The countdown is on. We take my son Nathan to college next week and I’m riding a roller coaster of joy and grief that I’ve dreaded since he was born. The time we spend together grows more and more precious, which has been happening all year, but in the last weeks has intensified into slow-motion, golden-lit moments that feel like scenes from a favorite movie as I do my best to savor every minute.
Cooking for Nathan has been one of my greatest pleasures and I’m going to miss creating little gifts for him on a regular basis. Empanadas are one of his very favorite dishes, so of course I had to work a version into this last hurrah of meals. I’ve riffed on this recipe in many ways over the years, depending on how much time I had to pull dinner together. If I wasn’t in a rush I’d make real-deal individual empanadas wrapped in flaky pastry. If I was scrambling, I’d make one large empanada in a pie plate, between two sheets of short pastry, aka empanada pie. Lately, I’ve been serving the piccadillo-style filling atop grain-free flatbread and it might just be our favorite iteration yet. That said, purchased naan, heated on the grill, makes a fast and fantastic base as well. While you’re at it, grill a mess of vegetables to fill out the meal.
Our go-to empanada dipping sauce—or in this case, drizzling sauce—is good ol’ chimichurri. Yep, again. What can I say? I love the stuff. The zing of fresh herbs, garlic, and vinegar is the perfect foil for the salty-sweet filling.
2 tablespoons olive oil or beef fat
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
1 medium sweet potato (I use white sweet potatoes), peeled and diced small
1 pound ground grass-fed beef
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup chopped green olives
1/2 cup chicken or beef broth
One large or two medium flatbreads, lightly oiled and heated over a grill or in a skillet
Add oil to a large skillet. Set over medium heat and when oil is hot, add onion to the pan. Saute for 5 minutes, until onion is starting to soften, then add potatoes to the pan. Stir to coat with oil and cover pan for 5 minutes. Remove cover and add ground beef, oregano, and garlic to the pan.
Saute beef, breaking it up with the side of a spatula or spoon, until no longer pink. Add raisins, olives, and broth to the pan and continue cooking and breaking up the beef until broth is evaporated. Season piccadillo with salt to taste.
To serve, spoon piccadillo over warm flatbread. Cut into wedges and drizzle with chimichurri.