Category Archives: Recipes

Crab Rellenos: Cangrejo Rellenos

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Crab Rellenos

Here in the low country, Blue Crabs abound. But what do you do with all of that crab meat? It is sweet stuff, but not served on the half shell like Dungeness or King Crab. You have to meticulously pick the crab from her tiny shells. So this will be the first in a series of crab adventures. Things you can do with this lovely little Low Country crustacean.

blue-crab-

Day 1:

Make the sauce (below) this can be made up to a week in advance

Make basic filling using 1 pound of crab meat. Here is a primer on how to cook and pick the crabs. You can of course always go to your fish monger and get a pound of crab meat. It is available pasturized in cans. If you buy this, ask for lump meat.

Whip 2 large packages of cream cheese. Add them to the crab and thoroughly blend. Remove 1/3 of this mixture for crab rangoon, tomorrow’s treat.

Ingredients for Relleno Base:

3 ears of grilled Corn on the Cob, cut from the cob

1 cup of grated sharp cheddar, 1 cup of grated jack cheese

1/2 cup of fresh cojita cheese crumbles

2 red onions medium chop, sauteed and caramelized

Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic into the onions for the last 4 minutes of cooking.

3 green onions finely chopped

1/2 cup slow roasted grape tomatoes cut in quarters

Stir all of this together  

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Poblano Peppers (you can also use the smaller, thinner Anaheim Chile), slit clean and roasted then peel. This part can be tricky. I have learned that if you remove the seeds and membranes before putting them on the grill, they come out easier and there is less ripping of the pepper. Do this by making a T shaped cut, horizontally across the top and then one vertical slit from top to bottom. This picture is of Anaheim chiles on the grill. Grilling-Poblano-PeppersWhenever I grill peppers, I always retain few, usually ones that have torn to be used in sauces and fillings, or ropas. Once you roast your peppers on the grill or the open flame of your stove, place them in a plastic bag to steam. The skin will come off much easier then.

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Allow the peppers to cool and then stuff with the filling. Bring the opening as close together as you can. Since there are only two of us and these are big peppers, I only made two. But you can certainly make at least 6 with this amount of filling. I am going to be making some other dishes with the filling.

Relleno coating:

(for two large peppers, double it for 4)

4 eggs, separated

3 Tablespoons cream

salt

flour for dredging

about 1 inch of oil in a large frying pan

roll the peppers through the flour till coated

While the oil is heating, whip the egg whites & salt till they have stiff peaks. Whisk the yolks with the cream. Fold into the whites carefully.

When the oil is about 250 degrees, take a large spoon and put enough of the egg mixture into the oil to make a bed for the pepper. It will spread slightly. lay the pepper down, then cover with more egg mixture. After about 2 minutes carefully turn the pepper and cook on the other side till golden brown. Place on a drip pan and put in a warm oven while you continue the process.

Sauce and plate: You can choose any kind of sauce for this, but this is the one I made ahead of time. The base is something I use for enchiladas and other meals. I added cream and sherry to lighten this one up because the peppers and crab are so delicate.

New Mexico Rojo

1 cup New Mexico Red Chiles

2 tablespoons masa (finely ground)

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups chicken stock

Melt the butter in a saucepan, slowly stir in the masa,  till a roux is formed. Whisk in the chicken broth and simmer. Allow to simmer for a while adding more stock as it thickens.

For the relleno sauce I then added 1 cup of cream and stirred for a while, letting it reduce a bit, then about 1/4 of Spanish sherry. Stir again and then turn off the heat.

Plating: 

Use a small plate with a good upturn to hold the sauce. Puddle the sauce on the plate, then add the relleno. Squiggle crema on top. Serve with a simple salad of radishes, pea shoots, pepitas and cojita.

 

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Carrot Pickle

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carrot pickle

I adore Indian food. The spices, bright colors and flavors could sustain me and bring joy to my palate for eternity. I never tire of the  deep rich combining of so many ingredients to make one dish. Carrot pickles are one of those complexly layered side dishes that not only delight visually, but also in flavor. There are lots of ingredients, but once you have them all measured out, it only takes a few minutes to make these and they keep for at least two months in the fridge if you don’t share them. The problem I have is when people tastes them, they just want more and more and soon they are gone.

My friend and writing mentor Monica Bhide shared my recipe for Carrot Pickle in the Washington Post a few years ago. Not much has changed in my recipe. It is a classic that everybody raves about.

Carrot pickle mise en place

Carrot Pickle  

Ingredients:

8 carrots, peeled and cut into julienne

¾ cup canola oil

1 small onion, roughly chopped

1 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and rough chopped

4-6 small red chiles (depending on how hot you like it)

6-8 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoons mustard seeds (I use brown, but black is fine too)

1 tablespoon methi (fenugreek) seeds

1 tablespoon of cumin seeds

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon of fennel seeds

A hand full of curry leaves

2 tablespoons urad dal

1 teaspoon chili powder (hot)

1 tablespoon turmeric

A pinch of hing

4 tablespoons grated jaggery (or Thai palm sugar)

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons vinegar (apple cider or white vinegar)

Method:

Lay carrots on a thick towel and roll and squeeze to remove all the water.

Puree the onion, ginger, chiles and garlic together in a food processor or mortar and reserve.

In a wok, heat the oil.. Add mustard seeds, methi seeds, urad dal, cumin and fennel seeds.

When they sputter, add 1 large onion, a chunk of ginger, and 4-5 garlic cloves that have been pureed together.

Throw in the curry leaves and fry the mixture until light golden brown. Lower the heat and add chilli powder, turmeric, cumin powder and a pinch of hing.

Add jaggery and salt.

Turn off the heat and add vinegar. Taste and adjust the spices – you want it to be hot chilli wise, but slightly sweet and sour from the sugar and vinegar. Mix in the carrots, place into a clean glass jar and store in the fridge. This will keep for several weeks. The recipe can be doubled so you can share some!

Pepita Granola

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I have been making granola forever, it was probably one of the first foods I made in my adult life as a cook. When I was in cooking school in Cuernavaca, Mexico we had some with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and since then this has been my favorite recipe. My favorite way to eat granola is on top of fresh Greek style yogurt with some fresh berries or fruit. This is very easy to make and far better than most store bought versions. I do not add dried fruit to the granola until serving as it tends to soften the granola, but this goes nicely with dried fruits as well as fresh. You can also store granola in the freezer to prevent softening.

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This recipe was adapted from Calle Ocho in New York City.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

6 Cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups hemp seeds (available at health food stores)
2 Cups unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup vegetable oil (you can use pumpkin seed oil if you have it)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 cups green hulled pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
3/4 cup local honey
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup maple sugar
sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon
pinch of salt

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Mix all in a very large bowl. Bake on baking sheets lined with parchment or silpat for 15minutes, remove from oven and stir well, then bake for another 10 minutes. If the granola is browned, remove from the oven. If it is not browned, stir and put in for another 5 minutes. When golden brown cool, then place in airtight containers.

 

 

Tomato Pie from the Stono Farm Market Tomato Shed Cafe

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Tomato Pie
This really should be a mid summer recipe, but there are times when nothing tastes as good as this tomato pie and if you can find the tomatoes, it brings summer right to your plate. It is quite different from any tomato pie I have ever tasted. It is less of a pie and more of a juicy tomato casserole really. The key, and I really mean the KEY is beautiful  juicy ripe red tomatoes. They can be any kind of tomato, but they have to be deeply red and ripe. Fortunately the folks at the Stono Farm Market Tomato Shed Cafe  have access to the Ambrose Farm hoop house tomatoes, including some incredible heirloom tomatoes and some juicy red orbs of cherry tomatoes, even in February, which in the Low Country is not really all that cold.  I agree, that tomatoes are best in July and August, no matter where you live, sun ripened tomatoes grown in soil are the best.  South Carolina grows some delicious ones in her sandy loam. I have had this dish at the Tomato Shed Cafe many times, and have made it a few times for company with rave reviews. The best thing is that it is EASY!

Tomatoes

Here is the Ambrose family’s recipe:

Tomato Pie

Makes 8 servings

6 large ripe tomatoes or 2 # of good ripe cherry tomatoes

1 yellow onion thinly sliced

dried basil

fresh chives, chopped

Salt and Pepper

1 cup of Duke’s Mayonnaise

1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

Biscuit dough, rolled thin and baked till golden (you can do this ahead in batches and freeze)

Method:

Place pieces of baked thin pieces of biscuit dough around the bottom of a pan, it can be a square 9 X 9 pan, a pie pan or a cake pan.

Slice the tomatoes in to 1/2 inch thick slices and salt, let sit for a few minutes, then fill the pan with several layers of tomatoes, salting and peppering and adding basil and chives on each layer. Add a layer of thinly sliced onions (you could insert garlic here too). I added some sweet onion sugar at this point, but if you do not have it, you can skip that. You can “fancify” it too by using smoked salt. I did.

Mix the mayo and cheese and top the pie.

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

Allow to rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.  I promise you, this is delicious! I have never had a tomato pie this good, or so easy to make.

Perfect French Fries

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Perfectly cooked fries

I love French fries. I am constantly seeking a way to make the best ones.  Sometimes I like them thin and crispy, sometimes thick and pillowy light inside (best done by roasting at a high temp.). Most often like Goldilocks, I like them “just right.” That means that they are medium cut fries, a little crispy on the outside and soft on the outside, full of potato flavor, not the grease they were cooked in. I like fries cooked in duck fat, but that is not always something I have an abundance of. Here is the method, it is simple and only requires a large pot (best for keeping splatters contained) a deep thermometer used for frying  or cheese making, a spider (or other mesh spoon to retrieve your fries and some good quality canola oil.  The thermometer is the only thing you may need to go out and buy. Here is an example. You need this because you will need to control the temperature of the oil.

Ingredients:

Russet Potatoes, well washed

Canola Oil at least 3 ” deep

Smoked or Kosher Salt

Method:

  1. Cut the ends off of the potatoes and then the rounded edges. lay flat and cut into 1/2 ” strips. Place in salted water till finished cutting.
  2. Preheat the oil to 250 degrees.
  3. Use either a salad spinner or a dish cloth to completely dry the fries. Once the oil is ready place fries into the oil. You should not be crowding them, you may need to do this in batches.
  4. Cook until they start to look slightly golden, about 4 minutes, making sure that the oil temperature stays at 250.
  5. Carefully remove to a straining tray (cookie sheet or steam pan) with a rack.  I say carefully because the potatoes are very tender at this point and can easily tear.
  6. Bring the heat of the oil to 365 degrees.
  7. Add the potatoes in batches and allow to cook till they are perfectly golden with a subtle  bit of brown on the edges. Remove to the draining tray again and salt IMMEDIATELY. Serve right away with home made mayonnaise, BBQ sauce or ketchup.

Burger and fries

Meyer Lemon Focaccia

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It is Meyer Lemon season. I have been in love with Meyer Lemons since I was a little girl. My great grandmother had an ever bearing Meyer. Coming from a citrus family has advantages. I wonder how that 60+ year old tree in Glendora, California  is doing now. I do lots with the lemons on my tree and those I buy to supplement my habit. Here is what I did with some of them yesterday.

Meyer Lemon Focaccia

Ingredients:

Makes 1 focaccia.

  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) instant yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons if you use bulk
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, preferably organic
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • Olive oil, for bowl and baking sheet
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella or pecorino toscano thinly shredded
  • 2 lemons, very thinly sliced crosswise
  • about a tablespoon of fresh rosemary
  • 1-2 meyer lemons sliced thinly and seeded
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to grate over the top
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (more if you like a kick)
  • thinly sliced sweet onion

3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I use smoked)

*Note: It is best to use very fresh lemons for this, as older lemons rinds become difficult to chew.

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Method:

  1. In a large bowl, or in a bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast and 2 1/2 cups flour with 2 cups water; whisk to combine. Let stand 15 minutes.
  2. Add remaining 2 1/2 cups flour and salt; mix until well combined. Change to the dough hook if using a stand mixer. If using the mixer, knead with the mixer. If doing by hand, turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead until wet and tacky, but not sticky, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand until doubled in size, 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
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  3. Scatter semolina on a large rimmed baking sheet and press dough evenly into baking sheet. Let rise until puffy, about 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  5. “Dimple the dough with your fingers  Drizzle some olive oil on the dough. Cover dough lightly with Pecorino or Mozzarella  and lemon slices, then sprinkle with rosemary and pepper; drizzle with more extra-virgin olive oil. Gate a little Parm over the top.
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  6. Transfer to oven and bake for 15 minutes. Rotate baking sheet, and continue baking until lemons and crust are golden brown, about 15 minutes more.
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  7. Remove bread from baking sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool at least 10 minutes before serving.
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Tamale Time

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tamales to steam

I make a big batch of tamales several times a year. Yesterday I made a batch of pork and green chile tamales. They are not at all difficult to make and they freeze really well. They are also easy to re-steam. Here is the recipe, but keep in mind the filling can be any number of things, from chiles and cheese to chicken, pork, crab, beef etc. Once you get the rolling technique down you will be able to make them with anything. I often triple this recipe. This recipe makes about 20 good sized tamales. You can make them smaller if you are using them as an appetizer.

filling and husks
You will need: 

Cornhusks or banana leaves for wrappers

String

4 cups of Masa para tamales (this can be found in the Hispanic aisle of most large grocery stores.

1 1/2 cups of home rendered lard (see here how to do it and why) or butter

4 cups of good stock (I used duck stock, but turkey chicken or veal stock works great)

2 tablespoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

A large pot fitted for steaming. You need a lot of water for this, so raise your steaming basket to allow for a lot of water. This has to boil for 40-60 minutes.

filling

Filling: 

2 tablespoons lard or olive oil
2 cups of well seasoned shredded pork shoulder (see my recipe here for making smoked braised pork shoulder Latin style).

1 onion finely chopped

6-8 roasted poblano chiles seeded, skinned and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (or in a pinch you can use canned green chiles)

8 cloves of garlic finely minced

1 tablespoon Vik’s Garlic Fix

1 tablespoon Sweet Onion Sugar

1 teaspoon of smoked salt (I make my own, but you can buy it here)

2 tablespoons of Ancho Chile powder

1/2 cup of stock

queso

2 cups of Queso para Quesedillas, para papusas or Jack cheese grated. Any good melting cheese is fine for this.

sauce

Sauce:

4 tablespoons of masa para tamales

4 tablespoons of house rendered lard or butter

1 cup of New Mexico Red or Green Chile powder

3 cups of good stock

Method

Cut lengths of string long enough to wrap the tamales. There are different ways of folding and wrapping the tamales, but this is my favorite way to do it. You can also tie just the ends or you can fold it so there is one side open and don’t even use strings. If you do this, you must place them upright in your steamer. Some people use parchment paper instead of corn husks or banana leaves.

Soak the corn husks in hot water, weight them down so they are immersed. Just before making the tamales, pour out the water. If you are using banana leaves they need to be heated to soften. I blanch them and place them on a wet towel.

In a stand mixer (or bowl with a beater) whip the cold lard for about 3 minutes on high speed till it is fluffy

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients and stir. Fold that and the stock into the lard. Mix until a very moist (but not sticky) dough forms. Chill for about 20 minutes while you prepare the filling.

masa

In a large skillet melt the lard and add onions. Stir and cook till the onions are translucent, add garlic in a hot spot and stir, then add the chiles and spices and finally deglaze the pan with the stock and allow to simmer till the stock is absorbed, then cool.

Set up a station on a table or counter top. You will need the masa, the cheese, the filling, the string and a platter to stack the finished tamales on.

tamale ready to fold

Start with about 1/2 cup of masa on a corn husk. Fold the sides of the husk where you will want the ends of the tamales to be and spread the masa with the folded husk. Do the same thing with the top and bottom of the husk so that the dough is spread out and you end up with a square of dough about 4″ X 4″. You will need to select the husks that are large enough to accommodate this size of tamale. You should have at least an inch of exposed husk on all sides. Place the filling in the center of the masa and lightly push down on it. Then take the bottom end of the husk and roll it forward to meet the end of the dough. Pull the dough forward making the two ends of dough meet. Then fold in the sides and roll the tamale. Place the string under the tamale and tie like a package. Repeat till you have used all of the dough or filling.

tamale folded

In a steam pot, place the tamales on a rack, cover and boil vigorously for 40-50 minutes. While you are steaming make the sauce.

Chile Sauce:

You can use New Mexico Red or Green Chile powder for this. I used red this time, but my next batch of corn, cheese and chile tamales I am making green sauce.

Make a roux of the masa and lard, stir till slightly brown. Add the chile powder and stir, then whisk in the stock. Allow to simmer and thicken slightly. Keep warm till ready to serve.

To serve, open the husks and remove the tamales to a plate. The masa should be soft and supple, yet firm enough to hold together. Spoon the sauce over and add additional cheese, crema and chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

tamales steamed

tamales plated 2

 

 

 

 

Smoked and Braised Pork Shoulder Latin Style

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plate 2 This recipe has been one I have used for years. I used to make it at my cooking school for Cuban Night. I change out a few things here and there to go more Italian or more Cuban. Even if you do not have a smoker this is delicious braised or done in a slow cooker or dutch oven. You simply make a paste in the food processor and then make slits in the pork shoulder (bone in or out, your choice). Marinate it over night, smoke the next morning and then finish it off in a crock pot or in a dutch oven in the oven.  Note: I do not add salt before cooking, but I offer it at the table. 

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Ingredients:

1 cup each of packed cilantro and flat leaf parsley

1/3 cup each of coriander, cumin and fennel seeds toasted

30 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup crushed red pepper (the kind you put on pizza)

1/4 cup pink pepper berries (optional)

1 tablespoon hickory powder if you are not smoking the meat

1/4 cup olive oil (I use smoked oil that I make)

1 5-7 pound pork shoulder (get them on sale and freeze)

2# Yukon Gold Potatoes

3 large onions, quartered

2 cans of beer

1/4 cup Spice and Tea Exchange Sweet Onion Sugar (optional)

Method:

Put the cilantro, parsley seeds, garlic, pepper berries, crushed red pepper, hickory powder if you are not smoking and the olive oil in a food processor. Pulse till you have a thick paste.

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Put on latex gloves if you have them, this gets messy. Cut 1 1/2 inch slits into the meat on all sides. Stuff the slits with the paste. If you have any paste left over, smear it on the meat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate 12-24 hours.
porchetta
Remove the meat from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Meanwhile set up your smoker and turn your grill on high.

Sear the meat on all sides on the grill. Then place in the smoker at about 200 degrees over a drip pan and smoke for 6 hours. If you do not have a smoker, go directly to the slow cooker or roaster but cook for 8-10 hours on low.

Porchetta out of the smoker

Prepare the roaster or slow cooker by placing a bed of Yukon Gold potatoes (small ones or cut larger ones in half) and the onions. Sometimes I add other root vegetables too. Place the meat directly on the bed of veggies. pour two cans or bottles of beer over the meat. Sprinkle the sweet onion sugar all over.

Roast at 350 degrees covered with foil or in a dutch oven. Or you can use a slow cooker on high for 4 hours (either method).  It is just that easy. The leftovers are sometimes my favorite part… tamales, tacos pulled pork sandwiches. 🙂

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New Years Fun Food: Collard Green Empanadas

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empanadas with sauce

I had a New Years Day dinner party and decided to have a Hispanic theme. I usually make my Chiles en Nogada for Christmas, but I was busy working on Christmas Eve and decided to postpone that tradition till New Years. I have done a lot of regional Mexican and South American cooking, spent a great deal of time in Latin America from a young age and went to cooking school in Mexico.  Since moving to the Low Country, I have been interested in the spin that my friend Sandra A. Gutierrez has put on some of the traditional Latino recipes and ingredients in her book The New Southern-Latino Table. I decided to incorporate a few of her recipes into my menu for New Years and the first one  was Collard Green Empanadas. In the south it is a tradition to eat two things on New Years, greens  which represent folded money and black eyed peas which represent good luck. Sandra had recipes using both ingredients, so I made them her way with a few twists of my own.

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Here is the recipe for the empanadas. She suggested frying  store bought empanada dough or baking pastry dough. and I wanted to bake, so I used store bought pie pastry & baked them because of the time and mess crunch with all of the other parts of the meal I was doing. But you can make them with your favorite pastry dough too. I have filling leftover and plan on doing that next weekend.

Heat oven to 375

Ingredients: 

  • 2 Tablespoons Bacon Drippings (or vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion or shallots
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped in a a teaspoon of salt
  • 1 bag of chopped frozen collard greens
  • 1/2 cup cooked and chopped bacon (I bake my bacon with Sweet Onion Sugar on it)
  • 1 8 ounce package of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup cojita or fresco cheese (optional) these cheeses can be found at Hispanic markets or most grocery stores now days.
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 egg whisked
  • Raw sugar for topping
  • 16 empanada disks or 1 package of Pillsbury pie dough.

Method:

Empanadas

  • In a large skillet heat the oil/drippings and cook the onions till translucent. Add the garlic and saute for about 20 seconds, then add the drained collard greens. Saute for a few minutes and remove from the heat, cool for 20 minutes. Add cheeses and spices.
  • On a floured surface roll out the pie dough to an increase of about 25%. Cut circles with a biscuit cutter or glass. *you can make them bigger if you have a larger cutter, using more filling.
  • Put a teaspoon of filling on each disk and brush the egg wash around the edges. Close and seal, using a fork to crimp the edges. Use the remaining egg was on top of the empanadas. Sprinkle with the flavored sugar. Top with Habenero Sugar. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with salsa.

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