Friday, 17 February 2017

2017: How very just to prepare Argentinian Empanadas Based ?

Gaby Melian is the Bon Appétit test kitchen assistant, and after we begged her for weeks, she shared her family's Argentinian empanadas recipe with us.

My mom made these empanadas the same way my grandmother made them, and my recipe is a version of that. My mom, Adriana, passed away last January, so let’s say it’s her recipe—she would like that. She’d also insist that the chicken ones have to have green peppers and tomato paste; otherwise, they’re not chicken empanadas.

The beef empanadas are traditional porteñas, which means they're from Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, and they always have ground beef, raisins, and green olives. When someone tells me they don’t like raisins, I say, well, pick them out! So they’re a little sweet, some people even sprinkle them with sugar before baking. Whereas in the north of Argentina, there’s an influence from Bolivian empanadas, so those are spicier and the meat is cut, not ground. In the south, some people add nuts and/or hard-boiled eggs. There are so many recipes. I don’t like them with hard-boiled eggs, it makes the empanada a little dry. And you already have meat, why do you need eggs?! So we skipped that in these recipes.

My family has a lot of women, so we usually take over the kitchen, and I was always in charge of closing the empanadas. It’s called repulgue. When I was 8 or 9, I was helping my grandmother and I started closing them. She got emotional because I was doing it the same way her mom did it, twisting the seal with my hands (instead of a fork)—but her mom, my great-grandmother, died when I was one, so how would I have known? It must be in my blood.

I grew up in Buenos Aires and I moved to New York when I was 26. I worked at an Argentinian bakery in Queens—I ate so many pastries!—and then I went to the Institute of Culinary Education. I never stopped cooking and taught classes in my house and other places. For four years I taught Spanish in an elementary school, and I taught a cooking class with the children—we made empanadas! It’s my dream one day to have a mobile school to teach children how to cook.

A few years ago I got a food vendor’s license to sell empanadas. I’ve been living in the same neighborhood for 19 years, so people know that I make them. I also participate in Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution every year and help my friend at Food Not Bombs serving food to the homeless on Sundays in Jersey City.

I make them for birthday parties, like 300 empanadas. You have to make those ahead—it takes 4 or 5 hours—or you can freeze them. They’ve saved me so many times. Birthday parties? Empanadas. Somebody’s coming over? Empanadas. You can use store-bought dough from the freezer, and then I just need an hour to fill them and bake them. But I always make sure there’s a salad, too, because I can eat 4 or 5, but 6? Then I’ll have a stomachache. My kitchen has an open window, so you can sit there and watch and drink while I make the empanadas.

We're using frozen Goya empanada dough, my favorite. Make sure to let it sit 15 minutes before you start filling them.

Once you've made the filling (this is the beef recipe), put 2 Tbsp. filling in the center of each round.

Top with 2 olive halves.

Brush water around half of the outer edge of each round.

And then fold it over the filling and pinch the edges to seal.

You can use a plastic divider to keep things neat—and to keep the dough from sticking to the counter.

Use a fork to crimp the edges, or use your fingers to make a twist like my great-grandmother.

Then you'll transfer the empanada to a parchment-lined sheet tray, which you'll fill with 12 empanadas and throw in the oven. The more you do it, the faster you'll get.

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