The weather started warming up here this past week, and for a hot second I thought spring was on its way early, but then the thermometer dipped back down again and the gorge winds started blowing hard and cold. It dried out enough for me to nearly finish off the pile of compost I had delivered; I spread most of it around the empty vegetable garden, raking here and there, and ripping out the dead skeletons of the vegetables from last summer that I’d forgotten to take out before winter hit. But then I discovered some plants that I’d left and forgotten about that had overwintered. The golden beets and potatoes that were too small to harvest in the fall ended up staying nice and fresh in the ground over the past few months and started growing again, so I pulled out my pleasant surprises and decided to make some wintery root vegetable empanadas with them.
I’ve perfected my empanada dough recipe over the years, and it’s mainly a whole lot of butter. But I also use onion powder and delicious stock to give it an extra-savory kick. I used Progresso’s unsalted chicken cooking stock, it’s made from good old-fashioned chicken bones and has a really comforting and rich flavor to it. You could also use their vegetable cooking stock if you want to keep the empanadas entirely vegetarian, I just love the hint of chicken the stock adds, but their vegetable stock is great, too.
For the filling, I sautéed together some onion, garlic, and bay leaf in olive oil to help soften them, then added the potatoes, beets and some more stock and let it all reduce down together to left the flavors become more concentrated and allow the root veggies to cook nearly through (but not quite). Then I added some seasonings and crumbled feta, let it cool, and then rolled out the dough and stuffed it nice and tidy-like. You don’t want to over stuff these since it will be a huge pain to try and fold them properly if the filling keeps coming out of the edges. To get the beautiful twisted edge, I highly recommend watching this youtube video, it’s hard to explain by just writing instructions and is better if you watch her hands closely. Basically you’re just folding the edge down, pinching it in place, and repeating it along the whole edge of the empanada. It’s really easy once you get the hang of it, but the first few you make will probably be a little wonky-looking until you get the hang of it. Once you’re done and these guys come out of the oven, though, the smell alone will let you know that you’re tedious folding adventure was more than worth it 😉
For the dough, mix together the flour, onion powder, and salt in a large bowl until combined. Cut the butter into pea-size pieces over the bowl of flour. Pinch the butter with the flour between your fingers until a crumbly sand-like mixture forms. Add the egg and knead it into the dough. Add the vegetable stock, 1 tablespoon at a time, kneading until a smooth dough forms. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
For the filling, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and bay leaf and sauté until the onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the regular potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beet and stir to combine. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring about every 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, salt, pepper, oregano, mustard powder, and garlic powder and stir to combine. Allow the mixture to continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated and the beets have nearly (but not completely) cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside
to cool to warm. Stir in the feta.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll out the dough on a clean and lightly floured work surface until it is about 1/8-inch thick. Use a 4-inch circular cookie cutter to cut out one dough round. Spoon about 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling onto the bottom half of the round. Dip your finger in a glass of water and trace it around the edge of the top half of the dough. Fold it over the bottom half and press the edges together to seal.
To create the the braided-looking edge start at one corner of the sealed empanada and fold the corner up over the top of the empanada, pinching it together with the top of the empanada once you fold it. Repeat this again with the new corner that formed at the base of the last fold and continue until sealed all the way along the edge. You can watch the technique here. Place the empanada on a baking sheet.
Repeat with the remaining ingredients, spacing the empanadas about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. This may take a while, so I recommend keeping a kitchen towel over the rolled-out dough to keep it from drying out and becoming unpliable. Once you’ve filled the sheet with empanadas, brush the empanadas with the egg wash and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until puffy and golden. Let cool for 30 minutes before serving.