They say that back in the XII century, the old pilgrims knew they were close to Santiago de Compostela when, exhausted and starving as they descended from the mountains, they could smell the nice sent of the empanadas, the bread and the scallops. This way the empanada became a new and tasty “road travel guide”; and a great incentive to go on another pilgrimage. Empanada became so popular that even Master Mateo (the architect, sculpture and designer of parts of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral), depicted this dish on the Pórtico de la Gloria of the Santiago Cathedral.
Galician flat pie filled with mussels cooked in “arrabbiata” or spicy tomato sauce; it sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, I guarantee that it will taste even better. I have “Italianized” the traditional Galician recipe, to give it that nice spicy touch from the arrabbiata sauce (this sauce also goes nicely with pasta.) You won’t be disappointed by this recipe. If you want to turn your kitchen into a small corner of Galicia, all you have to do is follow this recipe, and you will take a nice and crunchy Galician empanada right out of the oven directly to your dining table. Enjoy!
Directions to prepare the arrabiata mussels:
Once again, the key to this recipe is that you use quality ingredients: use good mussels, and quality ingredients for the dough. In Galicia, the season for mussels is from October to March, so enjoy them while they are in season.
- Wash the mussels thoroughly under cold water. Pour 1 cup of water into a pot and when the water starts to boil, add a bay leaf, the mussels, and a good gulp of white wine, preferably a Galician one like a Ribeiro or Albariño.
- Steam the mussels for about 3 minutes until they open. Once the mussels have opened remove them with a skimmer. Allow them to cool. Strain the liquid and set aside.
- Remove the mussels from the shells with a knife; make sure you remove all the meat. Clean mussels and set aside. You will add the mussels to the sauce at the end.
- Julienne the onions. Pour the olive oil into a pan and heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and sauté for about 8 minutes over medium heat until they are translucent and soft. Set aside.
- Open the can of tomatoes and drain the excess liquid. You can save the juice for a different recipe; you are only going to use the tomatoes in this recipe.
- Peel and finely slice the garlic. Cut the cayenne peppers into two pieces each. Pour more oil into the pan or pot where you sautéed the onions, and heat again. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and the cayenne peppers and sauté until they start to brown. Add the tomatoes, and cut them in two pieces with a wooden spoon. Continue cooking over medium heat for about 15 minutes, until the sauce cooks down to about half its original volume.
- Chop the basil. Add the sugar to the tomato sauce to reduce the acidity in the tomato. Next add a pinch of salt, the basil and the herbs. Stir everything together to mix the flavors.
- Taste the sauce and add more salt if necessary. Place the mussels in the sauce and stir everything together for a few minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Allow the mixture to cool. Remove the excess oil and place in a glass (you will be using the oil later on to prepare the dough), you want the filling to be juicy but not too oily.
Directions to prepare the flat pie dough:
- Set aside 4 tablespoons of flour and pour the rest of the flour into a large bowl. Preferably use strong flour.
- Dissolve the yeast in warm water. Make a hole in the center of the flour, and pour the water and yeast mixture.
- With a wooden spoon stir from the center out, until the liquid and the flour is mixed together.
- Add the oil from cooking the filling and salt (don’t put too much salt, since the oil will have salt already). Keep stirring the dough, by now you should have sticky but firm pasty dough.
- Flour the surface where you will be kneading the dough with the remaining 4 tablespoons of flour. Pour the dough on the surface, and start to knead with your hands.
- Slowly the dough will acquire a smooth and flexible consistency and it will be easier to handle. This process will last about 10 minutes.
- Knead the dough into a ball. Flour the bowl previously used to start the dough and place the dough ball in the bowl.
- Cover with a clean kitchen cotton towel, and let it rise for an hour. This will be the base for this mussel flat pie, or any other empanada.
Directions to prepare the flat pie (empanada):
- Cut the dough in two similar size pieces, and kneed each piece a little more and shape the two pieces into balls.
- Flour the countertop and with a rolling pin, roll the dough out. First, roll out the base; this should have the shape of the oven tray that you will be using. Roll it out as thin as possible. Place a piece of oven proof or wax paper at the bottom of the tray and place the rolled out dough over it. Cut the excess dough.
- Add first a layer of the sautéed onions and on top of that the mussel filling. Try not to put all of the oil; you want it juicy and tasty but not too oily. Spread it evenly across the bottom of the pan; make sure it is all over, you want to make sure that each piece of empanada you cut out has some mussels. Make sure the filling is cold, so the dough can hold the filling better.
- Roll out the second dough ball and place it over the tray to cover the filling. Cut the excess if necessary. Fold the bottom piece of dough over the top one and seal it by pressing down with a fork, or alternatively you can press down with your fingers.
- Make a small hole in the middle so that the steam can come out, and prick the rest of the surface with a fork so it doesn’t blow up in the over. Garnish with strip of the leftover dough on top.
- Using a brush, brush extra virgin olive oil on top of the empanada.
- Preheat the oven for about 5 minutes at 360°. Place the empanada at the bottom of the oven and cook for about 20 minutes. Move it to the center of the oven and cook for another 15-20 minutes. When it is nice and brown, remove from the oven.
And finally the empanada is ready. Be careful when you pull it out of the tray, since it will still be hot, it will break more easily. Cut it with a pair of scissors while it is still warm. I guarantee there won’t even be any breadcrumbs left over! Bon appétit!