Monday, January 31, 2011

Cuban Empanadas

I happened across a wonderful Cuban cookbook in the library last week.  The vivid pictures of Cuban food and landscapes made my decision to choose Cuba as our 48th country quite easy.
Our menu included Chicken Empanadas, Black Beans and Papas Rellenas.  I served them with fresh guacamole and salsa.
4 of our 5 family members quickly finished their first helping and went back for more.  But my son struggled to eat the empanada. He told me I tricked him when he saw the tiniest bit of guacamole on it. (He's not fond of any type of sauce.)  I don't think he touched his Papas Rellenas (he doesn't like potatoes either). Eventually, he finished most of the empanada and tried a bite of beans. It was enough to fill his bird-like stomach.  I figure, the more often I put new foods on his plate the sooner he will come to accept them.

Chicken Empanadas 

3-4 chicken breasts
1 cinnamon stick
1 T Kosher salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 onion diced
1 tsp chili powder
1 T sugar
1 Roma tomato diced
2 hard boiled eggs
1/4 cup chopped green olives (I used garlic stuffed)
2 T chicken broth

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp sugar
7 T butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup water
egg wash

Fill a large pot with water and cinnamon stick, bring to boil.  Poach chicken breasts in water for about 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove from water and let cool.
Prepare dough.  Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Cut in butter until resembles a coarse cornmeal.  Add eggs and mix.  Add water and stir until it comes together as a dough. Form into a ball. Cover and let rest while filling is prepared.
Shred cooled chicken.  Saute onion in olive oil until soft.  Add paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper.  Cook 1 minute.  Add tomato, shredded chicken, olives, and  chicken broth.  Simmer until sauce consistency.  Remove from heat.
Take about golf ball sized portion of dough and roll on a floured surface.  Roll out to make about a 5 inch circle.  Place a spoonful of chicken mix onto center of dough.  Fold dough over and crimp edges with a fork.  Lay empananda on a greased baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough and chicken.  Brush tops with egg wash and bake on 350 for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Cuban Style Black Beans

2 cans black beans drained
3 cloves garlic chopped
1/2 green pepper, halved
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
cinnamon stick
1/2 onion
1/2 green pepper diced
2 hot chili peppers seeded and chopped
1/4 tsp cumin
olive oil

Pour beans into a saucepan with garlic, halved pepper, salt, cumin,  and cinnamon stick.  Pour just enough water in to cover the beans.  Bring to boil.  Turn down heat and let simmer.  Meanwhile, saute onion, diced pepper, and chilis in a saute pan until soft.  Add cumin.  Cook until fragrant.  Put onion and pepper mix into a food processor with 1 cup of beans.  Process until almost smooth.  Return to remaining bean mix and simmer, stirring frequently until sauce is thickened to desired consistency.

Papas Rellenas

Potato exterior:
2-3 large potatoes diced
1 stick butter
panko bread crumbs
3 eggs

Bring water, salt and potatoes to a boil in a large pot.  Cook until potatoes are soft.  Drain and mash.  Add butter and cool.

Make filling:
1 lb ground beef
1/2 onion diced
1.4 pepper  diced
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
fresh oregano chopped
salt, pepper
vegetable oil

Saute onion and pepper in a pan with olive oil.  Add garlic.  Cook 1 minute then add beef.  Brown beef until no longer pink.  Add cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.  Cook until most liquid has evaporated.  Let cool.

Mix 1 beaten egg into potato mixture and form balls of potato with your hands.  Press a spoonful of beef mix into center.  Cover beef with more potato.  Roll balls into flour and coat.  Tap excess flour off.  Roll into bowl with 2 beaten eggs and then roll in panko crumbs. Heat vegetable oil until hot.  Place a few balls in oil at a time.  Turn gently when browned on one side. Cook until browned all over, just a few minutes.  Remove from oil with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle some salt and pepper and serve hot.
This was my first time making anything like this.  I don't think I quite got the consistency of the potatoes correct because it was difficult for me to keep them in a ball shape, maybe they just weren't cold enough.  I ended up making a huge mess all over my hands and the counter, but they came out looking ok and tasted great.  I will definitely try to make these again.

For more information on authentic Cuban cuisine check out Eating Cuban by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs.
Also take a look at these Cuban recipe websites :


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