Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Beef empanadas with queso

I love On the Border’s beef empanadas. Pure deliciousness.
Several months ago, I decided I wanted to make my own empanadas at home. I didn’t find success immediately. Epic fail.
The first try resulted in a dish the Mr. dubbed beef donuts. While he thought they were pretty great (“Beef is good. Donuts are good. What’s not to like?”), they weren’t exactly what I was going for. The next try was better and the third try better still, but I wasn’t quite satisfied.
But last week I had a bit of an empanada epiphany and tonight’s version was born. They’re not only the easiest I’ve made yet, but also the best. My empanadas still may not rival OTB’s, but they’re really good, inexpensive and great dipped in the queso recipe below.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 packet hot taco seasoning
1 cans Grands (or comparable large-sized) biscuits
Vegetable oil
Start by browning the ground beef. Once it’s cooked throughout, add the taco seasoning according to package directions and simmer.
Press or roll out the biscuits until they are larger and flatter — they’ll look like mini tortillas.
Add ground beef to one half of each biscuit, allowing a little room at the edge. Fold over and pinch to seal. Repeat with remaining biscuits.
Heat vegetable oil to medium high heat in a cast iron skillet.
Once it’s good and hot, add the empanadas carefully, allowing plenty of space around each. I cook about 4 or 5 at a time. Cook about 2 minutes per side or until golden brown.
Drain on paper towels.
Now, to make the queso. (Which, by the way, I usually make first since you can keep it warm for awhile. But do whatever is easiest for you.) There are lots of recipes out there, but my favorite queso is my own adaptation of Grady Spears’ version. To save time, I usually chop the vegetables and cheese the night before or earlier in the day and put them in Ziploc bags in the fridge until I’m ready to make the dish.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup diced tomato
1 can chopped green chiles - hot
3 diced jalapenos, including seeds and spines
¼ cup milk
16 ounces of Velveeta, cut into cubes
2 cups grated Monterrey jack cheese
Salt and white pepper
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat until it begins to bubble. Add the onion and cook until it begins to become translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato, roasted chiles and jalapenos and cook for another 4 minutes. Add the milk to the pan and then stir in the Velveeta. Decrease the temperature to low and stir the cheese mixture until it is melted and creamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the Monterey Jack and season with salt and pepper. When the cheese has melted, serve or transfer to a slow cooker — it’ll keep all day.
When you’re all done, it’ll look like this:

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