Empanadas de Betabel
I love roasted beets. When I was doing research for an Oaxacan Dinner Party I had on Saturday, I found saw a recipe in Susana Trilling’s great Oaxacan cookbook Seasons of My Heart. Her recipe for Empanadas de Betabel (Empanadas with Beets) stood out to me. The recipe also incorporated fresh corn which I had also planned to use for the party. Her method was to boil the beets I roasted mine. In her recipe the empanadas were cooked on a camal. I did them on a camal for the dinner party, but last night I had some oil in a pan because I was making enchiladas, so I fried them and I think they actually came out better fried. On the night of the party I also paired them with home made Mole Verde, last night I just squiggled on a little crema and tossed on some cilantro. I used golden beets because that is what was available grown locally. I am sure red beets would change the color of the filling significantly. These can be made with or without cheese… but I really love cheese. I added a few things to her original inspiration and lessened the cooking time for the filling.
For the filling:
1 pound of fresh beets (I used golden because that is what was locally available)
1 medium white onion, finely chopped (I like to use red onions, but white onions are used in Mexico most of the time)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons garlic finely minced
Corn cut from 3 fresh ears of corn, about 2 cups (In a pinch you could use frozen)
¼ cup fresh roasted green chiles diced (you could use canned, but fresh is so much better)
1 teaspoon smoked salt (sea salt is fine, I make smoked salt and love the flavor)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ cup fresh epazote leaves chopped (you can substitute cilantro or parsley if you cannot find fresh epazote, but the flavor will be different)
12 ounces quesillo shredded (if you cannot find quesillo, any good white melting cheese works, such as Jack, Gouda or Manchego)
For the masa:
3 cups masa harina
2 cups chicken stock
¼ teaspoon of salt
A pinch of chili powder
METHOD FOR THE FILLING:
Wrap the beets in heavy duty foil with a few garlic cloves and drizzle on some olive oil and sea salt. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, pull or cut off the skin. Then dice into ¼ inch pieces and set aside.
In an 8 inch frying pan over medium heat, fry the onions in the oil and butter till translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more. Add the corn kernels & chiles and cook for another 3-5 minutes more. Add the seasonings, beets, salt, pepper and epazote. Cook for a few minutes just to blend flavors. Put the filling in a bowl and cool slightly till you can put the mixture in your hands.
Have the shredded cheese available in a second bowl.
METHOD FOR THE MASA:
Pre-heat a comal or griddle over medium heat
Mix the stock and seasonings into the masa. You want a soft slightly wet dough, wetter than for tortillas. Knead for about 1 minute. Divide the dough into 10 balls, slightly larger than a golf ball. Using a tortilla press, put a piece of a plastic shopping bag on the bottom of the press and then place the ball of dough and top with a second piece of plastic. Press down wiggling the handle a bit to flatten the dough. Pick the circle (looks just like a tortilla at this point) up in your hand and while cradling it fill it with about 3 tablespoons of cheese, then 2 tablespoons of the beet and corn filling. Seal the edges with water and pinch all the way around.
To cook the empanadas; place on a hot comal and allow to brown on each side for about 3-5 minutes. Serve immediately or keep warm in a warming oven. I served these with green mole and crema.
Alternative; have about 1 inch of oil in a small frying pan at medium heat and fry the empanadas, then place on paper towels to drain. Serve immediately with a drizzle of crema and fresh chopped cilantro.