Friday, March 20, 2009

Empanada Wrappers at El Patio Market

Make your own empanadas with a spectacular convenience food in the freezer at El Patio Market in Jessup.

El Patio sells its own empanadas -- to be either heated at the store or carried home for dinner. But the freezer also holds packages of Fargo-brand empanada wrappers -- thick rounds of dough ready to be filled with anything that your heart desires.

I have always had a soft spot for empanadas. I learned to cook when I moved to Florida for my first job and worked through a Moosewood book of ethnic food. One of my recipes was empanadas stuffed with a mix of potatoes, onions, peppers and cheese. Sundays at Moosewood called for frying them. After coating that studio apartment with oil a few times, I shifted to baking those babies. Simpler, but it still involved making dough, which was sticky and slow.

El Patio's empanada wrappers solve that all. The 16 wrappers, imported from Argentina, come separated by waxed paper. I peeled each from the pack, stuffed the filling as I folded it in half,
and crimped the edges. Baked about 12 minutes at 400 degrees, they were browned and delicious. We ate them with Trader Joe's Corn & Chile Salsa. Super easy, and the truth is that you could stuff them with anything.

This is one of the best little tools that I have found at a market. They'll stay in the freezer. They could be part of some fancy dinner, or I could make filling the night before and use them as a super-fast weeknight meal. Sixteen pastries fed us three meals, including brown-bag lunches where the empanadas did well.

(Update:  See the comment from Marianne about sweet empanada fillings in Texas.  You could fill these pastries with anything.)

Notice that El Patio sells two versions of the wrappers -- one for frying and one for the oven. They're clearly labelled in English and Spanish, and the blue one above is for baking in the oven. While you're at El Patio, grab a Super Mango Lollipop or one of the peanut brittles near the cash register. If you like empanadas, you should check out the Jamaican patties at Golden Krust Bakery in Catonsville.

El Patio Market
7968 Washington Boulevard (U.S. 1)
Jessup, MD 20794

NEAR: Just south of Rte 175 on U.S. 1. It's on the east side about a block south of the intersection. Very convenient from I-95.

Vegetarian Empanadas (adapted from Sundays At Moosewood)

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 small onions or large shallots, sliced
1/2 sweet pepper (maybe red?), sliced
1 c. fresh or canned corn (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 c. cream cheese
1 c. (or less) cheddar cheese, shredded
1 package of Fargo empanada wrappers, defrosted at least overnight in the fridge.

1) Preheat the oven to 400
2) Boil a pot of water and drop in the potatoes. Cook them until their tender. Check at about eight minutes and then keep checking. Drain the potatoes.
3) While the potatoes are cooking, saute the onions and peppers in a little bit of oil over medium heat. When they soften, add the spices (and the corn if you want). Saute another minutes. Then pour all the vegetables into a bowl.
4) Mash the potatoes in a second bowl. Add the cheese slowly. Use as much cheddar cheese as you want. (The original recipe called for two cups of cheese. That is too much for me.)
5) Add the other vegetables to the potatoes and mix.
6) Take a wrapper from the package. Put filling on half of the wrapper, leaving space around the edges. Fold the wrapper over the filling and press the edges together with your fingers.
7) Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the empanadas brown. The filling is all cooked, so you just want the empanadas to look browned.
8) Serve hot. They're great with Trader Joe's Corn & Chile Salsa.

There is nothing sacred about this recipe or these amounts. You could stuff the empanadas with anything that was chunky and solid/dry enough not to soak through the wrapper as it bakes.  Marianne comments below about sweet fillings in Texas.


Marianne said...

In South Texas, they make empanadas with sweet fillings like pumpkin, apple, lemon, pineapple, etc. You should try making those.

HowChow said...

Great idea. Any suggestions for recipes -- or a cookbook that might have them?