Before I moved to LA in 2007 I wasn’t a huge fan of food with hot peppers in it. I had never eaten anything spicy that tasted good enough to make the long-lasting burning sensation in my mouth and on my lips worthwhile.
And then I started tasting different types of food in LA, first Mexican, then Korean, Indian and Thai. I realized that night that no matter what I did, if I was living in Los Angeles I was going to need to learn how to deal with spiciness, or I was going to miss out on a ton of really delicious food.
Over the past two years I’ve done it, and I can say now that I have really grown to love spicy food. I’m still not going to eat something that is called “inferno”, because I prefer not to punish my pores and my taste buds, but I’ve learned that chili peppers aren’t only about spice, they also have a ton of flavor. I’m slowly but surely learning the differences in flavor between peppers and learning how best to use them in the kitchen.
I’ve been experimenting with spice a lot, and I recently came up with this version of a sort of spicy beef empanada. I made them yesterday and fed them to my husband and brother-in-law. Good news, they both liked them, and it turns out they both have a sufficient immunity to iocane powder (a Princess Bride reference, for those of you who didn’t catch it).
Since we’ll be slow-cooking the beef, you’ll want to use chuck, foreshank, brisket, short plate,… (all of these are good choices for stewing or slow-cooking).
Here’s how to do it:
|1.5 – 2 lbs of beef (see above for suggested cuts)|
For the Dry Rub:
|1 1/2 tsp||cumin||
|2 tsp||salt||Mix these ingredients together and|
|2 tsp||black pepper||rub the mixture into the meat.|
|1/4 tsp||cayenne pepper||Be sure to use some elbow grease!|
|1/4 tsp||ancho pepper||
|1/2 tsp||garlic powder||
|1/2 tsp||onion powder||
For the cooking liquid:
|2 cans (24 oz)||beef broth||1. Place these ingredients in the pot or crock pot|
|1 cup||water||you plan on using to slow-cook the beef.|
|6 cloves||garlic, crushed||2. Add the already dry-rubbed beef to the liquids.|
|1 can||tomato paste||3. If cooking on the stove top, heat on low for 8|
|1 large||onion, quartered||hours. (You can also cook it on medium for 5|
|1 average||jalapeno||hours, but be sure to check the liquid frequently|
|1 tsp||cumin seeds||and add water if it’s getting low). In the crock pot|
|4 whole||bay leaves||cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.|
|note: you can leave the seeds in the jalapeño for a little extra spice.|
To prepare the beef:
Mix together the ingredients of the dry rub and rub into the meat thoroughly (don’t be afraid to get slimy!).
Mix together the ingredients for the cooking liquid.
Place the cooking liquid in either a large pot or a crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours, checking occasionally to make sure that the beef isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pot.
For the empanada dough: (wait until about 1-1.5 hours before the meat will be done to start this– the quality will go down if it sits for too long)
|3 cups||all-purpose flour||1. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Use your|
|2 tsp||salt||hands or a stand mixer with the kneading attach-|
|1 tsp||sugar||ment to mix them together.|
|1/4 tsp||cayenne pepper||2. Add the shortening and mix until the dough|
|1/2 tsp||garlic powder||becomes clumpy, then add the water and eggs.|
|1/2 tsp||onion powder||3. Knead the dough for 10 minutes|
|8 tsp||shortening||4. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the|
|1/4 cup||water||refrigerator for 30-40 minutes before rolling out.|
|2 whole||eggs||5. Roll out on a floured cutting board to 1/8 inch|
|and cut into 5 inch circles (I used the top of a bowl).|
When the meat is finished cooking it should be falling apart (when i took mine out of the crock pot with tongs big chunks of beef kept falling off and splashing back into the pot of hot water– be careful!!). Place the beef in a bowl, allowing it to fall apart, using a fork to help it along. Add about 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid back into the meat and mix it together. Now it’s time for a taste test– give the beef a try! Is the flavor to your liking? Does it need more spice? Take this opportunity to add any seasonings you might want to before you stuff the dough. I added a bit of tomato paste and some salt and pepper. You could add any number of things: onions, tomatoes, peppers just to name a few– make it your own!!
To stuff the empanadas:
1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F.
2. Place 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture in the center of a 5″ circle of dough. Fold the dough over the meat mixture and match up the edges. Using your thumbs, begin sealing the dough to itself (you could use a bit of water to help stick it to itself if it’s being stubborn). Then take the tines of a fork and press them into the seam you’ve created. This will help to make sure that they don’t leak any juices while they’re cooking! Then repeat the process with the rest of your dough circles, and lay them all on a greased cookie sheet.
3. Beat 1 egg together with 1/2 cup of water to create an egg wash. Brush some of this mixture on the tops of the empanadas to give them a nice golden brown sheen while they bake.
4. Bake the empanadas for 20-30 minutes (pay attention, you don’t want to burn them!) until they are golden brown and steaming!
For the dipping sauce:
|1 cup||sour cream||
|1 cup||greek yogurt||Whisk all ingredients together thoroughly.|
|1 tablespoon (T)||lemon juice||
|1 T||lime juice||
|1 T fresh or 1tsp dry||cilantro||
|1 clove||garlic, minced||
|1/8 tsp||cayenne pepper||
|salt and pepper to taste||
On the plate you can see I served it with a chunked vegetable salad with oil and vinegar, but you can choose your poison!
And please, if you have comments, questions or feedback, do not hesitate to let me know!
I love to cook. I guess it started when I was about 4, when I told my babysitter that I wanted to cook something and knew how to do it. I went over to the cupboard and picked out the peanut butter and some grape flavored powdered juice mix and proceeded to mix them together. Obviously this concoction did not turn out to be delicious (and was very, very messy), but it was the beginning of a life-long love affair with food.
My mom was an assistant chef at a country club before I was born, so she knows her way around the kitchen (not to mention that my Grandma is also a fantastic cook, even though she insists she isn’t to this day). Mom started teaching me to do simple things like shredding cheddar cheese and peeling potatoes early on, and as time progressed I gradually became more at home in the kitchen. At around 13 I started really chipping in, cooking basic skillet meals for the family while my mom was busy with three little ones (and whoever she was babysitting at the time). It never occurred to me how important all of this cooking experience would become as I got older.
I left my home in rural northern New Jersey to head for college outside of Philadelphia in 2003. Suddenly I felt completely naked without a real kitchen! Having only a microwave, a mini fridge and some microwave safe dishes in my dorm room; my options suddenly became very limited! I felt lost without easy access to a kitchen, and very, very quickly grew tired of dining hall food. My second year at school I lived in an apartment on campus that HAD a kitchen. I was thrilled! And so began a new chapter in my cooking journey: i was always having people over for food or heading to friends’ apartments and cooking up a storm; using recipes only as a guide for my own creativity.
When I moved into South Philadelphia in 2005 I began exploring even more; stopping at small eateries in the Italian Market, wandering into poorly marked, mostly unknown establishments off of alleys around Rittenhouse Square and South Street and learning how to LOVE a cheesesteak, Philly style. This is when I first started trying out restaurants that I knew nothing about and finding myself in awe at the quality of food placed before me for mere pennies. Since then, I’ve discovered that price is no indication of quality. I’ve paid $30 a plate for food that is inferior to what I cook at home; I’ve had delicious meals for just a few dollars from restaurants with “B” health ratings (always a sure sign of authenticity) and grown to love Korean Barbecue and Mexican food straight from the taco truck. I’ve discovered that every city has its own unique, vibrant food scene. The way I see it, you can either go to a chain restaurant and pay too much for something standard, or you can seek out the lesser known, smaller places where they’ve truly mastered a specialty, and serve it up for a couple of bucks! Great food crosses all social and economic borders, you just have to be willing to go find it!
Long story short, food has always been a huge part of my life. Over the past few years (especially since moving to Los Angeles in 2007) I’ve tasted some amazing food at some super fancy restaurants, including Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in New York City, Paul Bartolotta’s Bartolotta in Las Vegas and Gordon Ramsey’s Boxwood Cafe in London. But I’ve also eaten food from a Gyro place in the not-so-nice area of Corfu, Greece, at a tourist dominated Greco-Italian pizza joint in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and inside a tiny shack that makes Mexican-style flame-grilled chicken in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. I’ve eaten food from countless trucks around the United States, and had a Mixed Seafood Grill at a small hotel restaurant in Venice, Italy that was every bit as good as the fish I’ve eaten in many highly regarded (and far more expensive) restaurants in American fishing cities.
Learning how amazing food can be when you’re not eating at Applebee’s has been a huge turning point for me. My horizons have been expanded and i’ve become ravenous for great food at home. This blog will mark yet another new chapter for me in my love affair with food: challenging my palate, creativity and cooking chops to provide you with recipes that will hopefully make you fall in love with food again and again!