Risole (Brazilian Empanadas)
In Brazil, Christmas is known as Dia de festas and is celebrated every year on December 25. Christmas is one of the most important holidays in Brazil, a time for sharing with family over a meal. Unlike Chicago, Christmas is in the middle of summer and is often hot and sunny. So the feeling of "Christmas in July" is totally natural for Chef Jorgina Pereira of Sinhá in Chicago offers us just the right spice for our celebration. We are thrilled to share Chef Pereira’s recipe for her favorite vegetarian pastries, Risoles de Palmito, or hearts of palm empanada. They are usually served as a treat before a feast like a holiday meal and are considered a must-try traditional dish when visiting Brazil.
Chef Pereira says her fondest holiday memory is the "drop-in" Christmas brunches her mother used to prepare every Christmas. "Back then, we didn't have phones to call anyone, and they just knew to come." Now you can try to make her Risoles de Palmito, and maybe you’ll convince Papai Noel to drop in a few months early.
Ingredients (for about 30 Risoles)
Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 30 minutes
For the filling
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 white onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed
- 6 cups sautéed spinach
- 3 tablespoons of creamy Feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons of cream cheese
- 3 tablespoons chopped scallions
- 1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
- Ground black pepper
For the dough
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Turmeric (optional)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 6 cups all-purpose flour, sifted for dredging
- 8 large egg whites
- 3 cups breadcrumbs
For deep frying
Filling In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the white onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. In a large bowl, place the sautéed spinach and stir in the cooked onion and garlic mixture, salt, pepper, the Feta Cheese, cream cheese, parsley and scallions. Set aside.
Dough In a large, non-stick saucepan, place the vegetable stock, salt, Turmeric, and olive oil. Bring it to a simmer over medium-low heat. When the stock is hot, add the sifted flour all at once while stirring very well. It will get more and more difficult to stir but continue to stir vigorously for about 1 minute or so until obtaining uniformly lumpy dough.
Remove from heat and transfer the dough to an electric mixer fitted with a hook attachment. Knead dough at low speed for about 5 minutes or until it becomes soft and smooth. You may knead the dough, by hand, on a counter top. Add a little more flour if necessary, until smooth. Shape the dough into a flat disk and let it rest. Once both, the dough and filling have completely cooled, roll the dough to 1/8-inch thick. Cut the dough into round 3-4 inch circles. Spoon 2 teaspoons of the spinach filling, into dough rounds. Fold the dough over forming a half-moon shape. Pinch edges together to seal completely. Place them on a floured cookie sheet, not touching each other.
In a bowl, lightly whisk egg whites together. Place bread crumbs in another bowl. Carefully dip each risoles into the egg whites and then into the breadcrumbs until fully coated.
Pour enough vegetable oil into a heavy-bottomed pot. Heat to 350 F.
Deep fry risoles in small batches for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.