My kind of cooking Party — Pastelillos de Carne

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Making pastelillos is way easier than you think.                 Dough + filling, frying oil and done.

 

I had a “Pastelillo” party the other night, we all rolled up our sleeves and got creative trying out different ingredients and fillings.  It was amazing to see everyone having so much fun, getting super involved and excited to try their own creations.

In Puerto Rico we have our own version of empanadas, called Pastelillos. They are kind of different from the empanadas out there, the dough is light, fried, and cut into small discs.  There is an endless supply of filling recipes.  Seasoned ground beef (picadillo), potatoes-onions & cheese, even left over chicken fricassee… My favorite pastelillos growing up were simply filled with just cheese or sweet guava.

I guess its like the original Hot Pocket… but healthier and way tastier (yes, even though its fried).  They can be filled with something savory, sweet, or both.   This recipe is loaded with flavor and is super easy to make, especially if you buy the pre-made dough from any specialty supermarket.

Here the recipe:

Pastelillos 

Ingredients

• Pre-made Empanada shells

Goya is a popular brand you can find at many Asian or ethnic supermarkets.

If you rather make your own dough, this is my go-to recipe http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Empanada-Dough-230786

 

Beef Filling (Picadillo)

Ground Beef, 80% Lean

1/2 green pepper, diced

1/2 small onion, diced

3 garlic cloves- minced

1 tbsp Sofrito

1 tomato, chopped

4 oz of tomato sauce

1 tsp. Adobo seasoning (Goya) or salt and pepper for seasoning

1 tbsp Annato seed infused oil

1 tsp. ground Cumin

1 tsp dried Oregano
½ tsp. black pepper
8 chopped or sliced olives

1 bay leaf

1 tbsp. golden raisins

2 tbsp Olive oil (to sauté the ground beef)

 

▪Veggie Filling (Vegetarian Option) 

1 whole Zucchini Squash- diced

2 cloves of Garlic minced

1/2 small onion, diced

Pinch of Cumin, pinch of Oregano

Fresh Cilantro, minced

Pinch of salt and pepper for seasoning

1/4 cup of Mozzarella or Fontina cheese

2 Tbsp of Olive oil

 

Cooking Instructions

Picadillo

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan to a medium heat, add the onions, garlic and green peppers with a dash of salt and let stand for 3 minutes until the veggies start to steam stirring every other minute until the onions start to become translucent.  Add 2 tbsp of Sofrito and stir around the pan until incorporated.

Starts when Sofrito hits the pan

 

Add the ground beef (you can mix it with ground turkey, or chicken for a healthier option) to the pan to brown, season with 1/2 tsp. of Adobo.  Add the chopped tomato, oregano, olives and raisins, annatto oil (or Sazon Goya is a good substitute) , and tomato sauce.  Bring to a simmer stirring often, then cover and cook for 15 minutes over low heat.  Continue to cook uncovered for another 10-15 minutes.  Season to taste with the remaining Adobo.

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Ground beef filling (Picadillo), made with sofrito, peppers, onions.

 

You can totally make the meat filling ahead, its much easier to assemble the Pastelillos when the meat is cool.  Plus, it saves a lot of time.

Veggie Filling

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan to a low-medium heat, add the onions, garlic with a dash of salt and let stand for 2 minutes stirring every other minute until the onions start to become translucent.  Add 1 tsp.  Sofrito, the dry spices, and the diced zucchini then stir until all incorporated, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Use the cheese to sprinkle on top of the filling when making the pastelillos.

 

How to put it together.

Pour cooking oil in a 3 quart pan, deep enough for frying.  I don’t have a thermometer, so my grandma knew when the oil was hot enough by watching the first signs of a light steam…

But, if you have one a thermometer , just make sure it hits 325-350º F.

Place the dough on a clean surface lined with wax paper (easier to clean up!)  Fill the center with a spoonful of the filling.  Sometimes I sprinkle some cheese on top of the filling for an added yummy creaminess.

 

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Here’s a trick! Run your fingers around the edges of the dough using a couple of drops of water to create tight seal

 

 

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Place the filling in the middle, make sure you don’t over-fill it. A small amount goes a long way, and it keeps your frying oil free of over-spills

 

Then fold disk in half, it should look like a half moon, then using a fork press the edges to seal both sides creating a nice rippled edge look.

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Fold into a half-moon shape, then press down on the (already moist) edges using a fork. This will keep your filling safe inside, and makes it look pretty.

 

Once your pastelillos are all sealed and ready, drop them in the heated oil one by one.  The filling is cooked, so the dough will only need a few minutes to cook, 2 minutes on each side—resist the urge to leave them any longer… they go from pale to brown in no time!  The pastelillos should have puffed up from the steam inside.  Then, try to resist the urge to eat them immediately…  let the pastelillos cool.

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You can use a deep frier, or a frying pan. Just make sure there is enough oil in the pan.

After they cool (preferably in a cooling rack), I serve them in a bread basket.  It gives it a little rustic look that makes you want to just grab one and go.

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Ok, so this is just delish. Crunchy dough, warm savory ground beef, with a sprinkle of cheese for the extra ‘umph’.


I seriously need an intervention, because once I start– I can’t stop. 


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Ciao Bacalao!

Giving the old Bacalaitos recipe a little Asian twist from Shanghai with love.

 Bacalaitos Chinos – Salted Cod & Shrimp Fritters 

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Crunchy bites of Juicy sweet shrimp and salty cod with herbs. Yes Please! I served these one night when I had friends over for snacks and drinks and they were a hit.

A combination of Asian sweet savory flavors with salty crunchy warm bacalaitos from Puerto Rico.  Because these little fried treats are just easy to grab with a napkin, they make a super yummy quick snack.

A few months ago I was at the grocery store when I stumbled upon some salted cod. It immediately brought memories of every time I drive along the beach in Piñones PR where there are lots of roadside food vendors selling Bacalaitos, alcapurrias, piononos.

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Alcapurrias & Bacalaitos at the hands of one of the many beach vendors in Piñones, PR

 

A couple of years ago I found myself traveling in Asia often for work.  While in China I discovered a lot of different flavors and dishes with very common ingredients found in tropical climates like our own in PR. Bacalaitos are salted cod fritters that always came to my mind every time I filled my plate with all those delicious Asian goodies.

Crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside... dim sum, scallion pancakes, shrimp fritters with soy sauce.

Crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside… dim sum, scallion pancakes, shrimp fritters with soy sauce.

So there I was at the grocery store with salted cod in my hands. I really craved the Asian sweet savory flavors, and the salty crunchy warm bacalaitos, so I figured I could try to join them in holy culinary matrimony in my kitchen! Why not?

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Bacalaitos Chinos

Ingredients

1/3 lb. Bacalao / Salted Cod
1/3 lb shelled shrimp
1/4 cup green bell pepper minced
2 tbsp fresh cilantro
2 tbsp diced green onions (green part only)
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cup water
1 large clove garlic
1 tbsp sofrito
1 tsp of adobo
• pinch of pepper

Canola or Vegetable oil for frying

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Instructions:

Boil the salted cod in plain water for 10 minutes, discard the water and repeat the boiling process.  This will remove most of the salt content of the dried cod.  Taste a small piece to make sure its still somewhat salty but not too much.  After the cod has cooled down, mince the cod with your hands into small bite size pieces then set aside.

Dice the shelled shrimp and add to the salted cod in a bowl.

On a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, adobo. Then add water and whisk until the lumps are gone and the mix has a smooth texture.  Add the salted cod and shrimp mix and the rest of the ingredients. The mix should look chunky and somewhat creamy.  If you like a crunchier flatter bacalaito, just add more water to thin out the mixture.

In a deep pot or a fryer prepare the canola oil until it reaches 350º – 375ºF.

You can use a spoon or a meatball/ice cream scooper to transfer the bacalaito mix into the frying pan.  You can make them as big or small as you’d like!   Turn them around the pan to ensure a golden crisp on both sides and around all edges.

Remove from oil and heat with a slotted spoon, set aside on a dish with paper towels to remove any excess oil and you are done!

Serve with a light mojito sauce (olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and cilantro).

Crunchy bites of Juicy sweet shrimp and salty cod with herbs. Yes Please!

Crunchy bites of Juicy sweet shrimp and salty cod with herbs. Yes Please!