Friday, February 18, 2011

Beef and Cheese Empanadas (Or, How Two Wrongs Made a Right)

I know I may seem to you all like an accomplished three star Michelin chef, but I'm going to let you in on a little secret: sometimes the food I make sucks!

That's right, I'm woman enough to admit it. It's what happens when you try to invent your own recipes based on knowledge cobbled together from old Food Network shows and stuff you have laying around in the pantry.

I try not to include sucky recipes on Cooking for One, but I recently had a suckfest that I thought might at least win me some chuckles. Here's the story:

My friend Rachel invited a bunch of us over for a Superbowl potluck party. This, of course, sent me into a fit of excited giggles like Ina Garten at the thought of hosting a gay supper club.

I planned to give 'em the old razzle dazzle with some mini vanilla cheesecakes with blueberry ganache topping and pumpkin and goat cheese empanadas. How I envisioned the party going:

Here is what actually happened:

Mini Vanilla Cheesecakes with Blueberry Ganache Topping

The inspiration for these came from my lovely former roommate Danielle who is a cheesecake making fiend.

I had made these babies once before for my boyfriend's graduation party and they turned out pretty well, so I figured they were a sure thing. I'm still not really sure where it all went wrong.

Basically, the way you make them is by mixing some graham cracker crumbs with melted butter and pressing them into mini muffin pans to form the crust, and then pour the cheesecake mixture over them.

Then you melt some chocolate with heavy whipping cream for the ganache, and that becomes the glue to stick a blueberry onto each cheesecake. Cute, right?


Not sure where things went awry, but out of the twenty four cheesecakes I intended to bring to the party, only about fifteen made it successfully out of the muffin pans without crumbling into a mess (highly reminiscent of Failcake).

For some reason the cake part never really adhered to the crust, so when I popped them out of the pan, the crust remained behind like little piles of sawdust.

I decided to salvage the fifteen that kind of made it out successfully and topped them with the chocolate and blueberry to bring to the party. Even still, they tasted dried out and not something I would ever include on Cooking for One except to laugh at.

Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Empanadas

Now you may be thinking to yourselves, "Stacy, those don't even SOUND good! Why would you make those?!"

The inspiration came from my recent trip to Argentina, where I feasted upon empanadas. The best ones my friend Megan and I tried were pumpkin, corn, and cheese empanadas that were unbelievably delicious.

In my warped delusions of culinary grandeur, I thought I could replicate the native Argentinian cuisine with nothing but Pillsbury crescent dough and a sense of my own self-worth.

I made the filling with pumpkin puree, sage, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. In a flash of insight, I decided to try the filling before I actually made the empanadas. I was as disgusted as Ina Garten after tasting batter that didn't use GOOD vanilla.

It was salty, bitter, and nasty. I even tried microwaving it to see if the filling would taste better warm, and it didn't, so I just threw it all out. Strike two for this Superbowl party.

Beef and Cheese Empanadas

Now faced with the prospect of having one mediocre dessert to bring to the potluck, I needed to get resourceful. I still had my Pillsbury crescent dough for the empanadas (the grocery store didn't sell empanada shells and I'd be damned if I was gonna make them from scratch!) so I figured maybe I could just change the filling.

Hallelujah, they turned out delicious! They took a really long time to stuff and I'm not sure I would ever make them again because of that, but they tasted great and were a hit at the party. So, without further ado, my Beef and Cheese Empanadas.

  • 4 tubes Pillsbury Crescent Roll Dough. I used the reduced fat kind.
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • Salt n' pepa to taste
  • 1/2 package of Mexican cheese blend shredded cheese
This will make 32 empanadas, so feel free to adjust quantities based on the size of your crowd. If you are Cooking for One, you can also always make a big batch for yourself and freeze them for a quick snack later.


Peel and chop up your onion and throw it into a saucepan with a drizzle of olive oil over medium high heat.

Once the onion is softened and translucent, add the chili powder, oregano, cumin, and garlic.

After just a minute, add your ground beef and crumble with a large wooden spoon to mix in all the spices. Once the beef is browned after several minutes, go ahead and pour in the diced tomatoes, juice and all (I kinda jumped the gun and did it early.)

Let the mixture simmer for several minutes so the flavors get all incorporated. Taste it and add salt and pepper if necessary. Then take it off the heat to cool down before stuffing the empanadas. You should also skim off some of the fat.

If you are making this ahead of time for a party the next day, you can just refrigerate the filling and stuff them the next day.

Time to get your hands dirty! This part took forever and was kinda annoying cause I was making 32 empanadas. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and cover three baking sheets with aluminum foil.

Pop open your dough and separate it into the eight perforated triangles on a baking sheet.

Add a sprinkle of Mexican cheese to one corner of the triangle and about a tablespoon of the beef filling (don't overstuff!) Then fold the other corner over the filling and pinch the open edges together to seal. It's not the end of the world if they don't close all the way.

Continue until you feel like you want to claw your eyes out and your fingers reek of beef. Remind yourself that these will taste delightful and be worth it.

Once all the trays are filled, pop them in the oven to bake for about 14 mins, or until they are golden brown.

All's well that ends well!

Crisis averted, and I had a party appetizer to offer. And in honor of the winner of my last Cooking for One Contest, I am going to close with:

"Next stop, Munch Town. Population: you." --Matt Ogren

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