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Empanadas Gallegas

My second attempt at an emapanada gallega.

The word Empanada is used throughout the Spanish-speaking world, cheapest yet the food it describes varies considerably from one country to the next. Generally, an empanada is a filled dough (from empanar, to roll with bread), but the dough, the filling, its shape, size, and how it is cooked are dependent on which country you are in.

In Spain an empanada is typically a large baked pie, rectangular or round, filled with vegetables, fish, or meat, either alone or in combination. The dough is wheat-based, but can range from being soft and thick to thin and crust-like. Regional preferences often dictate the filling.

Like many flatbreads around the world, such as pizza and pita, empanadas are ingenious in that the bread acts in essence as an edible plate. This was a useful feature ages ago when plates were rare or didn’t exist, and was an ideal food for those who didn’t have time to sit down to eat. Carrying an empanada into the fields was was one of the easiest meals possible for farmers. Even with plates, empanadas continue to be a joy to eat, totally self-contained and delicious.

Elia had an emapanada on the table for lunch on our first day at Finca As Fadegas, filled with caramelized onions, green peppers, and bonito. Her crust is a basic mix of flour, yeast, olive oil, salt, and water. Any pizza dough or focaccia recipe will work. Right before rolling the dough out, she works in a generous splash of olive oil; the added fat gives the dough a pie-crust quality it otherwise wouldn’t have.

In Gallicia empanadas usually have fried onions and green pappers as the base of the filling, with another ingredient added that gives the emapanada its name. Octopus (Empanada de Pulpo) is typical, as are many other types of seafood and fish, such as the bonito Elia added to hers. Of course anything else can be added depending on what’s available and whim. Vegetable fillings are less common, but entirely possible, including Pisto, the Spanish vegetable stew.

I’ve had a chance to try my hand at empanadas while at Finca As Fadegas. My first, filled with mixed vegetables, served its purpose as a snack on our hike through the mountains of Asturias, but the dough was too thick and fluffy for my taste. My second, also of vegetables, was an improvement: I added more oil to the dough and cut back on the yeast so that it rose less. My third was exactly how I wanted it to be, the dough hitting that sweet-spot between bread and flaky crust, the traditional filling of onions, peppers, and bonito sweet and soft from a lengthy slow caramelization.

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