August 30, 2017


My level of preparedness here is shockingly out of character
Mankind has, throughout its storied history of expelling gasses with varied effects on the immediate environment, struggled with one all-important goal. Delicious food that you can carry with you and eat on the go without getting your hands full of crap. Many different solutions to this eternal search have been tried. Burgers are too messy. Burritos had promise, but towards the end they can be even worse than burgers. Moms across the world put in a bid for fresh fruit, but most fruit leaves you carrying some form of garbage with you afterwards until you can find the nearest trash can (a problem made even more severe by the fact that throughout most of human history the trash can hadn't been invented yet). Fortunately, the great minds of a generation got together and decided it was a good idea to just stuff delicious meats and vegetables and whatnot inside some flaky pie dough and call it a day. It's in their crumb-littered footsteps that we follow.


3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
6 oz. Vegetable Shortening
1 Egg
Roughly 1/3 a Cup of Water
1 lb. Ground Beef
1 Green Pepper
1 Red Pepper
1 standard-issue Onion
4 oz. Crimini Mushrooms
4 Cloves Garlic
1 Cup Vegetable Stock (Sure, you could use store-bought stock that tastes like nothing. Or you can make an entire pot of vegetable stock even though you only need a cup of it, and freeze the rest. You know, like a winner)
1 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar
1 TBSP Ground Cumin
2 tsp Dried Oregano
1.5 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
Vegetable Oil

Yes, that's a lot of ingredients. I know that I usually try and make recipes without long and daunting lists of things you need to buy and/or prepare, and that the sight of this may be a bit of a shock to some of you. I can offer you this solemn advice, given to me by my grade school administrator in the aftermath of the debacle that ensued when a teacher tried to physically restrain me from getting an inhaler when I was having an asthma attack in class:

Get over it

And sure, from the mouth of that administrator it may have been criminally negligent, but here it's pretty appropriate. You're making two things, a dough and a filling. It's not like I'm asking you to make a dipping sauce, a side salad, and a vegetable puree to go with it. Now that I've sufficiently asserted my dominance, let's get started. Use a whisk or a fork to mix your flour and a large human's pinch of salt. Add in your vegetable shortening and mix it together with your hands, kind of squishing it as you go, until all the flour is incorporated, and everything is crumbly bits. Kind of like food sand. Mix in your egg and then stir in water slowly until a loose dough forms. Cover your dough with plastic wrap, and throw it in the fridge for 1/2 an hour. After 15 minutes it's traditional to suddenly remember that you forgot to add in an egg and then frantically grab the dough out of the fridge and add it in, hoping that it won't make too much of a difference. But that part is optional.

Told you. Whole damn pot of vegetable stock.
While your dough is relaxing in its chilled isolation chamber, start working on your filling. Start by chopping your onion, peppers, mushrooms, and garlic into tiny little bits. Remember, this is all going inside a handheld pastry, so you don't exactly want giant bits of anything making it hard to eat. Get a pan good and hot, then coat it in oil and throw in your ground beef (Being more Jewish than most people in the world, I use kosher meat, which already has a fair amount of salt in it. If you don't, because you' know...normal, add in a pinch of salt).  Brown it as best as you can, and remove it from the pan, preferably with a spoon or other hand-tool, but if need be with your bare hands. You know, like a man. Then add in your onions along with a pinch of salt. Cook the onions until they just start to get some color and then add in your mushrooms, peppers, and garlic, along with another pinch of salt. Cook everything down until the peppers start to soften and the mushrooms shrink down to the point that you wonder if you forgot to add them in the first place, but you check your fridge and there are definitely no mushrooms there so you start to wonder if the entire memory of buying mushrooms was a false memory your brain provided to cover up some trauma. Then add in your vegetable stock, vinegar, cumin, oregano, paprika and cayenne, stir that mess together, making sure to scrape up any brown crusty bits from the bottom of the pan to join the party, and keep cooking it until your meat mixture is nice and saucy, but when you take out a spoonful no liquid runs in to fill the gap. Turn off your fire, and let that whole mixture cool down to room temperature.

The hardest part of this recipe was not eating these long
enough to get a decent picture. 
 Now it's time for the fun part, and by "fun" I mean "mind-shatteringly frustrating." Roll out your dough until it's about 1/8 of an inch thick. It should be thin and easy to work with, but still sturdy. Cut out rounds using a cookie cutter, a drinking glass, or the perfectly round hole in your soul, and start stuffing them with your meat mixture. Add in too little and you'll end up just eating dough, but add into much and they'll break and explode everywhere, and all of your friends will laugh at you. Have fun! Basically, you want to dollop some of your mix into your dough disc, and then bend one end over to form a kind of dumpling with a meat pocket inside. Press down along the edge with a fork to seal it (Fun fact: pressing on it with a fork is also how the US government seals many things, most notably foreign trade agreement), and repeat until you run out of dough, run out of innards, or give up in a cloud of rage and inadequacy. In any case, grease a baking pan and throw your empanadas into a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until they start getting golden brown and look incredible. Then just wait for them to cool, give up, eat them, and burn your mouth. Totally worth it.

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