When I visited to Argentina a few years ago, I flew from Minneapolis to Dallas to Miami to Buenos Aires. It added up to something like 24 total travel hours and by the time I reached my destination I was completely exhausted. I remember very little about that first day in Buenos Aires aside from my happy reunion with (then boyfriend) Brad at the airport. It took me a couple of days to recover and get some rest, but when I did, I began to fall in love with Argentina- both its people and its food (of course).
Shortly after my arrival, Brad and I traveled to Mar del Plata for a few days, where we enjoyed breakfasts on a sun-filled deck, quiet walks along the beach, and I discovered my love (and I mean love) for café con crema. After a few days, we returned to the faster-paced Buenos Aires for the remainder of my visit. Brad lived with a beautiful host-family who truly adopted him as their own son while he lived there. They were so warm and lovely that I felt as though I could have stayed in their cozy home, complete with a friendly dog and a grandmother who made handmade ravioli every Sunday for the whole family, forever.
I don’t have many photos of my trip because this was before I really got into taking photos. But I remember a lot about it. One thing that sticks out in my mind is of course the food we ate. A couple days ago, we took a little trip down memory lane and made a simple argentine meal of empanadas and choripan with chimichurri.
Empanadas are wonderful. I’ve posted them before on the site (here). It seems like you are throwing together a million things that don’t make any sense together- ground beef, hard boiled eggs, raisins, green olives- but somehow they come together to form a perfectly flavored pocket wrapped in crispy, flaky crust. This time around, since there were some olive and raisin haters, I omitted those and used dried cranberries instead. This was actually a perfect substitute and added a subtly sweet, tangy flavor to the filling. I bake my empanadas, but if you buy them on the streets of Buenos Aires they will most likely be fried. I find that baking them still creates a delicious crust and prevents the mess of deep frying.
Choripan are sandwiches made with chorizo and french style rolls. These can be eaten as is but are best with the addition of chimichurri sauce, which is similar to a pesto but is made with flat leaf parsley and a few other ingredients one wouldn’t usually find in a traditional pesto. The flavor is bright and fresh and can be used on anything from meat to fish.
For dessert, I made empanadas filled with dulce de leché. I didn’t manage to get many photos of the dessert, so… What’s that? You insist that I make them again and do another post? Well, alright…just for you though!
This meal was great for Brad and I to make together. He was in charge of the choripan and I was maker of empanadas. We served the meal with a nice Malbec (if you haven’t tried it, get to it! It’s the perfect wine for grilled meat and this summer would be a great time to break open a bottle!) and had a great time reminiscing about our trip and sharing the experience with others. And don’t worry- I didn’t have any of the wine.
And last but not least (and this has nothing to do with Argentina) we found out that our little baby is a boy! We had an ultrasound on Wednesday and everything looks beautiful! I’m already completely, head over heels in love.
*I recommend making this dinner with another person just because its so much fun! Make the dough for the empanadas first, since it has to chill for about an hour in the refrigerator. Then, while one person makes the chimichurri sauce, the other makes the filling for the empanadas. Work on filling the empanadas together, or have one person do the filling and the other work on grilling the sausage for the choripan. Just keep in mind that the empanadas take a while to bake, but can be put back in the oven at about 275 degrees F to reheat if you want to do them ahead of time.
Chimichurri Sauce (from Simply Recipes)
1 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, trimmed of thick stems
3-4 garlic cloves
2 Tbsps fresh oregano leaves (can sub 2 teaspoons dried oregano)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1. Finely chop the parsley, fresh oregano, and garlic (or process in a food processor several pulses). Place in a small bowl.
2. Stir in the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Adjust seasonings.
3. Serve immediately or refrigerate. If chilled, return to room temperature before serving. Can keep for a day or two.
Makes 1 dozen empanadas
2 T olive oil
1 lb. ground beef
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup pitted green olives, roughly chopped (optional if you have olive haters)
1/3 cup raisins (or dried cranberries)
2 boiled eggs, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
black pepper and salt to taste
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion, green onion, garlic, raisins and olives. Cook until the onion and garlic are soft and fragrant. Add the ground beef and brown thoroughly. Stir in the soy sauce and water. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring the mixture to prevent burning. Season with salt and pepper, transfer the filling to a large bowl and allow to cool while you make the dough. When the filling is cool, stir in the boiled egg.
Dough (adapted from Asian Dumplings cookbook):
2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
4 tablespoons shortening
5 tablespoons butter, chilled and diced
1 egg yolk (save the white to brush the dough before baking) mixed w/6 tablespoons water
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar (if using honey, mix the honey together w/the egg yolk and water.)
Add the shortening and butter and use your fingers to break it into tiny crumbles (very important that this is done well! If you have a food processor, use that…I don’t, so I use what God gave me!)
Add the egg/water/honey mixture to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until the dough comes together in a mass. Ditch the fork and use your hands to gently kneed the dough into a smoothish ball. Don’t do this for too long, just long enough to create a nice ball of dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator when thoroughly chilled. On a floured surface, roll the dough out into a thick, small rectangle and cut in half. Working with one half of dough at a time, continue to roll the dough into a larger rectangle until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Using a circular cookie cutter, cut out section of dough and set aside. Do the same with the other half of dough.
Take each cut out circle and roll it out so it is thin, but not so thin you can see through it. Put about 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of the dough circle and seal the edges. Place the filled empanada on a lined baking sheet. Lightly whisk your reserved egg white. Before placing in the oven, brush the top of each empanada with the egg white.
Bake at 375 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
Makes 6-8 sandwiches
4 chorizo links (about the size of a bratwurst)
1 loaf of French bread, cut into 6-8 sections and cut in half like sandwich bread
Heat a grill to medium high and cook the chorizo. When it is done, cut the chorizo in half once in the middle, then once lengthwise. Place the chorizo back on the grill, cut side down and grill for another minute or two for nice grill marks.
Brush the cut sides of the bread with olive oil and place them on the grill for about a minute. Transfer the bread and chorizo to a platter. Each place two halves of chorizo on each sandwich and serve with chimichurri sauce.