Chef Eduardo Garcia of Montana Mex and Charged Film prepared these fantastic whitefish empanadas as part of the MeatEater Smoked Meats special. If you find yourself throwing these so-called “trash fish” back into the water–or heaven help you–onto the banks of the river, think again. This fish is excellent for tacos with its firm white flesh, and it shines in these empanadas when paired with Garcia’s family sofrito for the filling. 

White Fish Empanada Recipe (Serves 4-6)

 Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes

Ingredients:

2             Fresh and Fully Cleaned/Scaled Medium-Sized White Fish, about 2 lbs
1             Recipe Court Bouillon (below)
1             Recipe Masa (below)
2             Ripe Roma Tomatoes, Diced
6             Whole Garlic Cloves, Chopped
1             White Onion, Small Dice
2             Teaspoons Fresh Oregano, Chopped
2             Bay Leaves
8             Sprigs Fresh Thyme
2             Teaspoons Montana Mex Jalapeno seasoning
2             Teaspoons Kosher Salt
1/8          Teaspoon Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
2 ¼         Cup Montana Mex Avocado Oil

Method:

  1. Bring Court Bouillon to a boil in a large pot. Add White Fish, reduce heat to Medium, and cook until fish easily flakes off, about 15 minutes
  2. Strain fish, allow to cool, and pull bones off gently. Save fish for the filling and discard the bones.
  3. In a large skillet on Medium-High heat, sauté Avocado Oil, Onion, and bay Leaves until onions are translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add Garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add Roma Tomatoes and sauté until the consistency of a thick sauce, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add Fish, Black Pepper, Montana Mex Jalapeno seasoning, Kosher Salt, and Oregano on Medium heat until well combined, 5 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool.
  6. Meanwhile, working one at a time to keep the masa from drying out, roll Masa into smooth balls the size of a Ping Pong Ball (1.5 oz). Using a tortilla press or a rolling pin, make a tortilla about 4 inches in diameter, and 1/8th inch thick.
  7. Place tortilla on a piece of parchment/wax paper, place a heaping tablespoon of the White Fish Filling in the center of the masa, fold over, and crimp edges with a fork to seal. Keep Empanadas covered with a damp cloth or paper towel.
  8. Heat the Avocado oil in a deep skillet or pot on Medium-High heat.
  9. Working in small batches, gently shallow fry the empanadas on each side until crispy and golden-brown. Drain on paper towels, and serve immediately with Pickled Red Onion, Smoked Salsa, and Avocado Salsa.

Court Bouillon Recipe, Serves 4-6

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 40 Minutes

Ingredients: 

4             Quarts Water
2             Cups White Wine
1              White Onion, Large Dice
1              Celery Rib, Cut into Large Chunks
6             Whole Garlic Cloves
2             Large, Fresh Chipotle Peppers
8             Sprigs Fresh Thyme
3             Large Peeled Carrots, Cut into Large Chunks
2             Bay Leaves
1            Teaspoon Whole Black Peppercorns
¼           Cup Kosher Salt
Juice of 4 Lemons

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a Medium Pot, bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and allow to simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
  3. Strain and save liquid for poaching.

Masa Recipe (Can also be used for fresh tortillas)

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 Minutes
Total Time: 20 Minutes

Ingredients:

 2             Cups Masa
2 ¼          Cups Water

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly until masa forms a soft and pliable dough (like Play Dough). Allow to rest, covered with a damp towel or paper towel, for 15 minutes to an hour.

Charred and Pickled Red Onion

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour

 Ingredients:

2             Whole Red Onions, Skin On (1 lb)
¼             Teaspoon Dried Mexican Oregano
2               Tablespoons Fine Chopped Fresh Cilantro
½             Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/8         Teaspoon Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
Juice of 1 Large Lime
Juice of 1 Valencia or Navel Orange

Method:

  1. Char Onions on all sides in a cast iron pan on High Heat, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool.
  2. Remove excess paper from onions, cut each onion in half, and thin-slice the onions.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and allow to sit 30 minutes, or overnight.

Smoked Salsa

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: One Hour
Total Time: 1 Hour, 15 minutes

 Ingredients:

6          Whole Ripe Roma Tomatoes (1#, 8.5 oz)
1          Whole Ripe Habanero Pepper, Stem Off (.2 oz)
1           Whole Red Onion, Skin-Off and Quarted (6 oz)
8-10     Whole Cloves Garlic, Stem Off (1.6 oz)
2           Teaspoons Kosher Salt
½          Cup or Half Bunch Fresh Cilantro, Chopped (1 oz)
Juice of One Large Lime (3 Tablespoons)

Method:

  1. In a cast iron skillet on High heat, char tomato and onion on all sides until black and flecked, 25-30 minutes
  2. Meanwhile, in another cast iron skillet on Medium heat, char garlic cloves and habanero pepper until black and flecked, 10-12 Minutes
  3. Turn Traeger Smoker to “Smoke” Setting with Mesquite chips.
  4. Allow tomatoes to cool, cut in half, and lay out on a foil-lined sheet tray, cut side up. Add garlic, onion, and habanero to the tray in a single layer, and put in Smoker for 30 minutes. Allow to cool.
  5. Put garlic, onion, 2 tomato halves, lime juice, and salt in a blender and blend on Medium for 1 minute, until all pieces are small. Add cilantro and then remaining tomato, and blend until well-combined.

Avocado Salsa

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 0 Minutes
Total Time: 10 Minutes

 Ingredients:

 2             Ripe, Medium Haas Avocado
10            Whole Sprigs Cilantro, Rough Chopped
2             Lightly Toasted and Crushed Chile De Arbol
1             Cup Water
1-2         Teaspoons Chopped Serrano Chiles, or to taste
2             Teaspoons Kosher Salt
Juice of 1 Lemon

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients except Chile De Arbol in a blender, and blend until very smooth.
  2. Add Chile De Arbol and pulse until chiles are broken into small red flecks.
  3. Serve immediately.