Comfort Food. It can mean different things to different people, but when most people think of comfort food, they think of something rich and hearty. The empanada easily falls into the category of “Comfort Food,” which is probably why so many different countries and cultures have their own versions of this dish. Empanadas (and their variations) were created to be a portable, easy-to-eat, high-calorie comfort food for working class people who spent the entire day engaged in physical labor. The calzone, the pasty, the pierogi, the gyoza, and even the Hot Pocket are proof that people all around the world love pastries filled with meat.
National Empanada Day (May 8th) got me thinking about how much I love hearty meat pies. It also reminded me that my deep fryer hasn’t had much use lately and this would be a perfect day for busting it out and dusting it off. I followed this recipe from AllRecipes.com for the empanada pastry, but decided to create a “breakfast” version by changing the filling to one made with bacon and eggs. These would be delicious at lunch or dinner, topped with sour cream and served with a side salad or some roasted veggies. If you don’t have a deep fryer, you could deep-fry these in a Dutch oven filled with your preferred frying oil.
Ingredients for the pastry:
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup cold bacon grease
1 1/4 cups water, or as needed
For the filling:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 -1/2 pounds bacon, ground or finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
cayenne pepper to taste
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and chopped
1 quart oil for frying, or as needed
1. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Cut in shortening & bacon grease using a pastry blender, or pinching into small pieces using your fingers, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Use a fork to stir in water a few tablespoons at a time, until the mixture forms a ball. Pat into a ball, and flatten slightly. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender. Chop the bacon strips and add to the pan. Cook until brown and crispy. Season with salt, paprika, cumin and black pepper. Drain excess grease. Refrigerate until chilled, then stir in the hard-cooked eggs.
3. Form the dough into 2 inch balls. On a floured surface, roll each ball out into a thin circle. Spoon some of the meat mixture onto the center, then fold into half-moon shapes. Seal edges by pressing with a fork. If the empanadas come apart, seal the edges with a brushing of egg wash.
4. Heat oil in a deep-fryer to 365 degrees F (180 degrees C). Place one or two pies into the fryer at a time. Cook for about 5 minutes, turning once to brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels, and serve hot.