Green Chile, Mushroom and Cheese Empanadas — Top Chef Night

We are breaking up with empanadas. A few months ago, we made an empanada recipe from a food truck cookbook. They turned out badly. The dough was too tough — thick and chewy. The ground beef filling was bland. After chef Chris Jones tackled empanadas on Top Chef, we decided to try again with his recipe for green chile, mushroom and Oaxaca cheese empanadas (click here for recipe). Turns out, empanadas and us are not MFEO (made for each other).

The recipe is written to feed a huge number of people so we cut it down accordingly. Determined not to face the same tough dough as last time, I even purchased a tub of Crisco, just as the recipe calls for. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased Crisco in my life and I have no idea what I’m going to do with a tub of the stuff. In any case, I used 1.5 cups of masa, equal parts water, a few tablespoons of Crisco, baking powder and salt. And far from dry and brittle, the dough was soft, sticky and overly pliable. It stuck to everything. Bad sign.

While I was puzzling over the dough, K charred a poblano pepper under the broiler, cut up assorted mushrooms, chopped an onion and crumbled a bunch of cotija cheese (because the store was out of Oaxaca). He sautéed the onions and mushrooms and, when cool, mixed everything together. Then he watched me with increasing horror as I fell apart … just as the dough was doing.

Roasted poblano, skin steaming off while chilling out (which is what I should have done).

It stuck to the rolling pin, so I added more masa. K suggested using the roller on the pasta maker. The dough shredded after sticking to that as well, little bits clinging to the machine for dear life. I added some flour. It stuck to my hands as I desperately used them to flatten small dough circles. Once I’d pounded out the requisite number of circles, I filled them then attempted to fold them into half moons. SONOFAB@(*$^&*(%  They cracked and fell apart. I stuck everything back together and sealed the edges as best I could. They were the ugliest empanadas ever made. Check it…

The ugliest empanadas known to humankind.

The recipe does not say how to actually *cook* the empanadas, so we decided to bake them. We were both starving, I was wicked cranky and our best hope at this point was that the empanadas would taste better than they looked.

The empanadas tasted marginally better than they looked. The crust was not tender and flaky, but what can best be described as weird and certainly too thick around the edges. The mushroom filling was tasty, but fairly blah. Unspectacular and not enough to make up for the crust. This was not helped by the fact that my final bite included the one, deviant, searingly hot piece of poblano that scorched my taste buds and nearly shut down my lungs. Dear empanadas: We are breaking up. It’s definitely you, not us. We’re happy to enjoy your company as long as someone else makes you. But you’re not invited to our kitchen anymore.

Green chile, mushroom and cheese empanadas

Alterations: We cut the recipe down for two people (from 200), we used an assortment of mushrooms and cotija cheese instead of Oaxaca.
Soundtrack: A sampling of the best of DJ Jake Rudh’s “Transmission” nights.
Will we make this again: Nice try, empanadas. I told you we broke up. See above.


4 thoughts on “Green Chile, Mushroom and Cheese Empanadas — Top Chef Night

  1. hilarious post. haven’t we all been there…and the messy kitchen, failed cooking experiment, all topped off by the deviant poblano….well written!

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