Recipe courtesy of Chris Hastings

Beef Empanada

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 4 hr 10 min (includes cooling and resting times)
  • Active: 1 hr 45 min
  • Yield: 12 servings
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Sea Island Red Peas:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, halved 

2 bay leaves, crumbled slightly 

6 cups Sea Island red peas or your favorite type of fresh field peas such as lima beans, lady peas or red peas 

4 large (roughly 2-inch square) chunks smoked bacon 

4 fresh thyme sprigs 

2 teaspoons kosher salt 

1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper 

Basic Aioli:

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

2 large eggs 

1 clove garlic, minced 

2 cups olive oil 

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

Sea Island Red Pea Salad:

1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

1 1/2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint (chiffonade)

1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves

Zest and juice of 1 1/2 limes

1 1/2 large red radishes, cut into julienne 

1 scallion, thinly sliced (greens and whites)

1 scallion, thinly sliced (greens and whites) 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Empanada Dough:

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring

6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) ice-cold unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 

1 large egg 

1/2 cup ice-cold water 

Beef Filling:

1/4 cup olive oil

2 pounds beef shoulder, chopped into very small pieces (ground beef can be used as a substitute) 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 yellow onions, diced 

2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced 

2 tablespoons red pepper flakes 

1/2 cup beef tallow or bacon fat 

1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves 

2 tablespoons ground cumin 

2 tablespoons pimenton de la vera (Spanish smoked paprika)

8 scallions, thinly sliced (greens and whites) 

8 scallions, thinly sliced (greens and whites)

6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped into small chunks 

Empanada Assembly:

4 large eggs

2 tablespoons heavy cream 


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon caraway seed, toasted and ground 

1/2 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and ground 

8 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded and rehydrated in a bowl of boiling water

8 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded and rehydrated in a bowl of boiling water 

8 dried chile de arbol, stemmed, seeded and rehydrated in a bowl of boiling water

8 dried chile de arbol, stemmed, seeded and rehydrated in a bowl of boiling water 

5 cloves garlic 

1 sprig fresh mint, leaves only

1 lemon, juiced 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Special equipment:
a 5-inch ring cutter, optional
  1. For the sea island red peas: In a wide pot, add the olive oil and place over medium heat. Add the onions and bay leaves and cook for 3 minutes. Add the field peas, bacon, thyme and 8 cups cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook over low heat, uncovered, until tender, 45 minutes to an hour. Add the salt and pepper and let the peas cool in their liquid. We like to put the pot over a container of ice. You want to stop the peas from continuing to cook. The mixture can also be transferred carefully to a large bowl and the bowl placed on the ice. It typically takes 20 to 30 minutes for the peas to cool.
  2. For the basic aioli: Meanwhile, put the lemon juice, whole eggs and garlic in a food processor or blender and blend on low until the mixture is completely combined. Working on medium-low speed, drizzle in the oil slowly until the mixture has formed an emulsion and has the consistency of a thick mayonnaise. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and fold in the salt and pepper. Reserve 1/2 cup of the aioli for the salad. (Refrigerate the remaining aioli for another use.)
  3. Once the peas are cool, drain them, removing the onion halves, bay leaves, bacon and thyme sprigs. Transfer to a large bowl.
  4. For the sea island red pea salad: Add the creme fraiche, mint, cilantro, lime zest and juice, radishes, scallion, salt and pepper to taste and the reserved 1/2 cup basic aioli to the bowl with the peas. Fold with a spatula until the mixture is evenly dressed. (The pea salad can be held for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.)
  5. For the empanada dough: Combine the flour, butter and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse on low until the flour has the texture of sand. Add the egg and pulse again until incorporated. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the cold water until completely incorporated and the dough is mostly a single and cohesive piece. Do not over-process. Wrap the dough tightly with plastic and place in the refrigerator to rest for 30 minutes.
  6. For the beef filling: Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Working in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan, sear the beef until browned on all sides. Remove each batch with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool, leaving behind the leftover oil and fat.
  7. Return the pan back to medium-high heat and saute the onions, bell peppers and red pepper flakes until the peppers and onions are soft and slightly caramelized, about 5 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, warm the beef tallow (or bacon fat) in a small saucepan until liquid, then transfer to a large bowl. Add the browned beef, sauteed vegetables, parsley, cumin, paprika, scallions and hard-boiled eggs to the bowl of melted fat (the extra fat will keep the filling moist and flavorful). Season the filling with salt and pepper; keep in mind that the filling can be more heavily seasoned since it will be wrapped in a pastry dough. Stir the mixture with a large spoon until it is combined and coated well with the fat.
  9. For the empanada assembly: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  10. Add the eggs and cream to a bowl and whisk until combined.
  11. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let sit for 10 minutes. Dust a work surface with flour. Gently roll out the dough until it is about 1/8 inch thick, flouring frequently to make sure it isn't sticking to the surface. Cut the dough into rounds using a 5-inch ring cutter or even your favorite large coffee mug and a paring knife tracing the outline of the mouth of the cup.
  12. Arrange the round dough pieces on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a spoon, top each round with 2 1/2 ounces of the beef filling. Brush the egg and cream mixture around the edge of each round and fold in half, gently pinching the opposite ends of the round together to create a half-moon shape.
  13. Once all of the empanadas have been filled and closed, use a fork and press the rounded edges to create a seal. Brush the tops with the egg and cream mixture. Bake until done, about 15 minutes.
  14. For the harissa: Combine the oil, caraway, cumin, dried chiles, garlic, mint and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor or blender and puree on low. Once the mixture begins to break down, turn up the speed gradually to create a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper.
  15. Add a smear of harissa to the bottom of each plate, followed by a scoop of the pea salad and an empanada on top.

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