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Fiesta time! Steal this crab empanada recipe

Liven up your dinner with help from chef Roberto Santibañez of Rosa Mexicano in New York City and his Latin pastry specialty.

In this special weekly feature, “Today” food editor Phil Lempert brings you recipes “stolen” (with permission) from notable restaurants across America. See how much fun you can have (and money you can save) by cooking these dishes at home.

THIS WEEK: Empanadas de Jaiba (Crab Empanadas)

Empanadas are popular Latin fried stuffed pastries served as a main dish or as an appetizer.  Although they are thought to have originated in Spain, several other Latin countries have their own versions stuffed with cheese, meat, or seafood. Rosa Mexicano in New York City has a great recipe for Empanadas de Jaiba (Crab Empanadas). These are also great as part of a “tapas” meal. Served as snacks/appetizers, empanadas can be shared by everyone. 

Following two years as the executive chef of the Henbury Estate in Cheshire, England, Santibañez returned to Mexico City to cook for the Foreign Affairs Ministry and El Olivo restaurant, where he “rediscovered” the complexities of Mexican cuisine. “I was ready to combine all that I had learned with everything I felt in my heart,” explains Santibañez. He soon opened his own restaurants El Sax, La Circunstancia, and Restobar Salamandra in downtown Mexico City.

Seeking new challenges, Santibañez left Mexico in 1997 to become the executive chef of Fonda San Miguel in Austin, Texas. Santibañez has also traveled extensively as an ambassador for Mexican cuisine, presenting lectures and demonstrations at the Culinary Institute of America and other institutions throughout the US, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Australia.

In 2002, Santibañez joined the team at Rosa Mexicano as culinary director, continuing Rosa’s rich tradition of Mexican cooking while incorporating the vivid regional and multicultural currents that make up modern Mexican cuisine.

Empanadas de Jaiba is served at Rosa Mexicano for $12.00. This recipe is meant to serve 2 as a meal and 3 to 4 as an appetizer.

Crab Empanada Filling Ingredients
Yields 1-1/2 cups
1 ounce butter1/2 cup white onion, chopped1 tablespoon jalapeno, seeded and chopped1/2 teaspoon ground cumin3/4 teaspoon crumbled oregano1/2 cup crème fraiche1/2 pound jumbo lump crab meat Salt to taste

Other Ingredients 1-1/2 cups Crab Empanada FillingTurnover (or empanada) dough, frozen (can be found in most supermarkets)Canola oil, for pan frying

Steal This Recipe® Step-by-Step Instructions

Crab Empanada Filling Instructions

  • Heat the butter in a sauce pan until it starts to color slightly.
  • Add onion and jalapeno to sauce pan and cook until onion is soft and translucent.
  • Add the cumin and oregano and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add cream, bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes at medium heat (in order to infuse well with other ingredients).
  • Season liberally with salt.
  • Mix the crab meat with the crème fraiche.
  • Toss the crab mixture into the sauce pan, carefully keeping the lumps as whole as possible.
  • Add salt to taste.

Empanada Instructions

  • Defrost turnover dough until soft to the touch, pliable to fold.
  • Remove 1 sheet of dough.
  • Fill each sheet with 2 tablespoons of the crab filling.
  • Fold over and seal, crimping the edges with the tines of a fork.
  • Over medium to high heat (not smoking) in a heavy bottom sauté pan add enough canola oil to cover the empanada half way, approximately 1/4 inch.
  • Heat the oil until approximately 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Add empanadas, one at a time, and fry until golden brown.
  • Remove from oil and place atop paper towels until slightly cooled.
  • Serve and enjoy! 

Rosa Mexicano serves Empanadas de Jaiba with peach pico de gallo and salsa verde, but a favorite salsa can easily substitute.

Rosa Mexicano 9 E. 18th Street New York City, NY

Want to nominate your favorite restaurant dish for a "Steal This Recipe" feature? Just e-mail Phil at (or use the mail box below) with the name of the restaurant, city and state, and the dish you would like to have re-created. Want to know more about Phil and food? Visit his Web site at .