Empanadas are one of those foods that are hard to disassociate with family and comfort. Part of the reason is because of the empanada’s composition. The outside is made of dough, which always seems to connote something homey like pie. And then there is the filling, which is usually made up of no more than a few key ingredients that represent the culture’s cuisine – flavors that people have been raised on. In other words, empanadas are simple but every ingredient plays an important part in capturing your favorite tastes and feeling of comfort. But empanadas are also associated with comfort because when you bake them you make them in batches. Since a batch can make over a dozen empanadas, they are typically made for occasions that bring family and friends together.
In Valencia you will find empanadas in any bakery you walk into. It is also typical to bake them at home. Valencian empanadas are known for their simple ingredients, yet distinct flavor. Whether sweet or savory, empanadas are a favorite of Valencians, from childhood to adulthood. These onion empanadas are perfect as a tapa or alongside a soup or salad to complete a light and healthy meal.
My mother is currently in town visiting. This visit she is staying with my brother, sister-in-law and niece in Queens. Remembering how much I would love when my mother would surprise me with a fresh baked batch of these empanadas, when I went to visit my family in Queens, I surprised them with a batch. They were a perfect tapa while sipping on wine and preparing dinner. My three year old niece loved them – to my delight!
Servings: 14 empanadas
3 medium sweet onions
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup canola oil
½ cup water
2 cups all purpose flour
1. Peel onions. Cut onions in half lengthwise (with the grain) and then slice (with the grain) into very thin wedges. In a pot combine olive oil and onions. Stir well. Cover and cook over medium heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Stir. Increase heat to high and let cook, uncovered, for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until onions turn a honey color and most of the liquid has evaporated. Make sure to stir frequently. Remove pan from heat and let onions cool for 20 minutes. Strain onions. Stir onions while in strainer to make sure all liquid is strained.
2. Preheat oven to 375º.
3. In a large bowl combine canola oil, water, 1 teaspoon salt, and flour. Using your hands mix until doughy. Remove from bowl and knead dough on a clean hard surface for 1 minute. Divide dough into 14 equal portions. (I recommend dividing the dough in half. Then create a long roll from each half. Using a knife cut 7 equal portions of dough from each roll, making a total of 14.)
4. Roll one of the portions of dough into a ball. Flatten ball out approximately 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Place a heaping tablespoon of onions in middle of dough. Fold dough over and seal ends together by pressing down on ends with fingers. Place on a baking sheet (you do not need to add oil or butter to the baking sheet). Repeat this step with the remaining 13 pieces.
5. Bake on middle rack for 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly golden. When done remove from oven and immediately transfer empanadas to a cooling rack or a plate to avoid the bottoms from burning.
6. Let cool and serve.