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LATIN CHRISTMAS RECIPES: Empanadas . . . Aji Dipping Sauce . . . Green Chili Chicken Tamales

Empanadas BEEF FILLING: 1/2 large onion 1 pound lean ground beef 1 teaspoon crushed garlic 1 cup whole, pitted green Spanish olives 1 cup raisins Salt and pepper to taste CRUST: 3 cups flour 2 cups cold butter 2 tablespoons water TO FINISH: 2 tab...

Green Chili Chicken Tamales
Chicken Tamales are wrapped in cornhusks.(McClatchy Tribune)

Empanadas

BEEF FILLING:

½ large onion

1 pound lean ground beef

1 teaspoon crushed garlic

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1 cup whole, pitted green Spanish olives

1 cup raisins

Salt and pepper to taste

CRUST:

3 cups flour

2 cups cold butter

2 tablespoons water

TO FINISH:

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2 tablespoons butter, melted

Dice onion finely. In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook onion, beef, garlic, olives and raisins until meat is browned. Do not add oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cool.

Place flour and butter in a mixing bowl. Knead by hand, slowly adding water until dough is thoroughly mixed.

Form empanadas: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a rolling pin, flatten an egg-sized piece of dough into a circle about 8 inches in diameter. Place 2 tablespoons cooled filling on one side of circle. Liberally brush melted butter along the edge of the dough. Fold in half, using the tines of a fork to seal. Then, use your fingers to fold the edge into a rim. Place on baking sheets and bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes.

Aji Dipping Sauce

6 jalapenos

2 bunches of cilantro, including stems

2 cloves garlic

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1 small onion, quartered

Up to ½ cup olive oil

Salt

Quarter jalapenos (leaving seeds). Put jalapenos, cilantro, garlic and onion into a blender and blend, slowly adding oil until the sauce is thick but not runny (you may not need all of the oil). Add salt to taste.

Yield: About 2½ cups.

Green Chili Chicken Tamales

1 8-ounce package dried cornhusks

FILLING::

1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed

2 to 3 fresh jalapenos, seeded, stemmed and chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1½ tablespoons vegetable oil

3½ cups chicken broth

Salt

4 cups shredded cooked chicken (grilled, roasted or rotisserie)

2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

BATTER:

10 ounces rich-tasting pork lard

1½ teaspoons baking powder

4 cups fresh coarse-ground corn masa or 3½ cups dried masa harina mixed with 2¼ cups water

Cover cornhusks with hot water, weight with a plate, let stand 2 hours. Choose 24 (each about 6 inches wide). Pat dry.

Roast the tomatillos 4 inches below the broiler until soft, 5 minutes per side. Cool. In the food processor, whirl smooth tomatillos, chiles and garlic.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Add puree, cook 5 minutes. Add 2 cups broth and simmer until thick, 25 minutes. Season with salt. Stir in chicken and cilantro. Set aside.

With an electric mixer on medium-high, beat lard with 2 teaspoons salt and the baking powder until fluffy, 1 minute. Beat in masa (fresh or reconstituted) in 3 parts. Reduce speed to medium-low and add 1 cup of the remaining broth. Check for fluffiness: ½ teaspoon of batter dropped into cold water will float. Beat until soft as cake batter, adding remaining broth as needed. Season with salt. Chill, rebeat, adding a little broth, until soft.

Lay out 1 cornhusk, tapered end toward you. Spread ¼ cup of batter into a 4-inch square, leaving about a 1-inch border at the top and sides (and more below). Spoon about 1½ tablespoons of chicken filling down the center of the batter square. Bring the 2 long sides of the cornhusk together, rolling the batter around the filling. Tuck one edge of the husk under the other, or roll both around the tamale. Fold up tapered tip to form a closed bottom, leaving top open. Tie with string or strip of cornhusk. Fill remaining husks.

Stand finished tamales in a steamer (or two) lined with cornhusks. Don't crowd.

Cover tamales with a few cornhusks, cover with lid and steam over medium heat until husks peel easily from tamales, 1¼ hours. Add boiling water into the pot if necessary. Let stand a few minutes. Better yet, cool completely and resteam 15 minutes.

Beef Empanadas
Beef Empanadas are served with a Aji Dipping Sauce for a Latin Christmas feast.(McClatchy Tribune)

Related Topics: FOODRECIPES
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