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Sweet Onion Empanada
by Michael Schwartz

7 October, 2021

The Philadelphia-born owner of The Genuine Hospitality Group, James Beard Award Winning Chef, and cookbook author, Michael Schwartz is the face of the South Florida restaurant industry and a nationally recognized celebrity chef.  Since his flagship, Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink, first opened in Miami’s Design District in 2007, locals and tourists alike have come to embrace and crave its refreshing combination of laid-back, bistro atmosphere and straightforward food emphasizing fresh, local ingredients.  

Honored with the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: South in 2010, Schwartz is recognized by his peers and the diners that flock to his restaurants for his commitment to community and responsible, seasonal food sourcing. 

Branching out from this straightforward approach, Michael has since successfully developed complementary concepts focusing on great service and delicious food, with a genuine culture embraced by employees and guests alike.  

The Genuine Hospitality Group of restaurants include four fine dining restaurants, Amara at Paraiso, the quintessential Miami waterfront restaurant serving bold Latin American flavors on Biscayne Bay, Tigertail & Mary, a lush neighborhood retreat in the heart of Coconut Grove, and an additional Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink in Shaker Heights, OH.  They also have two locations of Harry’s Pizzeria® and a third in development, named one of Food & Wine magazine’s 25 Best Pizzerias in the U.S.   Finally, the company has a partnership with COMO Hotels and Resorts and through this they opened in 2019, Traymore by Michael Schwartz at the Como Metropolitan Miami Beach.  

Outside of the restaurant, Schwartz focuses his time and influence supporting the arts and causes such as Share our Strength, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, Slow Food (from which he received its Miami convivium’s first “Snail of Approval”) and Wellness in the Schools.

The chef has published two cookbooks, GENUINE PIZZA: Better Pizza at Home (Abrams Books, 2019) Featuring 85 recipes, readers learn step by step how to make better pizza at it’s easier than you think.   MICHAEL’S GENUINE FOOD: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat (Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2011) features beloved recipes from his flagship, a homage to approachable, sensible, and affordable food that everyone loves to make and at eat. His recipes and restaurants have been covered by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, TODAY Show, and more.

Schwartz began his career in Philadelphia, and earned his culinary chops in kitchens from Los Angeles to New York City, until settling in Miami in the early 1990s. 

Sweet Onion Empanada

    6 - 8
  • timing
  • preparation time
  • Cooking time


For the filling

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

3 large yellow onions, cut in half lengthwise and sliced thinly

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried mexican oregano

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

2 cups shredded chihuahua cheese


For the dough

1 pound fresh yuca, peeled and quartered

2 tablespoon kosher salt


For the aioli

1 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 clove grated fresh garlic

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon tajin


Making the filling

  1. Heat the grapeseed oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions, sugar and salt.
  3. Cook, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes or until the onions are lightly caramelized.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the paprika, cumin, oregano, cilantro and hot sauce.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning, set aside to cool.
  6. Once the filling is cooled fold in the shredded chihuahua cheese.


Making the dough

  1. In a medium saucepan, cover the yuca with water and bring to a boil. Let boil for 15-20 minutes until the yuca is very tender.
  2. Drain well and reserve the pot the yuca was cooked in it will be used in the next step
  3. Return the yuca cooking pot to the stove over medium heat and add the drained yuca back to the pot and slightly stirring for 2 minutes to dry out the yuca.
  4. Pass the dry boiled yuca thru a ricer or food mill and season with the salt.
  5. Work the salt into the yuca and start kneading the mixture into a smooth dough similar to a pasta dough. Wrap the dough and let temper at room temperature until ready to use.                                                                            


Making the aioli

  1. Whisk all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Once completely combined, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to allow flavors to combine.


Finishing the dish

  1. Use are large pot or dutch oven filled two thirds of the way with vegetable oil to deep fry the empanadas.
  2. Heat the oil to 365 degrees.
  3. While the oil is warming divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Roll the dough into a ball, flatten it and roll it with a rolling pin until you have a 5-inch circle.
  4. Fill with 2 tablespoons of the cooked onion mixture. Fold over to make a half-moon shape and seal the edges using a fork.
  5. Carefully slide the empanadas into the oil and fry until golden brown. Flip the empanadas as needed to achieve a uniform golden brown color.
  6. Remove the empanadas from the oil to transfer to a paper towel lined plate to soak up oil from both sides.
  7. Season with kosher salt and serve with a dollap of smoked paprika aioli and a fresh lime wedge to squeeze.
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