A proper Porteño empanada

Calzones, samosas, bisteeya–virtually every culture has their version of a savory handheld pie. Some are clearly better than others (I’m talking to you, Hot Pockets). And for my money, one of the very best is the traditional Argentine empanada.

The most traditional empanadas are filled with chopped or ground beef spiced with cumin and paprika and mixed with tomato, olives, hard-cooked egg, and raisins. Together, these ingredients add up to more than the sum of their parts through a complex balance of meatiness, acidity, sweetness, and salt.

Since we’re currently hanging out in Buenos Aires for a bit, I thought we should learn to make proper empanadas. We spent a sunny Saturday afternoon in the kitchen with Norma Soued, a practicing clinical psychologist who gives Argentine cooking workshops out of her Belgrano apartment. Norma teaches in a mix of Spanish and English and speaks fluent French as well–perfect for the parade of foreigners who attend her classes each week.

Step 1: Make the filling. Start by sauteeing the aromatic vegetables (onions, garlic, scallions, and diced red and green bell peppers) and then add the meat and brown it a bit. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool (the filling will turn out mushy if you mix in the rest of the ingredients while it’s still warm). Then mix in chopped green olives, raisins, and chopped hard-cooked egg.

Step 2: Fill the dough. Start with a circle about 5 inches in diameter and spoon in enough of the filling that you can only seal about 1/4″ of the dough when you fold it in half.

Step 3: Turn the edges. Norma made this look really easy… but it’s not. Holding the closed empanada in your left hand, pinch the closed edge starting on the end closest to you. Flatten a section of the seam and turn it away from you, then move up the seam and repeat. To see Norma demonstrate this technique, check out this video.

Step 4: Brush with egg and bake at 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Et voila! Empanadas.

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