Empanaditas de Catibias (Cassava Root Pasties) is the Dominican Republic’s version of the globally popular meat pie. The cassava root (also called yucca) pastry makes it uniquely Dominican. Together with the ground beef with veggies and spices, Empanaditas de Catibias is a remarkable culinary treat.
Empanaditas de Catibias Recipe-
For the Pastry-
- 1 lb. peeled and finely grated cassava (yucca) root
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 cups vegetable oil (for deep frying)
For the Filling-
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded rough chopped
- 4 tomatoes, rough chopped
- 1 small red onion, peeled and rough chopped
- 4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and rough chopped
- 2 tbsp. of fresh cilantro leaves
- 6 oz. lean ground beef
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tbsp. scallion infused olive oil
For the Filling-
- Process the tomatoes, onion, garlic, bell pepper and cilantro into a thick paste, using the pulse button on a food processor. (you can also use an electric blender)
- In a large mixing bowl, blend the paste mixture well with the ground beef.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, sauté and brown the pasty-beef mixture. Once the meat is well browned, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the skillet. Stir often as it cooks.
- When all the liquid has evaporated, take the skillet off of the burner and set aside while you prepare the pastry.
For the Pastry, Assembly, and Cooking-
- Lightly oil a large baking tray or flat working surface.
- Place the grated cassava root in a cloth, wrap it up, and squeeze hard and long – you want to squeeze out as much excess water as you possibly can.
- In a suitably-sized cooking pot, add in the water and salt, and then the grated and squeezed-dry cassava root. Bring the water to a vigorous boil, then reduce heat to a mild simmer and cook, stirring constantly and vigorously, until the cassava loses its white color and turned a darker, almost transparent color.
- Take the pot off of the burner, empty the cassava onto the oiled working surface, and allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Oil your hands, and then knead the (now doughy-textured) cassava until it will retain a molded shape. This step is very important, and can be a bit tricky. If your dough does not hold shape, and/or is a bit “sticky”, pop it in the microwave for about 10 seconds on high, then cool it, then knead it some more. You may even have to do this more than once, but it is essential that the dough is malleable and will maintain a molded shape.
- Now divide the dough into 12 equally sized balls, and then roll out each ball on the oiled surface into round, thin disks.
- Put a heaping tablespoon of the beef mixture in the center of each disk. Fold the outer edges of the dough together, encasing the filling. Using a fork, press and seal the edges of the semi-circle together.
- Heat the 4 cups of oil to sizzling hot in a deep, large skillet. Use a skillet that will hold the oil in a depth that will allow the pastries to be submerged as they cook.
- Deep-fry the pastries, turning over once, until they are a rich golden brown color. Work in batches if necessary.
- As the pastries come out of the skillet, place them on a paper towel-lined baking tray to let the excess oil drain off.
- Serve your Empanaditas de Catibias while still nice and warm. Any that are not eaten right away can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. They will taste just as good if not even better when reheated later.
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