February 26, 1997 in Food

Argentina Favorite Could Become Yours, Too

Bev Bennett Los Angeles Times Service
 

In Argentina, where beef still rules, little meat pies called “empanadas” are the ubiquitous snack food. Every region has its own mix of seasonings, its own crust recipe. Some towns prefer a sweeter flavor, others go savory, and still others emphasize texture with nuts.

A cook’s skill is measured by how delicate their pastry is and how well the moist, meaty filling matches the flaky crust.

But food habits are changing in South America, as they are everywhere else. Cooks rarely have the time to make empanadas at home and will instead buy them from fastfood restaurants or caterers.

Since this delicious pastry hasn’t caught on yet in the United States, you’ll have to make your own. If you’re crust-challenged, you can use a convenience product. Otherwise, the crust recipe that follows is excellent for empanadas, as it stretches a bit to hold more.

Although Argentinians serve empanadas as a late afternoon morsel with a glass of wine, you’re probably more likely to prepare them for dinner with a salad accompaniment, such as Piquant Coleslaw.

Empanadas

Crust (recipe follows)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot, peeled and minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 pound ground beef

2 tablespoons dark raisins

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pepper

1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Flour

1 egg white

Prepare crust and chill while preparing filling.

Heat oil in skillet. Add shallot and garlic and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add beef and brown, breaking into pieces. Pour off excess fat, but don’t leave the beef completely dry.

Add raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt and pepper to taste and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar. Set aside until meat is lukewarm before filling (if meat is too warm, crust will fall apart).

On lightly floured board, roll out crust slightly less than 1/4 inch thick. Cut with 5- to 6-inch cutters to make 4 circles. Fill each with meat, heaping in the center. Brush edges of crust with egg white. Gently fold crust over to encase filling. Press edges of crust with fork tines to seal. If using smaller cutters, you may have enough filling and crust for another empanada.

Place half-circles on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Yield: 2 servings.

Crust

1 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons very cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon solid vegetable shortening

1 egg yolk

3 to 4 tablespoons very cold water

Combine flour, salt and baking powder in bowl. Cut in butter and shortening until mixture is crumbly. Stir in egg yolk. Use fork to stir in water by tablespoonsful and mix until dough holds together. Shape dough into disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Note: Empanadas can be frozen but should be thawed and reheated in oven (not microwave) at 325 degrees 10 minutes.

Piquant Coleslaw

2 cups thinly sliced cabbage

1 green onion, white and green parts, sliced

1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips

2 tablespoons oil

2 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon celery seeds

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place cabbage, onion and red bell pepper in serving bowl.

Combine oil, sugar, vinegar, celery seeds, salt and pepper in bowl and mix well. Pour over cabbage mixture. Toss gently but well.

Yield: 2 servings.


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