Domino Empanadas hail from Venezuela, and feature a black and white filling reminiscent of domino tiles. Black beans and mild, melty cheese make up the filling. A crispy, fried cornmeal dough provides the vessel to contain all the yummy flavors inside!
½cup(50 grams) minced leek (white and light green parts only)
1aji dulce, sweet Caribbean pepper or serrano pepper, seeded and minced (I used a jalapeno)
1large clove garlicminced
1teaspoonground annatto (achiote) or Bijol
1 ½teaspoonsground cumin
2(15-ounce / 430-gram) cans whole black beans, drained and rinsed
1teaspoonfine sea saltor to taste
¼teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper
6ounces(170 grams) queso blanco or mozzarella cheese, shredded
3cups plus 2 tablespoons (440 grams) precooked yellow cornmeal (masarepa or harina pan), plus more as needed
1teaspoonfine sea salt
3cups(720 ml) hot water, about 115°F, plus more as needed
Vegetable oilfor frying
Make the Filling: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, leeks, aji or serrano pepper, garlic, annatto, and cumin. Cook until the onions have softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce; stir well and cook for 30 seconds. Add 1 cup (240 ml) water, the beans, salt, and black pepper; bring them to a boil, lower the heat to medium, and simmer for 10 minutes or until they have thickened, stirring regularly. Remove the filling from the heat and let cool; cover and chill thoroughly (at least 1 hour or overnight).
Make the Dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal and salt. Add the water slowly, in a thin stream, kneading the mixture with your hand until it comes together into a ball with the consistency of mashed potatoes (if the dough is too dry, add a few more tablespoons of water at a time; if it’s too wet, add a few tablespoons of the precooked cornmeal at a time). Turn the dough onto a clean surface and knead it until smooth, 45 seconds to 1 minute or to the consistency of play dough. Return the dough to the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, and let it rest for 10 minutes (to allow the fine grains to absorb all of the liquid).
Assemble the Empanadas: Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set it aside. Divide the dough into 18 equal pieces (about 2 ounces / 55 grams each). Line a tortilla press with a zip-top freezer bag that has been cut open on three sides so that it opens like a book. Place a ball of dough in the middle of the tortilla press and flatten it into a 5-inch (12-cm) round, about ⅛ inch (3 mm) thick. If you don’t have a tortilla press, flatten each ball using a flat-bottomed, heavy skillet.
Place 2 tablespoons of the filling and 1 tablespoon of the cheese in the middle of the round, leaving a small rim. Use the bag to fold the dough over the filling, forming a half-moon. Press the edges together with your fingers to seal. Transfer the empanada to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling, keeping the empanadas covered as you go. These empanadas can be shaped and filled up to 1 hour before frying as long as you keep them covered and chilled until you’re ready to fry.
Fry the Empanadas and Serve: Fit a large baking sheet with a metal cooling rack and set it aside. In a large skillet with high sides, heat 1 to 1 ½ inches (2.5 to 4 cm) of vegetable oil to 360°F. You may also use a deep-fryer according to manufacturer’s directions. Working in batches of 4 or 5 empanadas at a time, carefully slide them into the oil (I fried 3 at a time so my Dutch oven wasn’t too crowded). Fry them until golden, 3 to 4 minutes, turning them over halfway through. If the oil gets too hot as you fry and they’re browning too quickly, lower the temperature and let the oil cool slightly before frying any more. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fried empanadas to the prepared rack to drain (I use a spider skimmer). Serve them immediately, or keep them warm in a 250°F oven for up to 1 hour before serving.
I used white masarepa instead of yellow because that’s all I could find at the store. It will work with either option.
Once fried, these empanadas can be frozen for up to 3 months. Freeze them in a single layer on baking sheets lined with parchment paper; once frozen solid, they can be transferred to freezer boxes or zip-top bags. Reheat them at 350°F for 12 to 15 minutes, or until their centers are hot.