Nearly every country has its beloved version of a filled half-moon pastry. Patties in Jamaica, pastizzi in Malta, salteñas in Bolivia — a flakey, buttery pastry filled with everything from pulled chicken to spicy ground beef to curried peas with cheese has universal appeal. One of the most beloved is the empanada, which is said to have originated in Galicia and is now seen all throughout Latin America and the Philippines. (Even within Latin America there are endless variations: in Chile, it’s baked and filled with half a boiled egg, while in Venezuela the empanada is is made with corn dough and characteristically yellow in color.)
For her own beef empanada recipe, Chelsea Coleman, the proprietor of the Rose, an essential San Diego wine bar, turned to Argentina for inspiration. Although they’re delicious on their own, Coleman says the empanadas really serve as a vehicle for chimichurri, Argentina’s favorite sauce. A rich, vibrant green, it’s typically made of finely chopped parsley, garlic, oregano, and white vinegar. You can find the recipe for both the empanadas and chimichurri below; although Coleman fills the empanadas with beef, she invites you to use whichever filling you desire, since the fatty crust will stand up to just about anything.
Coleman is also behind the Rose’s wine list, so we tapped her for the selections for Eater Wine Club’s May box. You’ll find that Coleman’s empanadas, regardless of which filling you choose, make an ideal snack for pairing with wine — a pastime we’d argue is best enjoyed with a glass in one hand and a half-eaten empanada in the other.
Argentine-ish Beef Empanadas with Chimichurri Recipe
Yields: 24 - 30 empanadas
For the dough:
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into cubes
2/3 cup ice water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
For the chimichurri sauce:
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 bunch Italian parsley, trimmed and chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh oregano
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
2 bay leaves
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup red wine
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons porcini mushroom powder (optional)
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
For assembly and baking:
1 egg, for egg wash
For garnish (optional):
Chopped parsley and oregano
First, make the dough:
Step 1: Whisk together the ice water, apple cider vinegar, and eggs in a bowl and set aside.
Step 2: Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and gently pulse until the dough forms into a ball. If the dough is too dry, continue pulsing by adding ice water 1 tablespoon at a time. It’s very important not to overwork the dough in order to preserve its flaky texture.
Step 3: Turn the dough out of the food processor onto a countertop. Divide it into two equal pieces and flatten each one into a disc. Wrap the dough tightly with plastic. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes to overnight.
Note: The dough can be frozen ahead of time and thawed the day of use.
Make the chimichurri sauce:
Step 1: In a medium bowl, combine the garlic and red wine vinegar. Add the chopped parsley and oregano and stir until well combined; allow to marinate for about 15 minutes so that the flavors can develop. Add 1/2 cup olive oil (or more, depending on how much parsley you end up with), red pepper flakes, and salt. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
Note: The chimichurri sauce can be made ahead of time, refrigerated or left on the counter so that flavors can develop. If refrigerated, make sure to take it out ahead of time so it can return to room temperature.
Make the filling:
Step 1: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the cumin, chili powder, and bay leaf. Stir to toast the spices. Add the ground beef and cook until browned.
Step 2: Stir in the red wine, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and porcini powder. Continue cooking the beef until the liquid has evaporated and the beef caramelizes in the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat to medium and add the crushed tomatoes. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes and add the red pepper flakes. Adjust for seasoning to taste.
Step 3: Remove the filling from the pan and set aside to cool; letting the filling cool completely in the refrigerator will make it easier to fill the empanadas.
Assemble and bake:
Step 1: Place the refrigerated pastry dough onto a lightly floured countertop and roll into a large rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 5-inch ring mold or biscuit cutter, cut out 12 circles. If you want smaller empanadas, you can use a 4-inch mold.
Step 2: Place 2-3 spoonfuls of filling onto each disk. Using a finger to hold the filling in place, fold the dough over to enclose the filling and create a half moon pocket. Seal the dough by braiding or pressing it down with the tines of a fork. Repeat until all of the empanadas are formed.
Step 3: Return the empanadas to the refrigerator to rest before baking, about 45 minutes.
Step 4: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Step 5: Take the empanadas out of the refrigerator and brush each one with egg wash before placing them in the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and the filling starts to ooze out a little. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool a little.
Step 6: Arrange the empanadas onto a large serving platter. Serve with room-temperature chimichurri sauce on the side. Garnish the chimichurri with pomegranate seeds and the empanadas with herbs such as parsley and oregano. Serve while warm.
Recipe tested by Louiie Victa