Empanadas are by far the best thing that’s happened to me since arriving in Mendoza. Actually, scratch that: empanadas are one of the many awesome things that I’ve gotten to experience in Argentina. I’ve been known to exaggerate, but my enthusiasm and enamor for this most delicious, stuffed finger food is more than sincere. Whether picking them up from a cheap eatery in town to enjoy in one of the city’s plazas, heating up my host mom’s in our kitchen’s little toaster oven when she isn’t home to prepare lunch, or coming home from a long day of classes to see my host mom (she’s the best) stuffing and pinching their edges closed, I’m a happy girl when it’s empanadas on the menu.
The picadillo (filling), dough, and baking procedures are numerous and vary according to region. Nevertheless, here’s the basic idea: the filling is made from a mixture of meat (beef or chicken), onions, and spices, then stuffed into a wheat-based dough, and then either oven-baked or fried. The type of meat (ground or cubed), proportion of meat to onions, combination of spices, addition of extra ingredients (hard-boiled eggs, raisins, olives, etc.) and the way the empanada dough is sealed, all depends on the region in which they are prepared (and, of course, on the cook’s personal taste). There are even empanadas de choclo that are filled with corn and cheese, and empanadas de atún, filled with tuna or another type of fish. My host mom’s atún version even has a bit of sugar dusted onto the outside of the dough, which is super delicious because the sugar caramelizes a little while baking.
As you might imagine, my host mom makes the best empanadas in Argentina. Her empanadas de carne are adapted from the classic mendocinian version: 1 part ground beef to 2 parts chopped onion cooked with chili, cumin, salt and pepper, and a bit of white wine (that last ingredient isn’t a classic one, but it sure is a good addition). When filling the dough, she adds either green olive or hard-boiled egg slices. Eaten fresh out of the oven, these empanadas are juicy and flavorful. The acidity of the olives complements the sweetness of the filling, and the egg whites and yolks add texture. Overall the best argentine comfort food to rid away any morsel of homesickness.