Food has a really good way of making us feel “at home” and helping to make foreign familiar.  During college I studied Spanish in Costa Rica for a term.  Costa Rica wasn’t new territory for me, I’d been there at least a handful of times for surf trips and summers along the Pacific Ocean.  However, the language and culture I thought I had a handle on took me by surprise when I was given a local Tico family to host me during my studies.  They spoke no English and part of my schooling was to live their culture and speak their language-only.

The first few nights with my new Tico family I sat at the dinner table in fits of frustration, unable to understand much and speak even less.  Communication was challenging and the beach was calling my name. The thoughts of being in the Pacific Ocean with my friends, eating empanadas, surfing, and playing in tide pools had me wanting out of the city and school to the point of tears.  As the schooling carried on I was learning more of the language and culture and really falling in love with the country that I was already so passionate about, but something still left me lonely even in my second home.  One afternoon my “abuela” spoke in the most beautiful Spanish my ears have ever heard, “Time to learn how to make empanadas”.  Cooking was part of my schooling and empanadas were part of every summer along the beaches of Playa Hermosa.  “Si!  Si!  Quisiera hacer empanadas por favor!”, I told my abuela.  I was more than ready to learn how to cook empanadas, I knew all about them.  Suddenly my hands were full of Maseca and something so familiar to me, a food I knew, had me comforted.

With about 2 months till Rev3 Costa Rica I want to share with you my favorite empanada recipe.  A little something taught to me in a tiny kitchen one summer in Costa Rica.  A little something that I hope you try if you plan to race REV3 Costa Rica.  It has bridged a culture gap for this girl and I’m already counting the days till I can taste fresh empanadas once again.

From my abuelas cocina(kitchen) in Costa Rica, to my kitchen in Hawaii, to your kitchen…
Tico style empanadas

You need:

  • 2 cups Maseca
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 pound of lean beef
    Oil (lots for frying)
  • Half an onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • Spices:  pick your favorites: salt, pepper, garlic powder, chicken flavor cubes, cumin, onion powder, seasonal spices
  • Flour:  just enough to keep your hands and the empanada mixture from sticking to the wax paper while preparing to fill them
  • A sheet of wax paper (big enough to roll the empanadas on)

You do:

  1. Brown the beef, add the onion and red pepper to the beef.  I like to add spices to the beef too, think of making it the way you make taco beef.
  2. In a large bowl combine the water, Maseca, and all the spices you think will make a good “crust”, add them to suit your taste as far as spicy or not.  Mix well.
  3. In a large fry pan heat the oil on medium-high heat.
  4. Lay the wax paper on your counter and coat sprinkle with flour.  Roll the empanada mix into 3-5 balls.  One ball at a time, flatten onto the wax paper in a circle.
  5. Spread the beef mixture onto one side of the flattened empanada mix.  Using the wax paper fold over the empanada.  Gently press the 2 sides together so it closes into a little half moon shape.  Use your fingers to pinch it together tightly.
  6. Carefully add each empanada into the oil browning on each side, flip them over after about 5 minutes or until golden and crispy.
  7. Once the empanadas are fried allow them to lay on paper towel to drain off excess oil and cool a little before eating
  8. Serve with rice, black beans, avocado, and pico de gallo (salsa)
  9. Disfrute!! (enjoy)