Ah, empanadas. Hand pies. Calzones. Pasties. Samosas.
Whatever you call them in your home, these little purse-shaped bread pockets have quite a history. Before I dive into all that, though, I must say that in all honesty, this post was inspired by my brother’s girlfriend, Michelle. She posted photos on Facebook of salted caramel apple hand pies that she made using a recipe from Just a Taste. They looked SO good. I just had to have a go at savory empanadas.
Perhaps originating in Galicia (the northwesternmost region of Spain), the word “empanada” derives from the Spanish verb “empanar”, meaning to wrap in bread. Being a region most famous for its bountiful “mariscos” (seafood), Galicians began making Empanadas Gallegas filled with things like cod, mussels, and octopus.
Galicia has a very special place in my heart, as it was the location of my college study abroad trip. While in Santiago de Compostela, my Señora (host-mother) made vegetarian empanadas as well as a cinnamon-apple variety for me to take on a field trip to the beautiful coastal city of A Coruña. Ugh, I wish I had taken photos of her amazing food. The empanada crust was slightly browned and crunchy, but it held the fillings perfectly. She also taught me how to make the classic Spanish tapas dish, Tortilla de Patatas.
Back to my little take on savory empanadas, though, here’s how I made my version.
I had a store-bought pie crust in the fridge. I also had a spare sweet potato and a few onions lying around… so I caramelized the onions with a little butter and took the easy way out by cooking the sweet potato in the microwave.
Then, in a medium bowl, I mixed the sweet potato flesh and cooked onions with some parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, minced fresh sage, and a pinch of nutmeg. I used an upside-down cup to cut perfect little circles in the rolled-out pie crust.
With a circle of dough in my hand, I added a small spoonful of the sweet potato mixture, gave the rim of each circle a tiny bit of egg wash, folded, and crimped the pie closed with a fork. I also used the fork to prick each empanada, to allow steam to escape. Lastly, I brushed the top of each little pie with egg wash and sprinkled a bit of flaky Maldon sea salt.
After about 15 minutes in a 375° oven, they were done — a nice golden brown on top. Delish! Oh, and Richard totally approves of these little gems.
Seriously though, you can make savory vegetarian empanadas with any produce that you have lying around. Throw in shredded or grated cheese and any complementary spices or herbs, and you’re set!