Don’t let the name scare you or your feathered friends away. You don’t have to use ostrich in these cheesy empanadas. The only reason I did was to rid my freezer of all my older meats. Last week Jim and I filled up on bison so the ostrich was the next meat to go.
I buy all my atypical meats from a local co-op where you can purchase many uncommon or wild meats including venison, bison, rabbit, quail, ostrich, and various types of seafood, so I have made many dishes that include wild or exotic game.
If you have never had ostrich meat you are in for a treat. Its a gamey meat but very lean. It behaves more like red meats than any poultry you may encounter (save for emu, perhaps). Ostrich is a deep cherry red color before cooked and tastes like flavorful lean beef. It’s low in fat and cholesterol and rich in calcium. I purchased a pack of ground ostrich although ostrich steaks are excellent as well.
I am very much a believer in using up leftover food, so when raiding my fridge for ingredients for dinner one night, I came up with this empanada idea. Earlier in the week I had watched Paula Deen make some chicken empanadas, so why not ostrich? I had the defrosted ostrich, a variety of bagged shredded cheeses, half a block of cream cheese, half a green pepper, and one and a half boxes of pre-made pie crusts (one was used in a quiche earlier in the month). Also to add to the list of ingredients is one egg, and any dipping sauces you may desire. I had a mexican style chipotle salsa which was divine.
① Brown the ostrich, or meat, in a skillet. At this point you may want to preheat the oven to 400º F and also remove the cream cheese from the fridge so it an soften a bit.
② Roll out your pre-made pie crust. Using a 2 in biscuit cutter (or the rim of a drinking glass) cut out as many circles as you can. Combine scraps and re-punch until you run out of crust.
③ After you punch out the empanada circles, chop up the green pepper, and shred any cheese you will be using.
④ Combing the cooked meat, cheese, and pepper in a bowl. Add as much cheese as looks good to you. Its all personal taste. I added parmesan and cheddar but you can add any variety. Oh yum, blue cheese would be excellent.
⑤ Using a heaping teaspoon, fill each pie crust circle.
⑥ Pinch the 2 sides together. The easiest way to do this is to fold over one half while pushing the filling inside the crust with your thumbs. Some stretching will occur and if anything rips, patch up the holes with a little left over pie crust. Using a fork, gently pinch the edges to seal it good. If its just not sealing, use a little water to bind the crust together.
⑦ Wash the tops of the empanadas with a little egg and then pop them in the oven for 12-15 minutes. You are really just puffing and browning the crust while melting the cheese, so watch them a little.
They come out of the oven all golden brown and delicious. These little things are so easy to make and so yummy. You can serve them with sour cream, salsa, or guacamole depending on what you put inside. This is also one of those recipes that kids can help with; if you don’t mind what the empanadas look like when they come out. :-) They are great finger foods and because you can stuff them with anything, they can easily become vegetarian, vegan, or even dessert empanadas. The sky is the limit. Happy cooking!