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Beef Empanadas, Traditional Chimichurri

Beef Empanadas, Traditional Chimichurri Recipe - The Rio Grande Valley was once the Valhalla of dove shooting. I say “shooting” and not “hunting” for a reason, and that is because it was just that…plain old shooting. I refuse to misrepresent it by calling it “hunting,” because it would have really only been challenging if you had to use a tennis racquet instead of a shotgun. By the late 1980s, however, the area had been overhunted. The local authorities had gotten so bad about shaking down the outfitters, and rides had gotten so long from the lodges to fields where there were allegedly birds, that the destination lost its appeal.
Argentina became the next go-to for slaughtering doves. The facilities are nicer, the people are friendlier, and the food is insane! I have been going down there to shoot for over twenty-five years now, and I go as much for the food as anything else.
The first time beef empanadas with chimichurri crossed my lips, I was weak-kneed in love. These little packages of beefy goodness deliver an unimaginable punch of sweet-spicy-savory in the mouth. I could only eat these faster if I had a third arm. If you’re looking for a shortcut, you can substitute frozen pie dough, thawed, for the pastry dough and still get a very nice end empanada.

SERVES 10
MAKES ABOUT 16 TO 20 EMPANADAS
Beef Empanadas, Traditional Chimichurri Recipe

Ingredients

Filling
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ cups diced yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1½ cups diced green bell pepper
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 cup pitted green olives, chopped
  • ¾ cup chopped raisins
  • ½ cup chopped pimento
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce, preferably Crystal (Texas Pete or Frank’s will be fine substitutes)
  • 4 egg whites

Pastry Dough
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Chimichurri
  • 2 cups finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1½ cups finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 4½ tablespoons minced fresh oregano
  • ½ cup minced shallot
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
  • 1¾ cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup red wine vinegar
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon milk

How to make Beef Empanadas, Traditional Chimichurri

  1. MAKE THE FILLING Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat until it begins to shimmer. Stir in onion, garlic, and bell pepper and sauté until the onion is transparent. Raise the heat to high and add the ground beef. Season with the cumin, cayenne, salt, and black pepper and cook, stirring constantly to break up the clumps of meat, until fully cooked.
  2. Stir in the olives, raisins, pimento, honey, and hot sauce. Cook until the liquid has evaporated and the flavors have blended, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate. When completely cold, remove from the fridge and stir in the egg whites.
  3. MAKE THE PASTRY DOUGH In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese, and cream at low speed until thoroughly combined. Add the flour and salt and blend until just combined and the dough holds together. Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Divide into two pieces. Flatten into disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or, ideally, overnight. (If you refrigerate overnight, take the dough out 15 minutes before rolling to allow it to warm up slightly.)
  4. Place one of the disks on a floured work surface. Roll out gently from the center of the dough to the top and bottom edges. Rotate the disk and roll to the top and bottom edges again. Reflour the work surface and the dough lightly, turn over the dough, and continue to roll from the center out to the edges. Turn over and roll out again, rotating the disk to ensure even rolling, until the dough is about ¼ inch thick. Using a large circular cutter or an overturned bowl, cut out 4-inch circles. Gather the dough scraps and continue rolling out and cutting. Repeat with the second disk of dough and set aside the rounds. This should make about 16 to 20 rounds total.
  5. MAKE THE CHIMICHURRI Combine the cilantro, parsley, oregano, shallot, garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil, and vinegar in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Season with salt and black pepper. Refrigerate, covered, in a plastic or glass container.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Spread out all the dough circles on a floured work surface. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with the milk to make an egg wash. Place ¼ cup of filling on one side of a dough round. Brush the edges of the dough with the egg wash. Fold the dough over the filling to form a half-moon. Crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat until all of the dough rounds and filling have been used.
  8. Place the empanadas on the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes. Prick each empanada on top twice with a fork. Brush some egg wash over each empanada. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.
  9. Serve the empanadas warm, drizzled with chimichurri. The empanadas can be frozen after they are formed; freeze on a baking sheet and remove to a zip-top bag for longer storage. To cook from frozen, preheat the oven to 275°F, remove them from the freezer, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the empanadas in the oven for 20 minutes. Turn the heat up to 375°F and allow empanadas to cook about 20 more minutes, or until golden brown.