Monday, February 20, 2006


Years ago I read a recipe for Chilean empanadas from Sheila Lukin. Sheila Lukin and Julee Rosso wrote the Silver Palate Cookbooks which in the 80's where THE cookbooks. I have all of them, plus two of Lukin's later cookbooks. The Silver Palate was a catering business and store in Manhattan where I guess you could pop in and buy stuff to take home to dinner. Since Lukins made it in her own small apartment kitchen rather than a professional kitchen, the food had to be good, fresh and not too technical, and the result was a consumer friendly cookbook with tasty and pretty recipes. The food was faintly exotic without actually being from somewhere else. They used a lot of roasted red peppers without being really Italian. They used different kinds of vinegar.

This sounds a little silly today, but when I moved to New York the year The Silver Palate Cookbook was published, I had never used fresh garlic. I was from Ohio. I had been taught to scratch cook--I never used minute rice. But I had also been taught that a can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup was a reasonable substitute for white sauce. The cookbooks used lots of fresh ingredients in tasty ways.

Cooking out of the cookbooks, I learned a lot about Sheila Lukins. She likes vinegar and salt (I am a sweets person.) And she likes phyllo dough. I like phyllo, too, and learned to use it at home to make one of her appetizers, which she called Chilean Empanadas. It was, because of the phyllo dough, one of the more difficult recipes, but using a box of phyllo dough is still a lot easier than say, making my own croissants. I followed the directions about damp kitchen towels and tore a couple of sheets, but I got the hang of it.

Phyllo (the flaky stuff in baklava) is not very Chilean. And the recipe, while true to Chile in some ways (cinnamon and raisins and beef and hard boiled eggs) was decidedly odd in others. It used corned beef, which strikes me as another less than authentic ingredient (maybe there's a large deli in Santiago?) But it was Full of Good Stuff so I made it one time and loved it. A lot. Company always scarfed them down.

I've made it a number of times, but the phyllo dough makes it time consuming. And it makes a lot of little phyllo dough triangles, so if I'm not having a party, I'm not going to make it.

Last week I was looking for recipes to use for a writer's group dinner on Sunday, and I decided that I wanted to pretend it was warm. I decided to make chicken in red mole. Looking on I found a recipe for empanadas made with dough from Cafe Azul. I love reading the responses to the recipes, and every response said the same thing. The dough was wonderful.

I made little mini empanadas stuffed with pumpkin, peanut butter, mushrooms, onions and walnuts, and mini empanadas stuffed with Sheila Lukin's corned beef stuffing. The empanadas were too mini--too much dough for the stuffing. But the dough was really good. Light, buttery and easy.

I had a lot of corned beef stuffing and a lot of dough left over. So tonight for dinner we had Chilean Empanadas Lukin Azul.

I've decided if I want to be a food stylist, I'm either going to need lights, or I'm going to have to start eating dinner earlier on bright sunny days. I made a mango and avocado salsa to go with it.

Chilean Empanadas Lukin Azul

(Feeds six hungry people.)

1/2 cup golden raisins
3 tablespoons sherry
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
12 oz corned beef shredded
1/2 cup black olives, chopped
4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

A batch of Cafe Azul's Pastry Dough (below)
1 egg
1 tablespoon of water

Soak the raisins in sherry (rum works, too) for about thirty minutes until they plump up.

Saute the onions in the olive oil with the pepper and cinnamon. When the olives are translucent, add the corned beef, the raisins and the olives and stir together in saute pan, then pour them into a mixing bowl. Add the chopped eggs and the parsley. Mix and taste. Add salt and pepper if desired. Let cool to room temperature or refrigerate if desired. (Filling stays good for a day, no problem. Freezes for weeks. As does the dough. So you could conceivable make a third of this one night, and stick the dough and the filling in the freezer and a week later, make another empanada.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Divide prepared dough into thirds. Roll or pat one third of the dough into a rough circle (in my case, very rough.) You want the dough to be about a quarter of an inch thick. Plod a third of the filling in the middle and fold the dough over to make a half moon. Crimp the edges.

Make two more. Brush them all with egg wash (beat the egg with the tablespoon of water.) Put empanadas on ungreased baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Cafe Azul's Pastry Dough
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
4 sticks (2 cups) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
About 3/4 cup ice water

Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.

Beat egg with vinegar in a 1-cup measure using a fork, then add enough ice water to measure 1 cup total. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until incorporated.

Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently with heel of your hand just enough to bring dough together. Roll out or pat into a 15- by 9-inch rectangle. Arrange dough with short side nearest you, then fold into thirds like a letter to form a roughly 5- by 9-inch rectangle. Chill dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour and up to 6 (do not chill longer or dough will discolor).


Blogger Derryl Murphy said...

I heard Lukin interviewed a while ago, I think on As It Happens on CBC Radio. She was selling the biz and moving on. Thanks for posting the recipe.


February 22, 2006 1:09 AM  

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