Star Cooking: Lunch Truck Empanadas, Y'all

Two Chix in a Truck ( Serena and Brianna) hit it big this week. The ladies put their catfights aside to strive for redemption, and they delivered. All of their food truck lunch dishes won praise from the judges, but when it came time to cook a winner, picking one standout was a no-brainer: Brianna’s Empanada with Serena’s Chimichurri sauce. I listened to Paula and was instantly sold: “The empanada, y’all, is really good.”

I ran into a roadblock when my grocery store didn’t have empanada wrappers. With no time to hightail it to a Latin market or to make my own dough, I scoured the frozen food aisle for a good plan B. I decided to improvise with wonton wrappers. My two-bite empanadas would just have to be an appetizer version of Brianna and Serena’s lunch pocket.

Back in the kitchen, my first step was blitzing all of the chimichurri sauce ingredients in my mini food processor. Brianna and Serena are obviously both big fans of garlic—the sauce and the filling each called for six cloves. Fortunately, I’m a garlic lover too and found the herby, lemony, garlicky sauce wonderful. I saved the leftovers in a jar in the fridge, ready to spice up next week’s boring chicken or fish.

The empanada filling came together easily and quickly—a flavorful mixture of ground beef, onions, garlic, spices, chopped green chiles and egg. After letting it cool a few minutes, I got to work filling my little half-moon empanadas (er, wontons).

Deep-frying is not something I often do at home—I don’t even have a deep-fat thermometer to determine whether the oil has reached 350 degrees. However, I once learned a trick: If you stick a wooden chopstick into the hot oil and little bubbles start to form, the oil is ready for frying. If no bubbles form, it needs to heat up more, and if it starts bubbling vigorously, it’s too hot.

The chopstick method worked, and my empanadas fried up beautifully! Since they were miniature, they needed less than a minute on each side to get golden brown. I plated them up with a ramekin of chimichurri for dipping and dug in.

Paula, I have to concur—these were good, y’all.

Whose dish will we be cooking up at home next week? Watch the next episode of The Next Food Network Star Sunday at 9pm/8c to see who’s cooking up winners…and who’s going home.

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