I’m currently hanging out with entropyenator in Morristown, NJ, which seems to have a lot of empanada joints. Empanadas are one of my favorite foods ever, and since I have some time on my hands, I’m going to undertake a completely opinionated, unscientific taste test of every empanada place I come across here. For vague consistency reasons, I’m going to try one plain beef and one plain chicken, with and without any hot sauce the place might have.
First up is Pan Casero bakery (Ecuadorian?) on Speedwell Avenue. Judging from the display cases, this is really more of a sweet bakery, but this is an empanada mission so I’m ignoring those. The chicken is just shredded chicken, nice and juicy and very deeply chicken-y, without much in the way of spicing, while the beef is ground beef with potatoes that could use a little more salt, and that is kind of bland; chicken is better. Both casings were crisp on the outside, thick enough to be sturdy but not so thick it’s like eating a piece of bread. Hot sauce is tangy, not hot, but it appears to have tomato pureed into it, which gives it a little more body and some nice rounded flavor.
Entropyenator: I’m not a empanada aficionado like Justtwomorethings, but I like eating things 🙂 These were pretty good. The chicken version was surprisingly most, even hours later, and I actually preferred it without the sauce. The beef wasn’t bad, but I do agree that it did need the sauce, which I guessed had tomato, tabasco and maybe cilantro.
Beef and chicken, Raul’s Empanadas
Five sausage + lime, Raul’s Empanadas
Second was Raul’s Empanadas, the only place we could find a recommendation for in two seconds of Googling. It was a bit of a disappointment. The outsides were very thin, almost like crispy taco shells, and just as hard, which removes one of my empanada pleasures: the sauce-soaked casing. The fillings were very loosely packed, with nothing to bind the meat together, so we had to spoon them back in after cutting the empanadas in half (because sharing is caring. Also, they were on the dry side, although reasonably well-seasoned. Chicken and beef were both boring; the bonus five sausage + lime was much juicier, but ultimately kind of ill-balanced, just a jumble of differently-spiced pork chunks. The sauces (criollo and mango habanero criollo), however, were great, clearly not just dressed-up tabasco sauce. More flavor than heat, as neither of them rose above medium, but they were bright with citrus, tangy with the hot peppers and with just a spike of cilantro to round it out.
Entropyenator: Raul’s might have been decent, if we hadn’t had the ones from Pan Casero first. I wasn’t a fan of the crispy/crusty shells, which didn’t play off the fillings as well as the softer, more doughy versions from Pan Casero. And the fillings were no great shakes either–as Justtwomorethings noted, you got less since they weren’t as densely packed, and flavor is best described as “meh.” A pity, since the sauces deserved to be put on something better–whereas Pan Casero’s, while not bad, seemed more of a run of the mill tabasco mixture, Raul’s sauces were clearly mixed from scratch and unique.