My sister is getting married in Puerto Rico next month, so my mom and I decided to throw her a Latin-themed bridal shower to get everyone pumped for the big tropical wedding weekend.
We had the entree portion catered by Manna restaurant in Takoma Park, a great authentic Dominican/Puerto Rican take-out joint. I had to test the food prior to hiring them so I went there for lunch once and had the mofongo, a dish that I fell in love with last time I went to Puerto Rico. It was bangin! Fried, mashed plantains served over a salad with all sorts of fixins and crispy pork. Delish. Mofongo isn't great for a catered event since it can get soggy if left out, so instead we got a mixed grill of seasoned beef, chicken, and shrimp along with some fried yuca, fried sweet plantains, rice and lentils, and black beans. Everything came out SO flavorful and the guests raved. If you are in need of authentic Latin catering, or are just driving through Takoma Park, I highly recommend stopping by Manna for a bite. They are so darn friendly too!
Anyway, back to the subject. For appetizers, my mom made tortilla roll-ups, a classic app in my family (perhaps I'll post it in the future), we had chips and a variety of salsas/guacamole, and I made beef empanadas. Smitten Kitchen never fails me!! I made the filling and the dough ahead of time so that the day of, all I had to do was roll out the dough, fill and bake them. Luckily I had my aunt as a helper, because this is time-consuming work, especially when you're trying to decorate a house for a shower at the same time.
You can buy pre-made empanada disks to save time, but if you do have the time to spend, homemade dough is much better. See below for the dough and empanada recipes.
from Smitten Kitchen
makes just enough dough for the empanada recipe below
4 1/2 cups flour (per her recommendation, I used 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour + 3 cups reg)
3 tsp salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 large eggs
2/3 cup ice water
2 tbsp white vinegar
Sift flour and salt together in a large bowl into a large bowl and blend in the butter with your fingers or a pastry blender so that there are still some chunks of butter (pea-size). I actually did this in my food processor with the dough hook, carefully pulsing so that the butter didn't break up too much. It only takes about 10 seconds to combine it. Separately, beat together the eggs, ice water, and vinegar. Add to the flour mixture and stir just until incorporated. Turn out onto a floured surface and gather together then knead just until the dough is all brought together. You don't want to overwork or heat it up too much. Divide dough in half, flatten into disks, wrap completely with saran wrap, and chill for at least an hour or up to 6 hours. I stuck mine in the freezer since I didn't need it for a few days.
slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 lb ground beef chuck (you can substitute with turkey or chicken to make it healthier)
4 tbsp dried cranberries
3 tbsp chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice, chopped with 4 tbsp juice reserved
empanada dough (above)
Cook onion in a skillet over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beef and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Add the cranberries, olives, some salt and pepper, and tomatoes with the reserved juice. Cook on medium, stirring occasionally, until liquid is mostly gone, about 10 minutes. Stir in hard boiled eggs and let cool.
Once ready to make the empanadas, preheat the oven to 4oo° and either grease 2 baking sheets or cover them in parchment paper. Roll out one of the empanada dough disks to about 1/8" thick. Use a circular cookie cutter (I used a ~3.5" diameter plastic cup for appetizer size empanadas) to create the disks. Roll out the extra dough to make as many disks as possible.
Fill each disk with a teaspoonful of empanada mixture, leaving 1/4" edge to seal. Wet the edge with some water (I dipped my fingers in a bowl of water then ran it along the edge) then fold over and seal. Crimp with a fork to get a good seal. You want to make sure each empanada is sealed well so it doesn't leak in the oven. Add more or less mixture depending on how large you want your empanadas to be, but be careful not to overfill; that is always my downfall.
Arrange empanadas on prepared baking sheets and brush with the eggwash. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden and crispy. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.