When I think fast food in Argentina, I think empanadas. Baked or fried dough filled with various combinations of meat, cheese and vegetables. What’s not to like?
There are endless options for buying traditional empanadas in Buenos Aires, and each one costs less than a dollar. I’d be silly to make my own at home. Instead, I wanted to create a version you can’t find on the streets here.
For some reason I couldn’t get the idea of eggs out of my head. Then when my friend Marissa told me about a frittata recipe with bacon and caramelized onions, I had a burst of inspiration. I would make a filling with similar flavors, and encase it in the wonder that is empanada dough.
I added caramelized onions, pancetta and reggianito (an Argentine cheese similar to Parmigiano) to scrambled eggs, which I cooked until just set, but softer than I normally eat them, knowing they’d keep cooking when I fried the empanadas.
It wasn’t until after I made them that I realized these were a glamourized version of American Hot Pockets. But fresh, no preservatives and a lot more flavor. I don’t even know the last time I ate a Hot Pocket, but I’ll tell you, I’d eat these again anytime.
Empanadas with Eggs, Caramelized Onions and Pancetta
Original recipe inspired by this frittata. No exact measurements, but you can get an idea of the process.
- Empanada dough (I bought this from the grocery store. There are recipes to make your own elsewhere. I haven’t tried them, but this sounds promising and I always have a lot of trust in Smitten Kitchen.)
- Eggs (I used three and it ended up making enough for six empanadas, or two servings.)
- Pancetta…or bacon…1/4 cup maybe, chopped into cubes
- 1 small onion, sliced and then rough chopped in
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the opposite direction to get shorter slices (I cooked the whole onion, but didn’t end up using it all in the egg mixture.)
- Grated reggianito cheese…gruyere is probably the ideal cheese for this flavor combination, but I went with what I had in the fridge and it was good.
- Splash of balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- Oil for frying
Cook the cubed pancetta in a medium-sized pan and set aside. Try to keep grease in the pan, but you can set the meat on a paper towel to get rid of excess fat.
Add the sliced onions to the pan, cooking over medium heat, and adding a small amount of olive oil if necessary. Salt is good for drawing out the moisture in onions, but be careful. My pancetta was on the salty side, so I didn’t want to over-season. When the onions start to get soft, turn to medium-low. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar. The longer the onions cook, the sweeter and softer they’ll become, so cook to your desired level of caramelization.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, pancetta, onion (I didn’t use all of what I had cooked, so I saved the rest in the fridge), cheese and some finely ground pepper. (Salt likely isn’t needed because of the pork and onions.)
In the same pan, over medium-low heat, pour in the egg mixture and scramble with a spatula. Cook until just set, not runny per se, but not overdone because they will continue to cook inside the dough.
Add a equal spoonfuls of the cooked egg mixture to the center of your empanada dough. Fold and close, making fancy designs if you’re talented like that. My attempts didn’t go so well, so I just pressed the ends with a fork.
In a tall pot, heat enough oil to cover nearly half an empanada. In batches, cook each side of the empanadas until golden brown. It doesn’t take long. They should come out just crisp on the outside, but still doughy on the inside. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to remove excess oil.
Serve for brunch, lunch or dinner. I ate mine with a green salad for dinner, then reheated leftovers on a skillet for lunch the next day.