Beef and Onion Empanadas

These empanadas use Puerto Rican recaito. It is a blend of onions, herbs, garlic, and peppers that adds a burst of delicious flavor to the filling.

Beef and Onion Empanadas from The National Onion Association

These tender and delicious empanadas can be used in so many ways! They make great party snacks and appetizers, or you can pair them with a salad for a full meal.

Our version uses a simple homemade crust. Feel free to substitute your favorite recipe, or take a shortcut and use a pre-made dough for pie crust from the store. The filling combines lean ground beef and chopped onions. Then recaito is stirred in to add a deeper flavor with more sweet onion and bright cilantro.

These empanadas have a generous amount of filling so you’ll need to stretch the dough around it and pinch to seal them well for baking. Also be sure not to roll your dough too thin so that there is plenty to work with as you stretch and shape your empanadas.

Beef and Onion Empanadas

Makes:  10

Ingredients

Dough
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
6 to 7 tablespoons ice cold water

Filling
1 pound lean ground beef
¼ cup diced yellow onion
¾ cup recaito
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

Preparation

To make the crust, place the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts, 5 to 6 times, until the butter is distributed throughout the flour in small pieces.

With the processor on low add the water 1 tablespoon at a time. Pause at 5 tablespoons and allow the dough to begin to come together in the center of the bowl. Continue to add water until the dough forms a ball. Remove the lid, gather the dough into a ball and transfer to a flat surface. Form into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

While the dough rests, make the filling. Brown the beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Add the onion. Continue to cook until the beef is no longer pink, about 3 more minutes. Drain any grease if necessary.

Stir in the recaito and salt and cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll the dough on a floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Use a 4 ½-inch biscuit cutter to cut the dough into circles. Re-roll the dough until you get 10 circles. Place them all on a flat surface and transfer an equal scoop of the cooled filling onto each circle. It will be approximately ¼ cup filling for each. Fold the dough around the filling to create a half-moon. Pinch the ends together to seal each empanada.

Place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, or on a non-stick baking sheet. Whisk together the egg and water in a small dish. Brush each empanada with the egg wash.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. All to cool 5 minutes. Serve warm.

 

Recipe and images by Lori Rice for the National Onion Association

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Puerto Rican Recaito 

A puree of onions, peppers, garlic, and cilantro, Puerto Rican recaito can be used to start a recipe or it can be mixed in at the end to add a burst of delicious, fresh flavor!

Puerto Rican Recaito Recipe from The National Onion Association | Find it at onions-usa.org

A staple in Puerto Rican cooking, recaito is full of onions and serves as a base of flavor for all kinds of recipes from beans and rice to stews and empanadas. There are a few things that make recaito different from the onion cooking bases we’ve discussed so far, such as the Cajun Holy Trinity and the French mirepoix.

First, it uses a larger variety of ingredients, and some ingredients that might be harder to find. Don’t worry, though. We have substitutes! Second, it isn’t cooked first. It is pureed into a thick sauce that is added to the recipe. This turns out to be a great thing for planning ahead and future meals. A standard recipe makes more than you will likely use in one dish so it can be refrigerated or frozen for later.

Ingredients for Puerto Rican Recaito Recipe

There are different versions of recaito, but the main ingredients are most often onions, cilantro, culantro, garlic, green bell pepper, and ajies dulces (a small sweet chile pepper). Culantro is an herb with long, wide, flat leaves that is similar to cilantro. You can often find it in international supermarkets, but if not, you can double the cilantro in the recipe.

Ajies dulces might be hard to find as well, depending on the season and where you are located. They sometimes look like habanero peppers, but they are sweet, not hot. You can substitute any type of sweet pepper. Since some ajies dulces are orange, we substitute part of an orange bell pepper in our recipe.

To make the recaito, everything is roughly chopped, placed in a food processor or blender, and pureed until smooth, almost like a pesto. From this point, a scoop or two of the recaito can be cooked in oil in a hot skillet to start a recipe, or it can be stirred into ground meats or stews as the dish nears the end of cooking.

Puerto Rican Recaito Recipe

You will notice the vibrant flavor as soon as you take a bite of something that uses this cooking base. The onions blend well with the herbs, garlic, and peppers. We like to use recaito in the filling for Beef and Onion Empanadas and we’ll have our favorite recipe to share with you soon. For now, mix up a batch of recaito so that you can have it on hand to flavor all kinds of dishes.

Puerto Rican Recaito 

Makes:  About 2 ½ cups

Ingredients

1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, cored and chopped
1 head garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 bunch culantro, chopped (about 1 cup packed)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (about 1 cup packed)
½ medium orange bell pepper, chopped (or 3 small ajies dulces)

 Preparation

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Turn on low for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the container as needed. Process on high for 15 seconds, until a thick sauce forms. Refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

 

Recipe and images by Lori Rice for the National Onion Association

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French Ham and Vegetable Stew

This comforting, hearty ham and vegetable stew is a twist on the French dish called Garbure. It starts with a mirepoix, a flavorful mix of onions, carrots, and celery.

French Ham and Vegetable Stew recipe from The National Onion Association and the Onionista Blog!

Recipes for Garbure have a few things in common. They are thick soups or stews with a mirepoix base that is built upon with root vegetables and cabbage, herbs, ham, rich stock, and often beans. There are many variations to this slow-simmered dish. For our recipe, we wanted to create the same delicious flavor using onions, carrots, and celery, but as an approachable weeknight meal for the whole family.

We don’t include slow cooking a ham hock with dried beans, but that is certainly an option. Here we’ve opted to add cooked diced ham making this an ideal meal to make with leftovers.

It comes together in as little as 30 minutes allowing you to quickly warm up with a hearty meal for lunch or dinner on any day of the week.

This French Ham and Vegetable Stew starts with a mirepoix, a flavorful mix of onions, carrots, and celery! | Get the recipe at onions-usa.org!

Makes: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time:  20 minutes

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large rib celery, chopped
2 medium gold potatoes, chopped
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 (3-to-4-inch) sprig each of fresh rosemary and thyme
1 dried bay leaf
1 (15-ounce) can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
8 ounces diced cooked ham
1 cup thinly sliced napa or savoy cabbage
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Preparation

Heat the olive oil over medium-high in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the potatoes and cook for 3 more minutes.

Pour in the stock and add the sprig of rosemary and thyme and the bay leaf. Increase the heat to bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat slightly, and allow the soup to simmer for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

Stir in the beans and ham. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add the cabbage, salt, and pepper. Discard the sprigs of rosemary and thyme and the bay leaf. Serve warm sprinkled with parsley.

Recipe and images by Lori Rice for the National Onion Association

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The French Mirepoix

The next stop on our tour of Onions Around the World is France, and a mirepoix, a mix of onions, carrots, and celery!

Onion cooking tips: The French mirepoix is a flavorful mix of onions, carrots, and celery used to start delicious recipes like soups and stews.

Mirepoix (meer-PWAH) is the French cooking base that often gets credit for being an original recipe that was used to create other cooking bases in regions around the world. For example, it is possible that the Cajun Holy Trinity in the U.S. evolved to use green peppers instead of the carrots associated with the French recipe.

Geographically speaking, Mirepoix is a town in southwestern France. While it is difficult to identify the exact origin of the mix, there is evidence that it was named after, or is at least related to, the 18th century Duke of Mirepoix.

Mirepoix works so well to flavor dishes because it offers a balance of aromatics from onions and celery and pairs them with the sweetness of carrots. Proper ratios are up for debate, but many cooking references suggest a ratio of two parts onion, one part carrots, and one part celery.

One of the most interesting topics surrounding the onion base is the question of whether to brown the ingredients. Traditionally, the vegetables are lightly sautéed in fat such as butter or olive oil, a process also called sweating. In this method, the vegetables soften and juices become visible around the pieces, but no browning occurs. Taking the cooking further to browning, or caramelizing, changes the flavor of the vegetables. Sweetness deepens and intensifies. This is rarely a bad thing when it comes to delicious food, but it might go against history and tradition.

A mirepoix (a mix of onions, carrots, and celery) ready to be cooked as the start to many delicious recipes! Read more about Onions Around the World at onions-usa.org!

In the U.S., though, how to cook mirepoix is up to the cook and the recipe. In a demonstration from the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Bill Briwa suggests browning the vegetables deeply for use with beef roasts. He also suggests adding the celery later in the process. The onions and carrots have more natural sugars that will result in better caramelization and flavor if allowed to brown prior to adding the celery.

Regardless of how a recipe suggests preparing the mirepoix, a uniform chopping method is essential to result in even cooking. The best size for the pieces all depends on how they will be used. Recipes with shorter cooking times, such as a sautéed vegetable and rice dish, will benefit from finely diced pieces for quick cooking, while soups and stews with longer cooking times can handle more rough chopping and larger pieces.

We don’t know about you, but we think the mirepoix has an interesting story given that it is such a simple mix of everyday ingredients. Whether lightly cooked or caramelized, with pieces small or large, the flavor it provides is essential to so many delicious recipes. We love how it can turn a basic soup or stew into a comforting meal that is worthy of a craving. Coming up next, we’ll be using the onion base in a favorite stew with French origin!

 

Images by Lori Rice for the National Onion Association

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Shrimp and Chicken Sausage Gumbo

This hearty Shrimp and Chicken Sausage Gumbo starts with the Cajun Holy Trinity, a combination of onions, celery, and green bell peppers!

Shrimp and Chicken Sausage Gumbo Recipe from The National Onion Association

Gumbo makes a warm, filling meal and our version is no exception. It is rich with the flavors of the Cajun Holy Trinity combined with spices and crushed tomatoes. Jumbo shrimp add a burst of flavor, and while you can use any type of smoked sausage, we chose a version made from chicken.

We served this gumbo over white rice, but brown rice makes a delicious whole grain option. You can also pass on the grains and eat it like a stew on its own. Chopped parsley is a pretty garnish, but for a creative touch, chop up some of the leaves from your bunch of celery instead and sprinkle them over the top before serving.

This Shrimp and Chicken Sausage Gumbo recipe starts with the Cajun Holy Trinity of onions, celery, and green bell peppers! Get the recipe at onions-usa.org.

Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 large stalks of celery, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, cored and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted chicken stock
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 pound thawed jumbo shrimp, cleaned*
13-to-16-ounces fully cooked smoked chicken sausage, chopped
White or brown rice for serving
Chopped parsley or celery leaves for garnish

Preparation

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep pot such as a 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring often, for 2 more minutes. Sprinkle in the salt, paprika, oregano, black pepper, and cayenne. Stir well.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir in the butter until melted. Add the flour and stir for about 1 minute as the flour and butter form a paste around the vegetables. Slowly pour in the stock and stir well. Increase the heat to medium as you stir. The stock will thicken quickly. Gradually stir in the tomatoes.

Increase the heat and bring the gumbo to a simmer. Add the shrimp and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the shrimp turn opaque and are cooked through. Add the sausage and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until warmed through.

Serve the gumbo over rice and sprinkle with parsley or celery leaves before serving.

*Cleaned cooked shrimp can be substituted. Thaw before using and add them to the pot at the same time as the sausage. Cook until all ingredients are fully heated. 

Recipe and images by Lori Rice for the National Onion Association

 

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