The Argentinian Empanadas are everywhere, ranging from elegant cocktail parties in Buenos Aires to rough and ready outdoors barbecues in an Estancia with the company of the gauchos.
Many beef restaurants in Buenos Aires and around the country serve a complementary empanada to keep you happy while you face difficult task of choosing from the menu.
The rules of the empanadas etiquette
– Empanadas are finger-food if ever there was. The whole idea of an empanada is to be able to eat something with ones fingers without getting those fingers dirty or sticky.
– Hold your empanada by one tip and cautiously bite off the other tip. This is important, because if the empanada is really hot and juicy, a puff of hot steam will spurt out and could burn your tongue or lip.
– Wrap a napkin around your wrist so that the hot juice which should run in a tour out of your empanada does not cause any damage. Empanada stains are hard to remove.
– While empanadas are enjoyable anywhere and at any time, they seem to taste better when eaten standing up and out of doors, in an Estancia, preferably along-side a sizzling, enticing Argentina parrillada (barbecue)
– An empanada is best washed down with a nice glass of red wine, Argentine preferably.
– It is estimated between 3 to 4 empanadas per person.
Gaucho empanadas etiquette also includes how many empanadas a host or caterer should provide depends as much upon the size and filling and the occasion.
When the empanada is served us as an appetizer before a meal, it is usual to calculate one or two normal sized empanadas per person. If it is to be the main player in a meal, five or six are considered normal.
With a genuine regional empanada from an Estancia in Buenos Aires, it is essential to wrap a napkin. True conaisseurs like gauchos would shake their empanada before taking the first bite, thus evenly distributing the juice over all the filling.
Gaucho empanadas as popular food
Pizza parlours and take-away food shops deliver a tour of piping hot empanadas at the call of a phone. Gaucho wives pride themselves on their special style of empanadas, and the filling is still a carefully kept secret.
The basics for making an empanada appear to be simple, and they are, yet a number of important and subtle touches are necessary.
The pastry is part of the secret and the heat of the oven of frying fat also has its influence.
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The key of an empanada
Gaucho empanadas experts insist that the most important factor of all is how the filling is prepared, at least when this is based on beef, which comprises something like 80% of empanadas eaten in Argentina.
A true gaucho empanadas has its beef finely chopped by hand, not passed through the mincer. This is an important point to bear in mind because the juciness of the meat – and the final juiciness of the filling – depends almost wholly on this factor.
A mincer squeezes much of the juice out of the meat, and if used at high speed and for more than a minute or two, heats up the blades and cooks the beef slightly.
Using a sharp knife by hand produces a natural mince wich retains all the basic goodness of the meat.
How the empanada is stuffed
Beef is not the only filling used, although it is the most popular. Other meats, such as chicken and lamb and even pork can be used, while other popular fillings include mozzarella, cheese and onion, humita (creamed corn), and almost anything fertile imagination can think up.
Extracted from “El gaucho gourmet” by Derek Foster: Buy the book Gaucho Gourmet.
You can enjoy your own empanadas while in one of these Tours in the Pampa Argentina and Estancia Full Day Tour.
The Real Empanada Recipe
Dough for frying:
- 3 cups of basic flour
- 1 cup shortning, preferably lard
- 1 beaten egg
- 4 tablespoons slightly salted water
Mix flour and shortning and then te beaten egg and the water, a little at a time. Knead until a smooth, elastic dough is obtained. Let stand 30 minutes.
Because the amount of water necessary can vary, blend in the egg first, before adding the water. When ready roll out into a thin, flat sheet and cut into rounds with a wide-mouthed pastry cutter.
When filled and closed, the empanada should be fried in very hot fat, two or three at a time, and placed on absorbent paper to drain. (The hotter the fat, the drier the empanada on emerging). The empanada should be just browned, not over-fried.
Standard beef filling of the empanadas recipe:
- ½ kg lean beef, preferably hand chopped into very small cubes
- ½ cup lard or shortning
- 2 finely chopped onions
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- ½ cup boiling broth (or water)
- Raisins, chopped olives and hard boiled egg as necessary
Heat lard very hot in heavy iron skillet. Brown onion, add beef and stir until pink colour has gone. Add flour and continue stirring until beef is lightly browned.
Now add scallions, paprika and broth to form a thick mixture. Mix well and cook for no more than five minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and oregano. Remove from heat and cool. Add some raisins chopped olives and slices of hard boiled eggs to taste.
Place a little of this mixture in center of each round of dough, fold over and seal by wetting edges with water and pressing with fingers or a fork.