Tag Archives: Mexico

Pozole Rojo in an Instant Pot

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When I was in cooking school in Mexico, we went to Taxco, the “silver city” often. I had also been there many times when I was growing up. The hillside town has silver mines and many silversmiths catering to shoppers. With every visit we would go to the Pozolerias for lunch or dinner. If we were lucky,  we would be there on a Thursday we could get the Pozole Verde (green). On other days there was Pozole Rojo (red) and Blanco (white). Traditionally Pozole was made with pork. I know this is gross, but back when the Aztecs were sacrificing humans, they even used human flesh and later, pork tasted more like human flesh. Over the centuries it has developed into a regional stew with pork, chicken or even vegetarian ingredients.

Pozole is the Mexican name for treated corn, also known in the US as hominy. Since maize was a sacred plant for the Aztecs and other inhabitants of Mesoamerica, pozole was made to be consumed on special occasions. The conjunction of maize (usually whole hominy kernels) and meat in a single dish is of particular interest to scholars, because the ancient Americans believed the gods made humans out of masa (cornmeal dough).

This recipe is for the rojo pozole with chicken and it includes home made stock as well as an abundance of dried chiles. In this case I used ancho and guajillo which make a rich and delicious stew.

When pozole is served, it is accompanied by a wide variety of condiments, potentially including chopped onion, shredded lettuce or cabbage, sliced radishes, avocado, lime, cilantro, tostadas (freshly cooked tortilla chips), Mexican Crema and/or chicharrones (fresh fried pork skin).

While this recipe is developed for the Instant Pot, it can also be made in a dutch oven or pasta pot. The cooking time will be much longer.

A note about the hominy/pozole: This can be made with canned hominy, but I suggest you take the time to soak and make your own. It will have much better texture and flavor. You can buy prepared hominy by Rancho Gordo, however, it is smaller than the kind purchased in Hispanic Markets or the kind you will make yourself.  Both will need to be soaked over night and cooked in the stock for about 30-50 minutes in the IP.  If you are cooking in a regular pot it will take 2-4 hours depending on the kind you are using. The Rancho Gordo Hominy takes less cooking time because of the size of the kernels. If you really want the original flavor you can buy large heirloom corn from Anson Mills (my favorite heirloom provider) and make your own. It is an extra step, but well worth the effort. Directions can be found here: How to make Hominy from Corn.

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Ingredients: 

  • Chicken stock made from a whole chicken
  • Breast  and thigh meat from the chicken, reserved
  • 2 cups of dry hominy soaked for 8-10 hours
  • 6 ounces each of dried Ancho and Guajillo chiles
  • 1 onion cut in large chunks
  • 8 cloves of peeled and smashed garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of Mexican Oregano (or marjoram)

Method: 

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  • Drain the hominy and rinse.
  • Put the hominy in the Instant pot and cover it with stock, about 3″ above the hominy.
  • Cook on the bean function for about 30 minutes if using Rancho Gordo Hominy, 60 minutes if you are using the Mexican Pozole. Check for doneness. It should be somewhat al dente, but not tough or difficult to bite into. Avoid over cooking it to retain integrity of the kernels.
  • While the hominy is cooking,  use a large skillet to toast the chiles in even batches. When toasted, break open and remove seeds and stems. Put them in a blender with the garlic and onion.
  • When the hominy is cooked, take off about 1 cup of the stock and pour it into the blender and puree the chiles till smooth.
  • Pour the blender contents into the Instant Pot, stir in oregano and seal. Cook on Bean setting for 15 minutes.
  • To serve, put some of the chicken into bowls and ladle the pozole over it.
  • Serve with garnishes mentioned above.

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Cook it Raw Charleston ~ Part One

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Yesterday was a culinary memory I will never forget. I was invited to be a volunteer for Cook It Raw’s finale food fest, BBQ Perspectives at Bowen’s Island representing Les Dames d’ Escoffier and The Spice and Tea Exchange.. For those of you who do not know about Cook it Raw, it is a Chef’s Only week of discovery and learning about a region and its food that involves most of the truly important culinary luminaries in the world. The word “Raw” implies on the edge, not uncooked. So, from all corners of the world, the chefs came, they learned, they tasted and then they cooked. They cooked for each other and for the first time in the history of the event, they cooked for the public. It is difficult to put the experience completely into words, but in general I would say that it was one of the supreme dining experiences of my life, and I have eaten all over the world and in much fancier places than outdoors on the river with the briny smells of the marsh and happy music playing. At every turn there was amazing interesting food created with local ingredients and using creative wood fired methods.

Sean Brock laughing

Chef Sean Brock at Cook it Raw’s BBQ Perspectives

The man at the helm of Cook it Raw Charleston was Chef Sean Brock, a true visionary when it comes to the food of the South. The local chef community who have been committed to the renaissance of Lowcountry cuisine for almost 20 years; Frank Lee – Slightly North of Broad; Mike Lata – FIG & The Ordinary; Chris Stewart and Sarah O’Kelley – The Glass Onion; Michelle Weaver – The Charleston Grill; Craig Deihl – Cypress Restaurant; Ken Vedrinski – Coda del Pesce and Trattoria Lucca; Robert Stehling – The Hominy Grill; Jeremiah Bacon – The Macintosh & The Oak Steakhouse; Jacques Larson – Wild Olive Restaurant; Bob Carter – Carter’s Kitchen and Rutledge Cab Company; Josh Keeler – Two Boroughs Larder.

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It was a smoke filled event with over 12 open wood pits and about 15 smoker “rigs” set up. The larger of the rigs belonged to South Carolina’s premiere BBQ team, Rodney Scott’s Whole Pig BBQ, which had just returned from a stint in New York City. People waited for the pig to be lifted and pulled from the bone, mixed with the sauce and served up with chitlins and white bread in traditional South Carolina style.

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“Tradition” stopped right there. Every other team created a whole new perspective.  on BBQ. While there was a lot of truly innovative and delicious food using our Low Country ingredients.

The team that totally blew my mind came from Toronto of all places. Team Canada made plates from slices of birch and from salt and hay. They made a beef tongue BBQ with sea horn berries, pecans puff grains, beans all mixed with a killer sauce. They also baked salmon in clay and made packets of grape leaves with Carolina sticky rice, quinoa, bison sausage, peanuts, maple syrup and quince. Good eh?

team canada collageTeam Canada: 

And then there was Brandon Baltzley (from Chicago) who lead the Irish Team’s concept of Low Country Boil with grilled pig heads, corn, fingerlings and head on local shrimp.

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The International Chefs came from all over the world:

More to come in part 2, like the event, there is just too much to consume at once!

 

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.

 

 

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.

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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!

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tamales plated 2

 

 

 

 

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 empanadas dough or 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. But you can make them with your favorite pastry dough too. I have filling leftover and plan on doing that next weekend.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 Tablespoons Bacon Drippings (or vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion or shallots
  • 1 tablespoon Vik’s Garlic Fix (or 4 garlic cloves finely chopped + 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 the Piggly Wiggly if you live in Charleston, KTA if you are on the Big Island of Hawaii
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 egg whisked
  • Sweet Onion Sugar or Habanero Sugar
  • 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. 
  • 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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Tacos al Pastor

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One of my all time favorite Mexican foods is a street food, Tacos al Pastor or literally “tacos de trompo” . It started in Puebla Mexico, where many middle eastern immigrants came and sold their own rotisserie meat, the doner kabob.  Now, all over Mexico they have stands where the pork and pineapple that have been marinating are stacked on a huge skewer and cooked in a vertical rotisserie and then the meat and pineapple is shaved off and served on a tortilla with onions, cojita and cilantro.

When I lived in Chicago I could just go to the Carceneria and buy however much I wanted of the velvety red marinated pork and pineapple and take it home and make the tacos straight away. Here in South Carolina it takes a little more work to produce the meal… but the results are outstanding. If you too like this dish, or want to try it, you can, no matter where you live. The first thing you will need is annatto, or if you live in a place with Hispanic groceries, you can buy the achiote paste commercially made. I have always been able to buy the paste, but here in Charleston…. no soap, so I learned to make my own.

It is easy and I actually like it better than the commercial paste. I froze the extra paste in a ZipLock bag. Annatto is the seed of the achiote tree and is used in Hispanic & Caribbean cooking for color and flavor. I work at the Spice and Tea Exchange of Charleston and we sell annotto, so that was easy for me. If you cannot find it near you,  we also sell it on our website. Once you have the paste made, then you make the marinade. Because of  the pineapple juice in the marinade, you do not want the meat to marinate more than 4-6 hours. Then you cook the slices of meat and pineapple and serve them the same way I described above. I usually serve them with lime slices and sometimes crema (Mexican table cream).

Tacos Al Pastor

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for cooking, or home rendered pork lard
  • One 1-ounce package achiote paste (or make your own, see recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • 4 chipotles in adobo sauce (you can also freeze what is left in the can for another time)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 2 pounds boneless pork butt, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick slices, then into 1/2-inch-wide strips and then in 1/2 inch chunks
  • 12 fresh 6-inch white corn tortillas
  • 1 red onion, 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 a fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, 1/2-inch dice (0r you can use chunky canned pineapple)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves coarsely chopped
  • Cotija cheese, crumbled, for serving
  • Hot sauce, creama and lime quarters


Method:

Puree 3/4 cup of the pineapple juice, the vegetable oil or lard, achiote paste, adobo sauce, chipotles, garlic and salt in a food processor. Mix the pineapple juice mixture with the pork in a freezer bag and move around to coat. Marinate the pork in the fridge, 1 to 3 hours.

Preheat a cast-iron skillet or grill to medium-high heat. *Note: if you are doing this on a grill, leave the meat in strips and then chop after cooking. Lightly oil the skillet and add the tortillas, toasting, about 30 seconds per side. Remove the tortillas and store in a towel to keep warm.

Raise the heat under the skillet to high and add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or lard. Remove the pork from the bag and wipe off any excess pineapple juice mixture. Cook the pork in batches, until charred and cooked through.

Remove the pork from the skillet. Add half of the onions and the fresh pineapple and quickly cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup pineapple juice and the chopped pork back to the skillet with the juices.

Place the pork, pineapple and onion mixture in the tortillas. Top with the remaining onions, cilantro, cotija and hot sauce.

Home made Achiote Paste

Ingredients

    • 6 tablespoons annatto seeds
    • 1 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds
    • 1 tablespoon toasted coriander seeds
    • 1 tablespoon toasted black pepper corns
    • 5 allspice berries (these can also be toasted)
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt (I use smoked salt)
    • A pinch of nutmeg
    • 6  whole cloves
    • 6 garlic cloves
    • Juice & zest of 3 limes or lemons
    • Enough olive oil to make the paste (about 1/4 cup)

Directions

  1. Put all spices and dry ingredients into a spice grinder, and grind until you have a fine powder.
  2. Take the powder and put it into the  bowl of a food processor and add the garlic, lemon juice, zest and the olive oil 1 tablespoon at a time until you get a thick paste which binds together, in a putty like consistency.
  3. Separate into Tablespoon size portions and freeze individually.
  4. When you want to use it, you can mix the TB size portion with 10 cloves of garlic crushed, and 1/2 cup of 50/50 orange juice & lemon juice and marinate pork or chicken overnight.
  5. Some recipes say to add tequila, but that is an Americanization of this Yucatecan specialty. However, I have done it and it is good.

*NOTE* Annato seeds are very, very hard, and are difficult to grind with a mortar and pestle, use the grinder or it won’t make a paste. They DO, and WILL stain your grinder, and anything you happen to spill it on, be careful. You can double, or multiply this recipe as you wish, and I usually make enough for a year’s worth at a time. It freezes well.

Empanadas de Betabel (Empanadas with Golden Beets and Corn)

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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.