Golden Vegetable Empanadas with Jalepeno Aji

Jesse’s mom gave me the recipe for these delicious savory empanadas!  They are pretty labor-intensive but trust me they are worth it; each one is a little pocket of delicious goodness.   These are Columbian style– they are like little arepas stuffed with filling and fried, as opposed to other styles of empanadas that have more of a bready or doughy crust.

First, follow the arepa recipe here for the crust. Once you’ve made the arepa dough, cover and set aside in the refrigerator.

To make the filling, cut three peeled small potatoes into bite size pieces, around the diameter of a dime.   Put the cut potato in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil.  Cook the potato for about fifteen minutes after boiling, or until fork tender.  Drain and set aside.  In a skillet, heat up two or three teaspoons of olive oil and sweat some a few cloves of garlic and a small, finely minced onion for a few minutes.  Add a cup or so of frozen peas, a finely diced tomato, a handful of diced cilantro, and the potatoes.   Cook for another five minutes over medium heat and season with salt, pepper, and a little bit of hot pepper if you would like.  Remove the filling from the heat and let it cool.

While the filling is cooling, you can make the Aji: the dipping sauce for the empanadas.  Juice three limes and zest one.  Combine the juice and zest with one bunch of finely chopped green onions and one finely chopped jalapeno pepper.  Add a tablespoon of white vinegar and a pinch of salt.  Refrigerate while you stuff and fry the empanadas.

Now that you have the dough and the filling ready, you just need to assemble! Get out a piece of saran wrap or a plastic bag and roll out a piece of the dough in between two layers of it. The plastic will prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin or your table. Then take a tablespoon or so of the stuffing and place in the middle of the round that you have rolled out. Fold the dough in half (still on the saran wrap) and squeeze shut. Here’s a link to a really great video that shows epanada makers in action; this is way more useful than any description!

Now that you’ve formed these guys, get ready to fry them. You’ll need a big pot with tall walls; look for the one you boil a ton of pasta or make lots of soup in. The oil in this guy is going to get HOT and splash everywhere; you don’t want that oil on your hands or face and the pot will prevent this from happening. Pour four inches of oil in your pot (canola or vegetable oil preferred– these oils can get hottest without burning) and heat over medium heat until around 360 degrees; or just under the smoke point. Then drop in a few empanada; just enough so that they are not touching each other or the sides of the pan. If you crowd them they will touch each other and stick and it will be a big mess. Their filling will pop out and ruin the whole batch. Do not touch them while they are in the pan! Just let them hang out and brown! Once they are nice and golden brown (a few minutes) pop them out with a spider and lay them on a paper towel. Let them all cool down and then eat with aji!

So these take forever to make and are difficult until you get your groove down but they are so good and your friends will all be so impressed that you made delicious treats for them. You can make the filling and aji in advance to break it up. I suggest that you make a giant batch because everyone is going to want more than one once they hear that you made these!

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