Argentine Empanadas

Beef, Vegan, Vegetarian

empanadas-ii

Adapted and translated from cocinerosargentinos.com

Empanadas are at the core of Argentine cuisine. Of course, other South American countries also claim empandas as their own but each country has a different style. Logically, since I’m from Argentina, I make Argentine-style empanadas. So anyway, as I was saying, empandas are a staple in my country. You can’t be an Argentine and not have tapas de empandas (the dough rounds for empandas) in your freezer or refrigerator. Last year, my first year in college with my own kitchen, I brought from home a package of store-bought tapas (yes, you can get Argentine tapas in the U.S. and elsewhere). However, this year I decided to be adventurous and make my own. I started researching and found a few recipes I liked but then I remembered that I had whole-wheat flour. I tend to prefer whole grains but I had never thought of making whole-wheat tapas. I did some more research and liked this recipe that I found on a website I use frequently. I then needed to find the right utensils. I looked around Davis, my college town, in every store I could think of and could not find a rolling pin or a cookie cutter large enough (a typical size for empandas would be 10-12 centimeters or around 4 inches). What did I do? I rolled out the dough with my metal Aggie water bottle and cut the rounds by hand. Hopefully you will have the right utensils. At this point the knights from Monty Python will be saying, “Get on with it!” so without further ado, here is the recipe for the tapas, followed by some suggestions for fillings.

Yields around 12 tapas

Ingredients:

  • 300 grams whole-wheat flour (about 2 ½ cups)
  • 1 tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil
  • 150 milliliters of water (about 2/3 cups) and more if necessary
  • Juice from 1 lemon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F (204C). Grease a baking pan and set aside.
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Add some more water if necessary so that the dough is not dry and will hold together. Knead the dough with your hands to combine well.
  3. Cover the bowl with a dishtowel so it will not dry and let rest for about half an hour.
  4. On a clean counter, roll out the dough very thin, about 1 millimeter of width. With a 10-12-centimeter cookie cutter, cut out rounds. Pile the rounds on a clean plate, placing a piece of plastic wrap between each one so they will not become dry or stick to one another.
  5. One by one fill each round with the desired filling. To close, moisten the edge of each round and fold the dough over to wrap the filling. Press down on the edges. To finish, you can crimp the edges (like the edge of a pie crust), crimp the edges with the twines of a fork or simply fold up the edges as seen in the pictures. As you finish shaping each empanada, set them on the prepared baking pan.
  6. Place the empanadas in the preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the dough is golden and no longer soft.

empanadas-plato

Fillings

  • Beef: The classic filling would have to be beef. There are several variations, depending on what region in Argentina you come from. The way my mom makes them is by mixing ground beef with onion, red pepper, green pepper, green onion, oregano, pepper flakes, a hint of cumin, pepper, salt and a generous amount of paprika (pimentón). You must first cook the beef and then add the vegetables and seasonings. The secret to a juicy beef empanada (even if using very lean meat) is to use the same amount of beef and onion on a weight basis.
  • Ham and Cheese: Probably the second most popular filling would be ham and cheese. This is pretty straightforward and self-explanatory. You mix cubes of cheese with cut up ham. Some people used diced ham though I used to hate it when they made them like that. It’s up to you.
  • Fugazzeta: One of my favorites is cheese and onion. Slice an onion thinly and sauté with spices such as pepper, oregano and paprika. Then you mix it with cubed cheese.
  • Capresse: For this filling, dice a tomato and mix it with cubed cheese.
  • À la Lucienne: This is not actually thing. I gave the filling this name because it was my own invention the first time I made empanadas while at college; the empanadas in the pictures have this filling. It contains eggplant, onion and goat cheese. All of my favorite things, right? You first slice the onion thinly and sauté it in a saucepan until it softens and begins to turn golden. You then add an eggplant, cubed, as well as oregano and ground pepper. You continue cooking until the eggplant is tender and both vegetables have a nice golden color. Let the vegetables cool down a bit and then mix with goat cheese.

 

Comments: This recipe was quite easy and straightforward. Of course, it would have been a lot easier if I had the right equipment but you do what you can. I think you should get about 12 tapas; I got tired of rolling out the dough with the water bottle so I froze about half of the dough. The amount you get will depend on how thin you roll out the dough. Tapas de empanadas are typically very thin; you want to be able to taste the filling and not get a bite of just the dough. For the fillings, I recommend using a good melting cheese. In Argentina, my personal pick would be Por Salut, which you don’t typically find outside of the country. Mozzarella is always a safe pick but I have found that I really like the Mexican cheese Oaxaca. Above I only gave a few suggestions; I could go on listing fillings indefinitely. You can definitely do some research of your own to find other fillings. Some other ones that are popular in Argentina are humita (corn), spinach and chicken. I hope your empanada adventure turns out well!

empanadas-plato-ii

Goulash

Beef

Goulash

Adapted from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz

Goulash is a Hungarian dish typically served with spaetzel. It is the perfect dinner for a cold, winter night. I have tried several variations of goulash but can’t say which one I’ve liked best. This one is definitely good (and special for its connection to Harry Potter).

Yields 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 lbs chuck roast or beef for stew, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 14-oz cans chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp paprika
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • ½ cup sour cream

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a wide pot. Sear the meat in batches over high heat on both sides until crusty brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the batches to a large plate.
  2. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of oil and add the onions, cooking over medium-high heat until softened, scraping up the fond (browned bits), about 5 minutes. Add the flour and toss to combine. Pour in the chicken broth while stirring constantly. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbling.
  3. Add the paprika, tomato paste and browned meat along with its accumulated juices. Bring the stew to a simmer and continue to simmer for 1½ hours.
  4. Add the red pepper and cook another 30 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  5. Whisk the sour cream with a ½ cup of the cooking liquid. Stir it into the goulash.

Comments: When simmering the stew, be very careful that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot and that the meat doesn’t dry up too much. I always keep a careful watch on stew and usually end up simmering them less time than what the recipe says. As a side dish, you can serve the goulash with spaetzel. You can make them or you can also find packages in the international aisle of the supermarket that are ready to cook. Goulash also goes well with rice or regular noodles if you wish.

Meat and Potato Pies

Beef

Meat and Potato Pies

Adapted from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz

Pies are always good. Everyone likes them. I had always been curious but the classic savory British pies. I also wanted to try them before I went back to the UK so that I could compare. I was not at all disappointed with them.

Pie Crust

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp butter, chilled and diced
  • 8 tbsp vegetable shortening, chilled and diced
  • ½-3/4 cup cold water

Directions:

  1. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.
  2. Scatter the pieces of butter and shortening over the flour mixture. Pulse about 15 times until the mixture resembles coarse yellow meal and no white powdery bits remain.
  3. Turn the mixture into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle ½ cup water over the mixture and toss with a rubber spatula until the dough sticks together. If the dough is dry, add more water by the tablespoonful.
  4. Divide the dough in half, form into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Meat and Potato Filling

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 6 oz chuck steak or beef for stew, diced into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 ½ cups chicken broth
  • 1 medium red-skinned potato, peeled and diced into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced into ¼-inch pieces
  • ¼ tsp ground sage
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a deep pot. Add the meat and sear on both sides until crusty brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Add the onions to the pot and sauté until well browned. Return the meat to the pot, sprinkle the flour over and mix with a wooden spoon until combined.
  3. Slowly pour in the chicken broth while stirring. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 ½ hours.
  4. Add the chopped potato and carrot, sage, salt and pepper and cook for another 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to another bowl and cool to room temperature.

My Meat and Potato Pie

Making the Pies

Ingredients:

Pie crust (recipe above)

Meat and potato filling (recipe above)

Water

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F (176C).
  2. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator. On a generously floured surface, roll out one of the disks very thin. Use a 6-inch saucer, mug or cookie cutter to cut out six circles. Fit the circles into a 6-cup muffin pan, leaving the overhang. Fill generously with the meat and potato filling.
  3. Roll out the second disk of dough. Use a 4-inch cup or cookie cutter to cut out six circles. Brush the overhanging dough with water and lay the circles over the filling. For each pie, fold the overhang over the top dough circle and press with your fingers to seal. Cut slits in the top of each pie to form vents.
  4. Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, rotating the pan halfway through the baking.

 

Comments: These pies do take a while to make but they are very much worth it. They are cute, yummy and perfect individual portions. When cooking the filling, I highly recommend keeping a constant watch over it; for stew-like dishes, I always constantly check on the meat mixture to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot or dries up. I definitely cooked the filling for a shorter period of time.

Meat and Potato Pie abierto

Cottage Pie

Beef

Cottage Pie lado

 

Adapted from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz

In Argentina, we have a very common dish we call “pastel de papas” which is essentially what the British call cottage pie with a few differences. I have always loved the pastel de papas my mom makes but I wanted to know what the “real” cottage pie tasted like. Being a Harry Potter fanatic, I have, of course, a Harry Potter cookbook from which I got the recipe. Here are the original proportions but I actually made half.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ lbs ground beef
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 3 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters (it’s very general, I know, sorry)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1½ tsp salt

Cottage Pie

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F (176C).
  2. In a large skillet or wide saucepan, brown the meat, breaking up the clumps with a wooden spoon, until it is completely browned and crumbly. Drain the fat off the meat and transfer the meat to a plate. Wipe the skillet with a paper towel. Add the oil and heat it. Add the onions and sauté them over medium heat until they turn golden brown. Return the meat to the skillet and stir to combine.
  3. Sprinkle the flour over the meat mixture and stir. Slowly pour in the chicken stock while stirring. Add the tomato paste, chopped carrots, salt and pepper. Raise the heat and bring to a simmer. Cook the filling until it is tick and bubbling and the carrots have softened, about 15 minutes.
  4. Cover the potatoes with water ina pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes break apart when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Add the butter, milk and salt. Mash everything together with a potato masher.
  5. Pour the meat mixture into a 13×9-inch baking dish. Spoon the mashed potatoes on top. Bake the pie in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until it is bubbling around the edges and the potato crust turns a deeper yellow.

 

Comments: We all liked this cottage pie and agreed that it is different from what we eat in Argentina. I think the chicken stock (something we don’t use in the pastel de papas) gives the meat a slightly saltier and more savory taste. I don’t really have a preference; they’re just different. I recommend that, if you are making the whole recipe, you use a very large skillet or even a pot for the meat mixture; I made half and I was a bit tight with the 10-inch skillet I always use. If you want to make shepherd’s pie, substitute the beef for lamb.

Cottage Pie plato