Pastelitos de Carne for the Dia de Los Difuntos in El Salvador By Alicia Maher
Today is Dia de Los Difuntos in El Salvador. Is a day to remember our dead ancestors. Millions of people across the country flock to the cemeteries, with flowers in hand, to visit the tomb of their dear ones. Food vendors set up booths outside the cemeteries to sell all sorts of traditional fare to feed the hungry and tired visitors. This recipe is one of the dishes you find at these booths. These pastelitos or Salvadoran empanadas taste so good, they are hot and crunchy and perfect to hold with your hands. Enjoy
Recipes below are from my cookbook Delicious El Salvador.
Pastelitos de Carne
These crispy and delectable Salvadoran empanadas are filled with minced meat and vegetables. In El Salvador they are served as an afternoon snack, but they also make great appetizers for parties. To save time, cook the fillings and assemble the empanadas the day before. You can refrigerate them overnight in a covered container before frying them.
Serves 4-6 (2-3 per person)
1 cup instant corn masa flour
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons water (7 ounces)
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
1 teaspoon ground annatto seeds
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup cooled Minced Pork and Vegetables (Recipe below)
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup Pickled Cabbage, Onions, and Carrots (Recipe below)
Place the corn masa flour in a shallow bowl. Mix in the water, chicken bouillon, ground annatto, and salt. Knead by hand for about 5 minutes until the dough is moist and fluffy. If needed, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time. Divide the dough into 12 equal small balls. The dough can be prepared the day before, if covered and refrigerated.
With wet hands, press and pat each ball between your palms and flatten into thin dough rounds that are about 3 inches in diameter. Place the flattened rounds on top of plastic wrap, waxed paper, or a damp kitchen towel to prevent them from sticking to any solid surface.
In the center of each dough round, place about ½ to 1 tablespoon of the Minced Pork and Vegetable filling, then fold the dough over the fillings into a crescent. Seal the edges with your fingertips or the tines of a fork.
In a medium saucepan heat the oil over a medium to high flame until very hot or 360ºF if using a frying thermometer. Fry the empanadas until golden brown. Serve with a side of Pickled Cabbage and Carrots.
Minced Pork and Vegetables
Picadillo de Cerdo con Verduras
This is a very tasty and versatile dish. The finely diced meat and vegetables provide a wonderful texture and are very pleasing to the palate. This is the recipe for the filling used in Salvadoran Empanadas. The pork can be substituted with boneless chicken thighs. This recipe can also be served as a side dish.
Use as filling for Salvadoran Empanadas
or Serves 4-6
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, fat trimmed, cut into 2- to 3-inch chunks
6 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup minced tomato, seeds removed
½ cup finely diced potatoes
½ cup finely diced carrots
½ cup peeled, pitted, and finely diced chayote
½ cup thinly sliced fresh green beans
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Rinse the pork in cold water.
In a deep pot, combine the pork, water, bay leaf, and salt over high heat. Bring everything to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Skim the foam from the top; repeat as necessary. Cover the pot and cook for about 2 hours or until the meat is very tender. Uncover and cook for 10 more minutes. Remove the meat from the pot and let it rest on a chopping board for 15 minutes. Discard the bay leaf, and reserve 1 cup of broth. Finely dice the pork and set aside.
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and tomato, and sauté for 1 minute; then add the potatoes, carrots, chayote, green beans, and broth. Combine and bring to a quick boil, reduce the flame to low, cover, and cook all the vegetables for about 10 minutes or until tender. Add the meat and pepper and stir together. Correct the salt.
Remove from heat and let it cool before using as a filling for the empanadas, or serve hot as a side dish.
Pickled Cabbage, Onions, and Carrots
This recipe is a must when serving Pupusas, Crispy Fried Yuca and Pork, or Empanadas. The sour-pickled flavor of the cabbage, onions, and carrots is a perfect complement to savory foods.
2 cups shredded green cabbage
½ cup shredded carrots
½ cup thinly sliced onion
4 cups white vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns (optional)
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes or 1 Serrano pepper, finely chopped (optional)