Just four ingredients that you may already have at home make for one of the tastiest treats in the Mexican pan dulce repertoire: campechanas.
Not all panaderías in Mexico have campechanas though. And not all the panaderías that do carry them have fabulous campechanas. In fact, I have found that campechanas sold on the streets tend to be the very best ones.
Campechanas are one of the things I look for the moment I touch Valle de Bravo, a small town about a 2-hour drive from Mexico City. I grew up vacationing there with my family, and I still go as often as I can. It is a town whose campechanas are of the finest sort. Very puffy and dry with the perfectly crisp caramelized top, they are sold in thin plastic bags by the dozen in so many street corners.
It is practically impossible to keep them whole once you hold one up, or even as you try to take one out of the bag. The moment you take a bite, forget about it: it has crumbled all over the place into pieces that make for delirious bites. Once you have one, you can’t stop until there are no more.
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1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup chopped white onion
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (about 6 Roma tomatoes), chopped
2 7-ounce cans tuna, drained and shredded
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste
1/4 cup roughly chopped raisins
1/4 cup roughly chopped manzanilla olives stuffed with pimientos
1/4 cup seeded and roughly chopped pickled jalapeño chiles, store-bought or make your own
1 tablespoon capers
3 tablespoons chopped Italian or flat-leaf parsley
1 1.2-pound package frozen puff pastry, thawed, or homemade puff pastry
All-purpose flour, for rolling out the puff pastry
1 egg (optional)
2 tablespoons water (optional)
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, but not smoking, stir in the onion and cook until it is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until completely cooked, softened and mashed-up and pasty looking, about 15 minutes.
Toss in the tuna, and with a spatula or wooden spoon, mix it well with the tomato mixture, making sure there are no big chunks. Add the bay leaves, brown sugar, oregano, thyme, salt and mix well. Add the raisins, olives, pickled jalapenos, capers, fresh parsley and mix well. Cover the skillet and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook for about 10 minutes, the mixture should be very moist but not watery. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Remove the bay leaves and set aside.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Lightly flour a rolling pin and roll out 1 thawed sheet of pastry about 1/8-inch thick to line the bottom and sides of a round baking dish (you may wish to add a pastry sheet in the bottom and top of the casserole, or only on the top!). Add the tuna filling to the puff pastry lined baking dish, using a rubber spatula to evenly spread the filling. Roll out another thawed sheet of pastry and use to cover the tuna filling – pinching the edges of the 2 sheets of pastry together to seal.
Optional: In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg along with the water. Brush the top of the casserole with the egg wash.
Cut 4 to 5 vents on the top. Place the casserole in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until crisp, puffed up and golden brown.
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Insanely practical, that’s what these empanadas are. Perfect to make ahead for gatherings, as you can eat them hot or not. And they are oh, so, comforting: think of a tuna casserole in the good old style, but revamped with great Mexican flair and then flipped and turned into individual size. They withstand hours of travel and will remain delicious until you are ready to take a bite.
With that in mind, I made a full batch last Saturday to bring to a friend’s house. So thrilled were the boys, and I, with the packets as they came out of the oven (crispy on top, soft layers of barely sweet dough as you get close to the middle and a rich tasting filling) that by the time we put our jackets on, and I went back to the kitchen to transfer the empanadas from the baking sheet to a platter, I gasped at the sight of the only two remaining…
Continue reading Tuna Minilla Empanadas