Holiday dining at home: Chicago chef Rodolfo Cuadros’ beef empanadas recipe

“Every single family event that I can remember, there was always a group of mothers, aunts and cousins working together to create this incredibly humble dish that is deeply rooted in Colombian culture,” says Amaru’s chef Cuadros.

SHARE Holiday dining at home: Chicago chef Rodolfo Cuadros’ beef empanadas recipe
Chef Rudolf Cuadros is photographed at his restaurant, Amaru, in Wicker Park.

Chef Rodolfo Cuadros is photographed at his restaurant, Amaru, in Wicker Park.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

We asked Chicago chefs to share their favorite holiday recipes, dishes that reflect their cultural traditions, and to tell us why the recipes mean so much to them. Here is one recipe to make at home during the holiday season or any time of year.

Chef Rodolfo Cuadros

Amaru, 1904 W. North Ave.

Dish: Colombian Beef Empanadas

“Empanadas are the quintessential shareable dish of Colombian culture! It’s not just a dish for eating at specific holidays, it is eaten all year round because of its deep flavors, portability and shareability.

“This dish is deeply intertwined with most of my memories as a child. Every single family event that I can remember, there was always a group of mothers, aunts and cousins working together to create this incredibly humble dish that is deeply rooted in Colombian culture. Every single time they were working on empanadas during a family event, I was hiding under the table waiting impatiently so I could steal the first empanada before anyone else could get their hands on them!” — Chef Rodolfo Cuadros

Colombian Beef Empanadas

Beef empanadas by Chef Rudolf Cuadros are plated at Amaru. 

Beef empanadas by Chef Rudolf Cuadros are plated at Amaru.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Ingredients:

Beef Filling:

  • 3 lbs beef chuck roll (season heavily with salt and pepper before searing)
  • 2 quarts beef stock
  • 4 medium onions, diced
  • 3 tbsp of garlic
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 1oz thyme sachet
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 3 tbsp oregano
  • 1 12 tbsp cumin
  • 3 lbs medium-sized Yukon potatoes, diced
  • 4 oz tomato paste
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped

Directions:

  1. Cut the chuck roll into 1-inch-thick slices and season heavily with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large pot at high heat sear chuck roll on all sides. Pull meat from the pot add carrots, onions, garlic, thyme, stock and spices.
  3. Add seared beef back to the pot, cover and simmer at low heat for 1.5 hours, adding water and stock as needed.
  4. After beef is fork tender, pull for stock, shred meat and reduce liquid by half. Add medium diced potatoes and tomato paste and simmer until potatoes are cooked through.
  5. Add meat back to the mixture and season to taste. Mixture should be thick and heavy. Cool and store.

Empanada Dough:

  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 3 oz achiote paste
  • 1 12 lbs arepa harina
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp salt

Directions:

  1. Blend canola oil and achiote paste until smooth, transfer to a small pot and warm up at low heat for a few minutes, set aside to cool.
  2. In a large bowl add arepa harina, half of prepped oil, cumin, salt and water little by little, kneading the dough until it comes together into a smooth thick dough. (Add oil and water as needed).

Building the empanadas directions:

You will need a tortilla press and a plastic Hefty bag to build your empanadas. Once your masa has a homogenous texture with a soft feel and is a bit slippery from the oil, you are ready to build your empanadas. Begin by weighing 4 oz balls of masa, as many as desired.

Steps:

1. Open the tortilla press

2. Lay out the plastic Hefty bag on top of the press and place a masa ball in the middle

3. Press the masa ball into a thin disc by closing the tortilla press and pressuring it closed. You should finish with a 7-inch tortilla disc

4. Keeping the disc on the plastic, add 2 oz of empanada filling and close the dough into a half moon

5. Using a large coffee mug placed over the half moon and making sure to be along the inside edge, press down with a good amount of pressure

6. Peel back the plastic and remove the empanada, making sure the seam is closed tight and that there are no cracks on the surface

7. Fry for five minutes at 350° and remove from oil. Add salt and serve hot.

Amaru is located at 1904 W. North Ave.

Amaru is located at 1904 W. North Ave.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

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