May 8, 2008
In my former life, (before the glamour of food blogging) if you can believe it, I was a public school teacher! I taught with a lovely Argentinean woman named Carina, and we became fast friends. We pored over lesson plans together, graded papers together, and commiserated over our difficulties together. Though neither of us are teachers now, over the years our friendship has continued. Carina and her husband Julio are both from Mendoza, like Guillermo. They recently invited us to their home for a tutorial on how to make authentic Empanadas Mendocinas-Mendoza style empanadas. Now this was a lesson I wouldn’t mind sinking my teeth into!
What sets Mendoza-style empanadas apart from others is that they are baked rather than fried. The typical filling is seasoned ground beef with a slice of green olive and a slice of hard-boiled egg. They are sealed with a special technique called ‘repulgue’, in which the edges of the empanada are folded and pressed over and over again to create a pattern. You can see this technique (as well as how to pack the filling into the empanada and seal it) in the video below. (That’s Carina narrating in Spanish.)
The crusts (or shells) of the empanada are called tapas (think lids rather than appetizers) and are sold in most Latin markets in the frozen section. They come in packets of one dozen-the best brands are La Salteña or Goya. There are two styles of tapas-estilo criolla or estilo hojaldre (which is preferable because it has a flakier crust). If you are determined to make your empanadas entirely from scratch, Layla has a great tapas recipe.
Receta por Empanadas Medocinas de la familia Oliva-Quiroz
Mendoza-Style Empanadas from the Oliva-Quiroz family
makes one dozen
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
green olives, pitted and cut into slices, about 6
2 hard-boiled eggs, cut into rounds
salt and pepper to taste
crushed red pepper, to taste
12 empanada rounds (tapas)
1 egg, beaten, for glazing
1 glass water, to seal edges
Note: The meat can be made a day in advance.
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-high heat. Put the onions, sliced finely in rounds, in a frying pan and salt them. Saute until they start to become translucent, then add in the beef. Cook the ground beef, chopping as it cooks with a flat spatula to maintain ground beef texture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the beef has cooked through, then taste for salt and pepper, and stir in the paprika, cumin, and crushed red pepper and mix well.
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the tapas on a lightly floured work surface. With a tablespoon, put a little of the meat filling in the center of the dough round. Add a slice of the olive and a piece of the hard boiled egg.
For sealing, you’ll need a small glass of water. Moisten the edge on the top half of the round with a little water on your finger. Fold the bottom half of the dough up until the edges meet and seal with your fingers by pressing down. The empanada should have a half-moon shape.
Use the palms of the hands to pack the filling firmly in the center. Next, fold the edges with the Repulgue: using your fingertip, fold one corner of the empanada over, pressing down firmly. Go to the edge again and repeat, pressing firmly each time. Go around the edge of the empanada and you’ll get a spiral pattern. You can also use a fork-seal, instead.
Beat an egg in a cup and paint the top of each sealed empanada so that when they bake, they have a shiny, golden shell. Spread flour lightly over several cookie sheets, and place the finished empanadas on top. Put the empanadas in to bake for 12 to 15 minutes-they should be sizzling and very golden brown on top. Take out and eat very carefully while hot!