This recipe hails from the Matriarch of Mexican flavor: Chef Titita. Deemed the most popular dish on the menu, many people travel to Chef Titita’s restaurants in Mexico City solely to try these legendary empanadas. Now, you can try it in New York City – or make it yourself at home.
Plantains are said to be the staple of every meal in many Latin American households. Eaten globally, you can find these fruits everywhere from Central America and Africa to Southeast Asia. In fact, the long history of plantains are a testament to their importance around the world. Whether served fried, mashed, or boiled, this versatile ingredient can be made sweet, nutty or starchy, all depending on who prepares it. In the same spirit are empanadas. With its ability to evolve and incorporate the regional flavor palates they surround, its no wonder these two fit together so effortlessly.
Chef Carmen “Titita” Ramirez Degollado, affectionately known as Chef Titita, is a culinary legend known for preserving many ancient traditions of Mexican cuisine. Born in 1940, Chef Titita’s journey into the world of gastronomy was rooted in her family’s kitchen, where generations of culinary wisdom were passed down. At 83, she is known for running one of the most recognized restaurants in Mexico City, , which now boasts 19 famed locations across Mexico City. The first location opened in 1972, serving dishes from Veracruz, Puebla, Oaxaca, and Yucatan.
Fast forward many decades later, Chef Titita’s grandsons, Sebastian and Santiago Ramirez Degollado, opened Casa Carmen in Flatiron, New York as a tribute to their grandmother’s passion for traditional Mexican cuisine. At Casa Carmen, nearly all of the recipes come directly from Chef Titita. Aside from the popular plantain empanadas, menu highlights include duck tostadas and the pollo con mole Xico. The Flatiron restaurant is spearheaded by Head Chef Ivan Gonzalez who once started as a dishwasher at Rosa Mexicano, before working his way up many kitchens. After training at El Bajio, he is well-equipped with the family’s renowned techniques and recipes.
Casa Carmen artfully transports the feeling of Mexico from one bustling city to another. The Flatiron location’s interior draws inspiration from earthy-toned haciendas, displaying Oaxacan clay pots and woven textiles that line the walls. For now I’ll leave you with one of their most popular family recipes, and a fan favorite in my household!
“Sebastian and I used to eat and work at our grandmother’s first location El Bajio Azcapotzalco. Titita always insisted we eat the plantain empanadas with plenty of black sauce […] The sauce has now become a signature flavor of Titita and El Bajío. We are happy to share this family recipe with our guests in Mexico City and now Flatiron in New York City.”See Also
– Santiago Ramirez Degollado
- Plantains: For this recipe, ripe plantains are ideal as they have a sweeter flavor and a softer texture. They should have yellow skins with some black spots, indicating ripeness.
- Consistency Check: Plantain dough can be a bit tricky. If your dough feels too sticky, add a bit more flour a tablespoon at a time. If it’s too dry, add water a tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.
- Refried Beans: For enhanced flavor, sauté finely chopped onions in pork lard until translucent before adding the refried beans. Cook until the beans are warm and well combined with the onions.
- Salsa Negra: This sauce is meant to be spicy and slightly sweet. Adjust the quantities of piloncillo (or brown sugar as a substitute) and chipotle to your taste. Don’t forget to sauté the garlic in oil until golden brown before blending with the rest of the salsa ingredients. It’ll give a deeper flavor to your sauce.
- Frying Tips: When deep frying the empanadas, ensure the oil is hot enough by dropping a small piece of dough into it. If it bubbles around the dough immediately, it’s ready. Fry the empanadas in batches to avoid overcrowding, which can drop the oil temperature and lead to greasy empanadas.
- Serving Suggestion: These empanadas pair well with a side of fresh salsa or guacamole. You can also sprinkle them with a bit of crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese.
- Storage: If you have any leftover empanadas, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. They can be reheated in the oven to maintain their crispy texture.
Step by Step Guide to Making Plantain Empanadas with Refried Beans
Preparation of Plantain Dough:
- Peel and cut your plantains into chunks, ensuring any black seeds are removed.
- Place the plantain chunks in a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Cook until they are soft and easily pierced with a fork.
- Drain the plantains and let them cool.
- In a large bowl, mash the plantains with a fork or use a grinder.
- Add salt, sugar, and flour to the mashed plantains. Mix until the ingredients are well combined and the mixture resembles tortilla dough.
- Allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.
- If the dough feels too dry, add a splash of water to rehydrate it. If it’s too sticky or humid, add a bit more flour, salt, and sugar, mixing until the consistency is pliable.
Preparation of Refried Beans:
- In a skillet, heat the pork lard over medium heat.
- Add the diced onions and sauté until translucent.
- Stir in the refried beans and cook, mashing and stirring until the beans are heated through and have a smooth consistency. Remove from heat and set aside.
Preparation of Salsa Negra:
- In a dry skillet, toast the dried chile chipotle meco until fragrant, ensuring not to burn them.
- Add oil to the skillet and sauté garlic until golden.
- Incorporate piloncillo (or brown sugar), pinch of sugar, and salt. Cook, stirring continuously, until the piloncillo melts and combines with the other ingredients.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cooled, blend in a blender or food processor until a smooth sauce is achieved.
Assembly and Cooking of Empanadas:
- Take a portion of the plantain dough and flatten it into a small disc.
- Place a spoonful of the refried beans in the center of the disc.
- Fold the dough over the beans, sealing the edges by pressing with your fingers, forming a half-moon shape. Ensure that you don’t overfill the empanadas to prevent bursting while frying.
- Heat the 3/4 cup of oil in a deep frying pan over medium-high heat.
- Once the oil is hot, carefully slide in the empanadas a few at a time, frying until golden brown on both sides.
- Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.
Serve the empanadas hot with the prepared salsa negra on the side. Enjoy!