Mom and Sis represent! … um, with empanadas and polenta

So on my (not so) recent, short trip back to California for work I was fortunate to have one night with the fam including my parents who were in town from New Mexico. So as usual, we all got together at my sister, Cheryl and her husband Cameron’s house to cook and of course eat. On this occasion, I did not cook. I just filmed them cooking and of course ate like a mofo. Unlike with the Chinese New Year cooking extravaganza this evening was much lower key being just with family (and Matt and PK) and the only things Asian about the food were the people cooking it. On this occasion, as the appetizer, Cheryl made a kind of nontraditional giant empanada that she and Matt (the scallion pancake master) came up with while doing a catering job. My mom made a beef short rib stew the night before (which I did not film – it was delicious, by the way) that she reaheated and served with a quick and easy polenta (the preparation of which I did film). She got the recipe for the polenta from her friends Polly and Bill who also live in New Mexico.

Alright, so here’s the recipe for Cheryl’s empanada. The quantities as usual are estimates. Use however much you want. Basically, it’s equal parts of all the main ingredients.


1-2 red onions (depending on their size) sauteed with red wine and salt and pepper
1 lb of mushrooms – chopped and sauteed with salt and pepper
1 lb of kale
1/2 – 1 lb (depending on how much meat you want) of Mexican style chorizo (the leaner the better).
salt and pepper (to taste)
1/2 lb of crumbled feta cheese
puff pastry (store bought)
1 egg (for the egg wash)

Bake the empanada in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes (for convection) or 45-55 minutes in a conventional oven.

And here’s the recipe for the cilantro mint salsa that Cheryl servers the empanadas with (these quantities make a lot).

Cilantro Mint Salsa:

3 bunches of cilantro
3 bunches of mint (just the leaves)
2 jalpeño peppers (seeded to take down the heat if you want)
3/4 – 1 cup of olive oil,
1/4 – 1/2 cup of water
juice of 1 Lime
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp ground black pepper

Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and press “on”.

And here’s my Mom making her you-food debut as she prepared the quick, easy and super rich polenta. First the ingredients:


1 cup of course ground corn meal, polenta grade
2 cups of whole milk
3 cups of water
1 tsp of salt
1/3 lb of crumbled gargonzola cheese
1/3 lb of grated parmesan cheese

Mix the corn meal, milk, water and salt in a casserole dish and bake at 375 degrees for about an hour. Take it out once it’s creamy and stir in gargonzola. Then sprinkle the parmesan on the top and bake the polenta for 10 more minutes or until the parmesan cheese begins to brown. Watch the video and you’ll see how easy this is and why you should just do what my mom says.

Oh, here’s how the polenta looked served with the short ribs:

Creamy polenta with a stew of beef short ribs


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