Recipe by Ricardo Motto, Executive Chef and Francis Mallmann, Ambassador at The Garzon Club, Maldonado, Uruguay. Image by Diana DeLucia
Bring the water and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat.
Add the lard and stir until it melts, then transfer to a large wide bowl. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Using your hands, gradually add 5 ½ to 6 cups of the flour, about 1 cup at a time, until you can gather the dough into a ball.
Sprinkle with ½ cup flour on a work surface to prevent sticking and knead the dough, adding more flour until it will not absorb any more; the dough should be stiff.
Divide the dough in half, shape into disks, and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 1 - 24 hours.
Trim and discard any gristle from the meat, but leave the fat. With a sharp knife, chop the meat into 1/8-inch pieces. Transfer the meat to a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
Melt 6 Tablespoons of butter and 1 Tablespoon of the lard in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté until they are translucent, about 8 minutes; do not allow them to brown. Add the red pepper flakes, cumin, pimentón, and the white part of the scallions and sauté for 2 minutes more. Turn off the heat and stir in the scallion greens then season to taste with salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Brown the meat in batches, and spread the browned meat out on a tray, so it doesn’t steam. When all the meat is browned, combine in a bowl with the onion mixture, the remaining 3 Tablespoons of lard, and the oregano. Adjust the seasoning, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until firm.
To assemble and cook the empanadas, cut one piece of dough in half; keep the other half covered with plastic until ready to use.
With a rolling pin, roll the dough out on a floured work surface into a rectangle about 8 by 22 inches and 1/8 inch thick or less, or roll through pasta machine, starting on the widest setting and decreasing settings as you continue until the dough strips are 1/8 inch thick or less.
On the floured surface, using a biscuit cutter or a water glass, cut the dough into 3 ½-inch circles; you should be able to cut 6 circles. Transfer the circles to a floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Heat an horno de barro or home oven (with the racks positioned in the upper and lower thirds of the oven) to 350°F. Remove the filling from the refrigerator. Oil two large baking sheets.
Cut the remaining 4 Tablespoons butter into small pieces, and set out a cup of water.
Lay a circle of dough in the palm of your hand. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling onto one half of the circle, leaving a 1/3-inch border, and top the filling with a pinch each of chopped egg and chopped olives and a dot of butter.
With your finger or a pastry brush, moisten the edges of the dough with water, then fold the dough over the filling in a half-moon shape and pinch the edges together, forming pleats to seal the dough. Transfer to one of the oiled baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough circles and filling.
Layout the circles of dough in rows on a floured surface. Spoon the filling onto one half of each circle and top with egg, butter, and olives. Brush the edges with water, fold over as above, and press with the back of a fork to seal the edges. Transfer to the baking sheets.
Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until lightly browned.
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