Our first empanadas de atun left a big impression. Who would have thought of combining tuna and canned peas in a Lenten empananda? But it was so good, we would look for tuna empanadas again and again in panaderías during Cuaresma (Lent). Repeating that empanada taste proved illusive, like a childhood memory of a favorite food or place that doesn’t measure up when experienced again years later. We thought we remembered a distinct tuna flavor that blended together in a moist, generous filling, encased in crispy dough. What we found, again and again, was a doughy pocket with such a small smear of tuna, it was not worth the few pesos it cost.
Walmart’s empanadas de atun were especially dismal. All dough, with an orange smear inside that was so miserly, there could not possibly be any flavor of tuna, no matter how hard my taste buds tried. Mega Comercial’s empanadas were better, with more filling, but still shy on the tuna. Look at all that flaky pastry and healthy veggies in their empanada (below). Beautiful empanadas, but little tuna. As this quest was getting us nowhere, I knew it was time to make them myself.
The first time we had empanadas de atun, they were made with only canned tuna, canned peas, and a bit of chile. I stayed true to the original recipe, more or less, but the addition of corn and carrots in Mega’s makes a colorful filling. More veggies means less tuna and there is only so much you can fit into a small pocket of dough. And I was after the tuna taste.
Super Mario, our great yard guy and general handyman, was here today replacing a toilet. (Can you write about toilets in a food blog ?) When we heard the first flush, we knew we were back in business. The least we could do was give him a cold Pacifico and a few warm empanadas. I must have done something right, because he took one home to his wife, saying he wanted her taste it.
Muy Bueno Cookbook inspired the empanada dough recipe, though I used whole wheat flour, and extra baking powder to lighten the dough, which was surprisingly light and easy to handle, given its whole wheat-ness.
Empanadas de Atun ~ Tuna Empanadas makes 14-15 empanadas
- 3 cups (13.5 oz./383 g.) cold whole wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (4 oz./115 g.) cold butter
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz/63 ml.) cold milk
- 2 cold eggs plus 1 beaten egg to brush on empanadas
- Mix flour, baking soda and salt in a food processor, pulsing 3 or 4 times.
- Add butter and process for 10-15 seconds, or until butter is cut into very small pieces, but still visible.
- Add milk and 2 eggs and process just until a ball of dough forms. Do not over-mix.
- Handling as little as possible, roll into a ball and divide into two pieces. Refrigerate while mixing tuna filling.
- 7 oz. ( 200 grams) drained canned tuna
- 2/3 cup (129 g. can) drained canned peas
- juice of 1/2 small lime
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml.) drained, home made cooked salsa
Lightly blend all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 deg. F. (180 C.) Oil large baking sheet.
- Roll out one ball of dough on a floured surface to 1/8″ (.32 cm.) thick.
- Use a 5″ (12.7 cm.) round shape as a cutter and cut out circles from rolled dough, then do the same with the second ball of dough. Roll out scraps and cut more rounds of dough.
- Spoon one heaped tablespoon of tuna filling on one half of dough circle.
- Overlap dough, forming a half circle.
- Moisten lower edge of dough with water.
- Press with a fork to seal edges. Place on baking sheet.
- Brush empanadas with beaten egg.
- Pierce crust with a fork to allow steam to vent.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot or at room temperature.