Empanadas - 4

Course : Appetizers
Serves: 24
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2 cups flour
1/2 cup lard
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup iced water -- about
1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion -- , chopped
2 cloves garlic -- , chopped
1/3 cup toasted almonds -- coarsely chopped
1/3 cup dark raisins
8 medium Italian Roma tomatoes
24 medium serrano chiles
2 medium limes -- juice of
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon sea salt -- , to taste
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper -- , to taste

Preparation / Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the flour with the lard, butter, and salt. Mix lightly with your fingertips until the dough forms grape-sized pieces. You should still be able to see streaks of fat. Stir in the water. Lightly knead, handling the dough as little as possible, until the dough forms a ball. Add a little more water if needed. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, then remove and let it return to room temperature, about 1 hour, before rolling. The dough can be frozen for as long as a week. Pinch off about half the dough. Roll out, on a floured surface, to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut out 3-inch circles. Then, gather the scraps, add to the rest of the dough, and roll out an other batch of circles. Repeat, with the rest of the scraps. This should be enough dough for about 24 empanadas. In a large heavy skillet, over a medium-high heat, sauté the ground beef until the meat is browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain off the excess fat. Add the onion and sauté 2 minutes. Then add the garlic, almonds, and raisins, and sauté‚ 1 minute. Place the tomatoes, chiles, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a blender and puree until smooth. Add the puree, cumin, cinnamon and salt and pepper to the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes to get rid of any excess liquid. Cool. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of each circle of pastry. Fold over the pastry and seal the edges. Let the empanadas rest in the refrigerator 1/2 hour or freeze immediately. (Bake the frozen empanadas without defrosting.) Empanadas may be glazed (1 egg and 2 tablespoons milk, well beaten) and baked until golden in a 400 degree oven, for about 15 minutes. Or they may be deep-fried in oil at 375 degrees until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes a side. (If you deep-fry them, make sure the edges are well sealed so the filling won't leak.)

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