777 Ranch Buffalo Empanadas
Chef M.J. Adams of the Corn Exchange restaurant in South Dakota serves buffalo in myriad ways, including as pan-roasted steak and in “buffalo porcini Bolognese” with house-made pappardelle. Adams’s good friend Mimi Hillenbrand took over her father’s 25,000-acre South Dakota cattle ranch and began raising buffalo, which were once indigenous to the area. The meat, which is very similar to beef in taste, contains 50 percent less cholesterol and 70 to 90 percent less fat.
THE FILLING: Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, and when it begins to smoke, add the celery and carrots. Sauté for 5 minutes, until the vegetables are caramelized slightly. Add the garlic and shallot, and cook 2 minutes, stirring to prevent burning.
Add the ground buffalo, and cook until medium-rare (the meat will cook further during baking), breaking up the meat as it cooks. Add the olives and golden raisins, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the stove and allow the mixture to cool completely.
THE DOUGH: In a large mixing bowl, blend the flour and salt. Using a small knife, cut cold butter and duck fat into pieces and drop into the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or two forks, gently work the flour into the butter and duck fat, until pea-sized clumps form. (If your kitchen is warm, place the mixture in the refrigerator for a minute or two to prevent the butter from melting.)
Incorporate the water slowly into the flour mixture with your left hand, checking the moisture content with your right hand. Depending upon the temperature of the kitchen, you may need to add more or less water. Be careful not to overwork dough. Once the ingredients have come together, allow the dough to rest 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into 12 portions on a floured surface. Using a flour-dusted pin, roll each portion into a 4¼-inch circle. Brush the perimeter of each circle with water, and scoop about ¼ cup of the filling onto half of each dough circle (you want the empanadas full, but not so much that they burst or leak during baking). Sprinkle 1½ tablespoons of the goat cheese over the mixture, and fold the dough over to form a half moon. Crimp the seam with the tines of a fork to seal. Place the empanadas on a baking sheet and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
Heat oven to 400°F. Remove the empanadas from the refrigerator. Whisk the egg in a small bowl, and brush each empanada with egg wash. Garnish the tops with fleur de sel, and bake for 25 minutes or until browned.
Note: Unbaked empanadas may be frozen a week ahead. Defrost in the refrigerator for 1 hour and brush with egg wash before baking.
Recipe by M.J. Adams
Photography by Jean Laughton