When it came time to decide on gifts for our family upon their arrival in Buenos Aires we were firmly decided we wanted to share an experience. For months we had been hatching different ideas about ways to experience a culture together with our family.
Enter Teresita. With a teaching background spanning more than 20 years, a love for all things culinary, and a passion for travel and learning, she is one incredible lady to spend an afternoon with. Upon retiring she decided to open up her kitchen and teach the art of the empanada.
With Teresita’s help, we made our way through a few bottles of wine, a good deal of laughter, and forty empanadas from scratch. Even the smallest aspect of this lesson was eye opening (who knew I’d been cutting an onion wrong all my life?). From chopping vegetables to getting just the right texture in the dough, we learned there’s really nothing simple about this tasty treat.
Empanadas originated in Galicia, Spain, and Portugal and made their way to Latin America with the Spanish colonizers. In Argentina, they’re often filled with chicken or beef along with onion, boiled egg, olives, and raisins. Spiced with cumin and paprika, the best empandas have just the right tang and are so juicy they’re borderline messy.
Baked empanadas are famous in the province of Salta and are aptly named salteñas. They’re smaller than the fried version and are cooked without fat or oil. The fried variety is sometimes referred to as Tucumán style (the province which hosts the National Empanada Festival). Often cooked in a clay oven the Tucumán empanada is heartier, fried to a golden crisp, and stuffed to the brim with ingredients.
While we waited on our baked version and dove into the fried sweet corn empanadas, Teresita sent us outside to “recess” in her lush backyard patio. Our last visit with Max and Emma was Thanksgiving 2010. There was much ground to cover. We sipped wine while discussing everything under the afternoon sun. Our first attempt at empanadas was a delicious success and it certainly won’t be our last.