochea, Campo Alto. Since Aunt Phyl subscribes to an easy-going cooking style with room for experimentation, I figured we'd just play it by ear. While both types of empanadas turned out well, we agreed that the pancetta and plum were the winners, hands down!
Delicious in their simplicity, these empanadas give testament to the pairing of sweet and savory. The pleasingly sweet plums and the salty, flavorful pancetta bound together with stringy mozzarella cheese created a mouthwatering filling for our empanada dough. We discussed what additional flavors might work to give the relleno some zing, but when we taste tested the filling, we thought it stood on its own, without so much as a pinch of salt.
Pancetta and Plum Empanadas | Empanadas de Panceta y Ciruela
Makes 10 empanadas
For the filling:
4 oz. thin-sliced pancetta, chopped
2 large plums, pitted, thinly sliced and chopped
8 oz. whole milk mozzarella, shredded
1 10-count package of empanada discs*
1 beaten egg yolk
A glass of water
Preparing the filling:
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat, and add the chopped pancetta. Sauté the pancetta, stirring frequently, until cooked through, about five minutes. Add the plums to the skillet and sauté lightly. Remove from the heat and allow the pancetta and plum mixture to cool.
Assembling the empanadas:
Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
Place a heaping tablespoonful of the pancetta and plum mixture and a generous pinch of shredded mozzarella in the center of the empanada dough. Resist the urge to overfill the empanadas, as they will be difficult to work with and will likely explode in the oven if you do so. Dip your finger in the glass of water and lightly wet the edge of the dough. Bring the edges of the dough together and press firmly.
There are several methods used to seal the empanadas [the repulgue]. The most simple way involves pressing the tines of a fork around the edge of the empanada, but if you're interested in trying your hand at a fancier repulgue, here's a video that demonstrates a traditional twisted edge.
Place the empanadas on a lightly greased cookie sheet, and brush them with egg yolk. Bake until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.
I thought Aunt Phyl did very well considering it was her first attempt at making empanadas! Thankfully, there's no photographic evidence of my very first empanadas...
A note on the empanada discs:
We used Goya brand empanada discs with annatto [achiote], hence their sassy orange color. The empanada dough in Argentina does not usually sport this vibrant hue, but hey, it's what we had to work with. My great-aunt found them in the frozen section of Pathmark (for those of you in Pennsylvania/New Jersey/New York).
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