Izabella Monzon, a Lavaca resident, is a descendent of the indigenous Payaya, Pastia, Pampopa peoples, and Izabella loves to cook... especially traditional foods of this area.
One of her earliest childhood memories is watching her abuela’s fingers folding the Christmas empanadas. When her abuela passed away, Izabella's father became the empanada maker in the family. But Izabella herself continues the family tradition and makes Christmas empanadas... but she makes them all year round, for all kinds of occasions.
Izabella tells me that her family’s traditional recipe for empanadas has a filling of meat, raisins, boiled egg, and parsley. But like most good cooks, she’s adapted it a bit. Here’s her recipe for this favorite Christmas tradition.
2 heaping cups of cooked black beans
4 ounces of goat cheese
12 frozen empanada disks, thawed
1 egg, beaten
It’s best to work with cold empanada ingredients because it will be easier to assemble and less messy.
Preheat the oven to 345 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Place an empanada disk on a cutting board and scoop about 2 tablespoons of beans onto the center of the disk and top with some goat cheese (to your liking).
Fold the disk over and press the edges together. Then press the edges firmly with your fingers or a fork to really seal the edges. Repeat for each disk.
Place the disks on the baking sheet and brush with the beaten egg.
Bake until golden brown, about 17 minutes.
Serve the empanadas with the Poblano Crema.
Izabella making Christmas empanadas
The Black Beans
A key ingredient in the empanadas is creamy black beans. Although about any black bean recipe will work (even plain canned black beans), Izabella prefers her mother’s recipe.
16 ounces of black beans
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
1⁄2 an onion, coarsely chopped
1⁄2 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 tablespoon of paprika
Pick debris out of the beans and rinse twice.
Put beans in a sauce pan with garlic and cover with water (to about a 1⁄2 inch above the beans). Cover and cook over medium heat for an hour, checking occasionally to ensure that the beans are still covered. Take care not to add too much water because it will change the texture from creamy to watery.
Add the onions.
Continue cooking until the beans are fork tender, about another hour.
When beans are cooked, add the salt, cumin and paprika.
The Poblano Crema
1 poblano pepper, roasted
1 jalapeno pepper, roasted
1⁄4 of a small onion, sliced
1 clove of garlic, peeled
Juice of half of a lime
6 sprigs of cilantro
1 cup of cashews
1⁄2 cup of water
1 teaspoon of salt
To roast the peppers: pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat the peppers with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes.
Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
This is enough for a single serving. Can be scaled up for a larger portion.
Patricia is a photographer and the editor of our neighborhood recipes.
You might also like...