Prior to indulging in one more traditional Argentine asado, we were treated to a lesson on the art of making perfect empanadas. I should not have been so eager for this schooling since my recent empanada addiction was the number one reason I got fat in Argentina.
But, I just couldn’t resist because they tasted like little meat pillows from heaven.
A Spanish speaking Argentina native was giving the lesson tonight in the tiny kitchen of the hacienda we were staying at. Six of us squeezed in tight in order to be immersed in part of the culture, but also to learn this craft in fear that when we returned home we would be craving empanadas with nowhere to get our fix.
The lesson started with making a dough of cow fat, flour and water. It was mixed and then put through a manual pasta machine to be flattened. Perfectly sized metal rings were used to cut the empanadas crust.
We went through the entire process, before being told that the dough must be chilled overnight. Luckily, our thoughtful teacher had made some the evening before that was ready for our use.
Just like the magic of television cooking shows, when a perfectly baked pie is pulled from the oven in a five minute segment.
We moved on to the stuffing, a blend of leftover asado meat, onions, cow lard and spices. The smell alone would make any sane person salivate.
Each of us took turns filled the empanada crust with the meat mixture we had just cooked. One soup spoon full was the perfect measurement, then the carne was topped with an egg and another piece of dough.
And then came the tricky part, the pinching of the decorative crust. A simple thumbprint pinch would not do.
We all attempted this skill with different techniques, none very successful. After trial, error and several ugly empanadas, my system was polished. Start with a small roll the dough’s edge, then pinch, then roll again to get the scalloped trim.
Before the asado dinner, we were served the fruits of our labor as an appetizer. A basket arrived filled with an eclectic bunch of empanadas. Some shaped better than others, yet all deliciously the same.
If you are now craving empanadas, the following is the recipe I frantically wrote as it was happening:
1 kilo meat (leftover from an asado)
2 kilos white onions
500g of cow lard (65% for dough, 35% for meat)
Sauté onions in fat, add a little salt. Add meat when translucent. Add paprika, chili flakes, cumin, salt & pepper, oregano to taste. Add chopped scallions when cold. You can optionally add olives and/or raisins.
1/2 Kilo of favorita flour
1 cup Luke warm water
Blend ingredients to form a dough ball. Flatten by running through a pasta machine and cut into rounds. Chill overnight.