Cuban Media Noche Empanadas
I’ve been making empanadas for years now, inspired by my Grandmother who diligently prepared these cocktail size turnovers and filled them with a traditional sweet/savory ground beef mixture, or Picadillo as known in Latin American cooking. For years I have been working on perfecting her pastry recipe, searching for the perfect pliability and texture. I have changed it quite drastically and no longer fry the little hand held pies, but bake them. The dough is silky smooth yet still flakey and egg wash provides a lovely gloss. Frying is of course easy and delicious, but tends to mask flavors in the filling, not to mention it’s not the healthier option.
In an effort to combine two of my favorite eats, empanadas and the Cuban sandwich, I’ve created a Cuban Media Noche Empanada. In this version I wanted to capture all the traditional flavors of the sandwich without sacrificing the pastry dough. Too much moisture in the filling and you get a soggy pie, so pickles are served on the side. I also decided to enhance the pork by braising it in a combination of citrus juices and aromatics rather than roasting. I eliminated the mustard and mayonnaise spread in the filling but instead added mustard to the braising liquid reduction as not to lose that special tang that only mustard has. I skipped the mayo altogether. And in the spirit of forever creating my own twist, I made a roasted garlic pastry dough. Served on the side, the acidity and crispness of vinegary pickles cut through porky, salty, hammy, cheesy richness and rounds out the flakey dough and sweet-tart of the citrus bathed pig.
Basic Empanada Dough – quantity varies depending on size
- 3 Cups flour
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable shortening
- 1 Tablespoon vinegar
- 2 eggs, plus 1 egg white
- ½ Cup cold water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut-in shortening until it’s well combined and broken into flour. Make a well in center of flour. In another bowl, whisk together 1 egg plus 1 egg white, water and vinegar and pour into well in flour bowl. Using a fork, incorporate the flour into wet contents. Once its too difficult to combine with a fork, transfer mixture to a dry surface and kneed the dough until smooth. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to two days. Any longer than that, you should start over.
Once you have prepared your filling, roll out the dough to about ¼” thickness. Cut into circles, size of your choice. Place filling in center. Using your finger or a small dab the edge of half of each circle with water. Fold the dry edge half of the circle to cover the filling and press down to stick to the damp edge. Crimp edges with a fork. Brush tops with egg wash and bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Citrus Braised Pork
- 4-5 lbs. bone-in pork shoulder
- 3 Tablespoons cumin
- 3 Tablespoons fresh ground coriander
- 3 Tablespoons salt
- 3 Tablespoons black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons neutral oil
- 3 Cups chicken stock
- 2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
- Cloves from 1 head of garlic, skins removed
- 1 Cup orange juice
- ½ Cup lime juice
- 3 bay leaves
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 sprigs fresh oregano
- 1 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub pork with cumin, coriander, salt and pepper. On medium-high heat, heat oil in heavy bottomed pot. When oil is shimmering, brown pork on all sides. Once browned, add all remaining ingredients. Cover and transfer to oven. Braise for about 1 ½ – 2 hours. When ready, remove pork from liquid and let cool. Once cool, shred pork in small pieces.
Strain the liquid into a pot and reduced on med-high heat. Whisk in mustard and reduce by about 2/3. Adjust seasoning as necessary. Pour over shredded pork and let rest for at least two hours.