Make Ahead

Sweet Potato Empanadas with Peas, Rice and Collards

April 28, 2011
3 Ratings
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

I have been debating all week whether or not I was going to enter this weeks contest, no reason really other than time constraints, and honestly I didn’t have any idea what to enter. Now the week has progressed and here it is Thursday night. I have spent much of the week thinking about what recipe I would want to be remembered and quite honestly I am still not certain. The few answers I did come to terms with were personal and frankly nothing I would go into and bore you with here. What I will talk about is what, as a cook, chef or foodie, the things for which I would not want a recipe to be remembered. You know what I am going to take that back. I will talk about the things for which I, in a dream world, would want a recipe to be remembered. While I love food and everything about food which might make you think I would want to be remembered for some Grant Achatz Thomas Keller style dish but really, to answer that briefly, no. No because the reality is 99.9 percent or more of the world will never eat at a restaurant like either of these. In fact to be able to eat at one of the worlds great restaurants is truly a privilege, it puts you among the elite. It is exactly this word elite, or elitism, that has been tossed around a lot lately in the foodie community and in all honesty most recipes I create probably fall into the elitist category. I am not ashamed , nor do I have any regrets about that, but at the same time I am also one who is passionate about down home, rural and an of the people style of cooking. The kind of cooking that for generations has fed the world and kept countless numbers from being hungry at night. It is food made with inexpensive readily accessible ingredients. Food that for generations has been nutritious and not detrimental. In short it is not fast, prepared out of the box food. So when I started to look at what was around and I was thinking about how most people in the Americas might eat, and then it came to me that the Caribbean might just be the central spot, the funnel, where many of the different cultures have passed and then filtered into and onto the Americas. I got to thinking about Jamaican food. I was thinking about how when I lived in Brooklyn how the corner bodega sold peas and rice and curried goat and how much I missed that dish. Then I thought about my youngest daughter and her heritage and the many ways in which food is a building block of culture and how much I hope to provide her with an understanding of her cultural heritage. In the end I was still confused as to what to enter. Well, my wife Amy has been moving toward a vegetarian diet and on many nights I try to make things vegetarian and then add some sort of protein for me and the girls. Tonight though I got a burr up my crawl and decided to make sweet potato empanadas. The dish makes 9 empanadas, they are small-ish but in the end I think you would have enough for lunch the next day. So the question still persist, what dish do I want to be remembered for? Well I decided this is as good as any. - thirschfeld —thirschfeld

Test Kitchen Notes

Everything in this three part meal was delicious. Homey and satisfying with just a whisper of the exotic. The coconut oil added intriguing flavor to the rice and peas. The collards were classic braised collards, fantastic and certainly worth the hour of cooking time. Plus you can use that hour to prepare the rest of the meal pieces. The flavors in the empanadas were wonderful, the combination of sweet, savory, and aromatic was as brilliant as the orange color of the sweet potato. The dough was also remarkably easy to handle and roll. This is definitely a meal with a lot of hands-on time from all the vegetable slicing, the empanada dough making, and the empanada rolling and filling. But, it's just the sort of thing you would want to make for your family to show them you love them. - fiveandspice —fiveandspice

What You'll Need
  • Empanada Dough
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup masa harina
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup ice water
  • For everything else:
  • 3 smallish sweet potatoes, baked until tender
  • 1/3 cup shallots
  • 1/3 cup apple, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons hulled pumpkin seeds, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 bunches collard greens, stems trimmed, washed and chopped into 1 inch strips
  • 1 smallish onion, peeled and julienned
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dried black eyed peas, pigeon peas, or sea island red peas, cooked until tender in water with 2 teaspoons of extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1 cup long grain brown rice, or rice of your choice, cooked and kept warm
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
  1. Pre heat the oven to 300 degrees. Place a Dutch oven over medium high heat and add 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of oil and when it gets hot add the onion and saute until it becomes tender. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes. Add the collards and turn them until all the ribbons are coated in oil. Put the top on the pot and slide it into the oven. Let them cook for one hour stirring them a couple of times.
  2. To make the dough combine the flour, masa, salt and baking powder in the bowl. Add the butter and oil and stir with a sturdy wooden spoon until you have cornmeal looking flour. Add the water and stir until the dough starts to come together. It should be a fairly dry dough. Need the dough until it becomes smooth. Cover it and let it rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Cut the sweet potatoes in half and scoop the flesh of the sweet potatoes into a bowl. In a small saute pan over medium heat add a bit of oil to coat the pan and then saute the shallot until it becomes tender. Then add the raisins, apple, cumin and curry. Saute until fragrant and then add the sherry to deglaze the pan. Add the pan ingredients along with the pumpkin seeds to the sweet potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.
  4. Cut the empanada dough into 9 equal parts. Flatten each ball and then coat them with a dusting of flour. Roll each ball out into a 6 inch circle. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons onto the circle. Then fold over the dough and either crimp with a fork or do the empanada rope roll. Place them on an ungreased sheet tray.
  5. Once you have assembles the empanadas wait until the collards are done. Remove the collards from the oven. Leave the collards to rest with the lid on they will stay plenty hot. Turn the oven to 400 degrees. Once it is to temp, brush the empanadas with milk and bake them for 20 minutes,
  6. Combine the hot rice with the beans and stir in the cilantro. Taste and adjust the seasoning adding more coconut oil if necessary to give them a nice coconut flavor. Taste the collards and adjust the seasoning. Plate it, platter it and serve it with hot sauce.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Adelucchi
  • FAL
  • monkeymom
  • lapadia
  • susan g
    susan g

16 Reviews

Tarra January 12, 2015
I made the empanadas straight from the recipe. I almost left out the raisins, but decided to throw them in anyway. What else am I going to do with that box of raisins that's been in my cabinet for a year? I'm glad I did. They were really good and the dough was really workable. I rolled it out between wax paper so cleaning up was easy too. Next time I'm going to add some sort of meat to them - maybe ground beef or chorizo. I'm wondering if they'll freeze well.
Adelucchi November 13, 2013
Wow! What a meal. I was planning to make it this weekend but my "hollow leg" grandson loves collard greens and wiped them out before I had a chance to make the rest of the mean! I didook everything today. Very labor intense but so good. Thank you for "your burr up your craw" as my grandmother would say. My skeptical husband enjoyed this meal and has already requested it again. I followed the recipe as written. Wonder ff pumpkin could substitute for the sweet potatoes? Thanks again!!
Vicky K. June 26, 2013
Rice cooked in coconut milk and the peas cooked in the same pot would make this more authentic.
Vicky K. June 26, 2013
Or, all the ingredients together in the empanada!
FAL August 26, 2012
Just a quick question here....i see a 'phrase' in a few comments that i have never seen before, nor heard of, and dont have a clue as to what it first i thought it was some sort of typo, but then realized it isn't. So, what does 'burr up your crawl' mean?
monkeymom May 1, 2011
I love that smudge of sauce on the empanada. food + love = great recipe.
lapadia April 30, 2011
I too wondered where your recipe was, hmmm... thanks to that burr up your crawl :) you found it! As well, thanks for sharing the thought process this contest took you through, ending in one of many memorable thirschfeld recipes!
susan G. April 29, 2011
I spent the week thinking about the theme too. While I didn't submit one, it was productive musing. And I wondered where you'd gone. Here's the answer, doubly meaningful because your thoughts are so important. On to the empanadas and 'real' thoughts.
fiveandspice April 29, 2011
Awesome! Somehow, whenever I read what you write T, I'm left wanting to say, "amen." So, amen to that!
Midge April 29, 2011
So glad you got that burr up your crawl;) to come up with this. I adore empanadas and I think you really hit this one out of the park.
lorigoldsby April 29, 2011
I also struggled with this weeks theme--but have enjoyed reading everyone's submissions and was looking for glad you found a few minutes to share with us and remind us why we are passionate about sharing our love of food--we're really just sharing our love for one another. Thanks again
mrslarkin April 28, 2011
Thank you jeebus! I was praying you'd submit something. because otherwise alot of us would have been very sad. Now I'm going to go back and actually read the recipe.
mrslarkin April 29, 2011
Now this is a dish to remember. Can you use leaf lard instead of butter for the empanada dough?
Panfusine April 28, 2011
As God is my witness, you've captured the essence of what everyone probably wants to be remembered for but too chicken to admit! In all probability this recipe will be, in 2 weeks time, in the list of finalists (in which case I WILL vote for it) or else the food52 testing crew will be clawing each other for the privilege of testing this as an EP. If this shows up on an EP list. I want to have the honor of testing & savoring this...
lorigoldsby April 29, 2011
couldn't agree with you more! I may thumb wrestle you for the priviledge of tasting this. ;)
drbabs April 28, 2011
One of the first things I learned to make when I was on my own was a giant empanada. This sounds wonderful. Thanks for participating this week. I was looking so forward to seeing what you'd make.