12 March 2011

Empanada Night

Cross-section of the finished product
Tonight we finally attempted what top culinary experts call the quintessential Argentine food: the empanada. And we're proud to say we achieved success.

Since moving to Buenos Aires almost three years ago, we have sampled many different styles and fillings of these flavorful turnovers: carne (both "sauve" and "picante" - though picante here does not mean what it does in Mexico), humita (a type of creamed corn), capresse (as Italian as it sounds, with mozzarella, tomato, and basil leaves), and hongos, among others. We particularly like empanadas mendocinos, the meat pies from Mendoza that are juicier than others but not to the extent of being messy. So when we finally decided to try our hands at our own home-made empanadas, we of course consulted our sources on all things mendocino, Eduardo and Stella Molteno. Additional resources included How Argentina Cooks and Eusebio, one of our favorite people at Mas Pastas, where Kurt purchased for less than 7 pesos the "masa" or preformed dough circles we used to encapsulate the meat filling. (One thing at a time . . . )

The ingredients
According to the Moltenos, the secret to a moist meat filling is onion . . .  and lots of it. They told us to use 3 kilos of onions for each kilo of ground meat. Saute the onion, add the meat until it just browns, and then cut off the heat and top the pan for two hours, they advised. Add spices, a little chopped hard-boiled egg, and an olive, and voila!

Sounded good, but we wanted to incorporate some additional flavors; we had always thought that our recipe for picadillo - a treasure from Kurt's mom that melded formulas from her mother Belén and her mother-in-law Flora - could be adapted to empanadas. And of course we were right (though we have to admit that heavying up on the onion makes all the difference in the world). Here's what we devised:

  • sautee in a small amount of olive oil 3 thinly sliced medium-sized onions and 1 diced green pepper
  • add 1 large clove minced garlic 
  • add 1 pound lean ground meat, and cook just until color changes
  • turn off heat
  • stir in 1/2 tsp. each oregano, ground cumin, and dried parsley; 1 tsp. each paprika and red pepper flakes; freshly ground salt and pepper to taste; Tabasco or other hot sauce al gusto; 1/4 cup home-made tomato paste; and 10-12 chopped up green olives
  • cover pot and let sit for 1 hour

Forming the empanadas
When the mix is ready, chop 2 hard-boiled eggs. Then put 1-2 tablespoons of filling in the middle of each dough circle, add about 1 Tbs. of the egg, and fold the dough over, pressing the edges together. Place a few drops of olive oil onto a cookie sheet, and then sprinkle over that a small amount of flour. Place the formed empanadas on the sheet so that they are not touching, and cook in a preheated 350 F oven for about 15 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen tasty empanadas.

Baking empanadas
We served our empanadas with frijoles bayos estilo mexicano and some simple avocado slices with lemon juice and sesame seeds. YUM!

Special thanks to Waitress from Mensa, who asked quite some time ago for Argentine recipes.

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