Say "Super Bowl" to Philadelphia chef and restaurateur Jose Garces, and he instantly recalls winter Sundays growing up in Chicago. "While my dad and two brothers and I were watching a Bears football game, empanadas would just appear in front of my lap," he tells All Things Considered for the Found Recipe series.
Every Latin American country boasts its own empanadas — baked or fried pockets of dough stuffed with cheese, meat or some other filling. The empanadas Garces ate as a child reflected his family's Ecuadorean roots.
The chef has shared two empanada recipes with NPR: his mother's Empanadas de Viento, made with queso fresco (found here), and (below) his grandmother's Empanadas de Verde con Pollo.
Recipe: Empanadas de Verde con Pollo
(Green Plantain Empanadas with Braised Chicken)
Makes 12 empanadas
The plantains must be squeezed through a ricer twice to create a smooth dough and develop the starches. The small dough rounds can be refrigerated for a few hours if covered tightly with plastic wrap; same goes for the formed empanadas. But don't push the timing — the dough will begin to dry out and crack after 3 hours. Any leftover chicken filling is excellent in tacos or on a salad.
2 green plantains (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, coarsely cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, coarsely cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 Spanish onion, diced small
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 to 4 cloves)
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked sweet paprika
1 tablespoon achiote paste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 cup chicken stock
1 small Yukon gold potato, peeled, diced small, and blanched
1/2 pound fresh English peas, shelled and blanched
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 scallions (white and green parts), minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying
Aji costeno, for serving
To peel the plantains, split the skins lengthwise with a sharp knife and soak in warm water until the skins are easily removed, about 30 minutes.
To make the dough, bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the plantains until they are soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the plantains to rest in the water until they are cool to the touch.
Pass the cooked plantains through a ricer into a bowl. Rice the plantains a second time. Knead the resulting dough until it is very smooth, about 5 minutes. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature, covered with a damp towel, for 1 hour before making the empanadas.
To make the filling, heat the butter and olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, onion and garlic and cook until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the paprika, achiote paste, tomato paste, and cumin and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the stock, potato, peas, cilantro, parsley and scallions and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Lift out the chicken meat, shred it and mix it back into the filling.
To assemble the empanadas, divide the dough into a dozen 1-inch balls. Using a manual tortilla press, a rolling pin or the heel of your hand, press each dough ball into a circle about 6 inches in diameter. Mound 2 tablespoons of the filling in the center of each round and fold over to form a half-moon shape. Use a dinner fork to crimp the outer edge. Alternatively, use a plastic empanada press from a Latin market.
To cook the empanadas, heat the vegetable oil to 350 degrees in a stockpot, using a candy or deep-fry thermometer to monitor the temperature. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Fry the empanadas in batches until golden brown and crispy, 3 to 4 minutes each, turning once in the oil. Drain them on the baking sheet. Season to taste with salt before serving with aji.
Recipe from The Latin Road Home by Jose Garces. Copyright 2012 by Jose Garces. Excerpted by permission of Lake Isle Press.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
When it comes to the Super Bowl, food is just as important as a big-screen TV on Super Bowl Sunday, which just happens to be four days away. Buffalo wings, if you can find them, nachos, seven-layer dip, pizza, all football game day favorites. But for Chef Jose Garces, football means empanadas.
JOSE GARCES: Growing up in Chicago on a cold winter day, typically on a Sunday afternoon while my dad and two brothers and I were watching a Bears football game, empanadas would just appear in front of my lap, and I would be like, wow, thank you.
CORNISH: Empanadas: baked or fried pockets of dough, stuffed with cheese or meat or some other filling. Jose Garces says they're basically turnovers And every Latin-American country boasts their own variety. Garces owns a number of restaurants, including Amada in Philadelphia. He's one of the Food Network's Iron Chefs and the author of "The Latin Road Home." His parents are from Ecuador. And for our Found Recipe series, Garces wanted to share the two types of empanadas he grew up with, starting with the one he enjoyed on those snowy football Sundays in Chicago.
GARCES: So my mom's empanadas were known as Empanadas de Viento, literally turnovers from the air. They're meant to be nice and light and airy. They're a flour-based dough and usually have a cheese filling. The shell gets all bubbly and crispy on the outside when it fries. Then it gets sprinkled with sugar, which makes it an even more heavenly vehicle for the savory, gooey cheese filling.
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GARCES: The other empanada that I really like to go back to is my grandma's empanada. Her name is Mamita Amada. She's a 91-year-old gal. She lives in Ecuador. She grew up on the coast in Manabi. Very opinionated. She will be the first to tell you if things need salt, herbs or more aromatic vegetables. And she makes a fantastic Empanada de Verde, which is a green plantain-dough empanada.
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GARCES: The plantains are cooked in water until they're almost falling apart. Then they're drained and riced. Once they're riced, they're filled with cheese, and then they're fried and they're crispy. And when I went to open Amada, which I named after my grandma Mamita Amada, I put Amada's empanada on the menu. I brought Mamita Amada to my prep kitchen with my prep staff and I asked her to make these empanadas.
Five to 10 minutes into it, I see her there and she's got the empanadas working, but she has a beer in her hand. She's having a great time with the staff. Five to 10 minutes later, she's rolling out 30 of these things at a clip. Her, just, attitude towards flavor and food has been a huge inspiration. And even at 91, you know, it just means to me that I can cook for a long time hopefully as well.
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CORNISH: Chef Jose Garces. To find his recipes for empanadas, visit the ALL THINGS CONSIDERED page at npr.org.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.