Cooking Empandas and Locro in Buenos Aires

We’ve decided that empanadas are one of Argentina’s best contributions to the culinary world.  Every great civilization has its version of an empanada: a crust with tasty goodness on the inside so as to make it portable and able to be eaten easily.  I’d recently discovered and began making empanadas in the U.S. but didn’t exactly know what to strive for until I’d sampled a couple dozen in Buenos Aires.  An empanada can have a doughy or flaky crust which is then fried or baked.  Anything can be placed inside, such as spicy or normal ground beef, ham and cheese, onion and cheese, eggplant, artichoke, or chicken.  Although I had recipes, I thought learning firsthand from a local might reveal the secrets to the perfect empanada.  That’s where Mary comes in.  Mary is a really nice maid who works in our building and is originally from Paraguay.  We had been talking about cooking and food for weeks and when she offered to teach me how to make locro stew and empanadas, I enthusiastically agreed.

I decided to try half flaky crusts and half doughy and to bake and not fry. Most people cheat when making empanadas and purchase the dough wrapping.  The most popular brand here is La Salteña, which is what we used and is also available in the U.S.  Mary and I put together 48 empanadas and froze the majority of them.  The stuffing was relatively easy to make, but knowing the right amount to stuff into the dough and how exactly to twist shut and crimp the edges is an art you acquire on your thousandth empanada.  The baking is the same whether they’re from the freezer or fresh.  You just put them on a baking rack (no thawing necessary) and put them in the oven on 350 degrees until they’re very golden brown. 

I hadn’t heard of locro until a cab driver told me I had to try it the first week I was in the city.  Locro is a local stew that consists of vegetables, white corn, chorizo and spices like paprika and oregano.  It was really simple to make and declared better than the empanadas.

A couple of weeks later I told Mary I’d teach her how to make chocolate chip cookies if she taught me how to make a pumpkin tart.  The tart is delicious and deceivingly simple! I’ve added the recipe below the pictures.  I have to admit the pumpkin tart turned out way better than the cookies.  I’m blaming it on the ounces to grams conversions.

Savory Pumpkin Pie Recipe

1 pumpkin or butternut squash

1 savory pie crust

1 big bunch of green onions

1 egg

¼ cup Parmesan or other shredded cheese

Salt to taste

Chop up the pumpkin into chunks discarding the seeds and skin. Drop them into boiling water until you can easily get a fork through them, but not as soft as you would for making puree. Once finished (it may take multiple batches) let cool. Wash and chop up the bunch of green onions. With a little bit of oil cook the green onions until they’re a little darker green; maybe 5 minutes or so on medium heat. Mash the pumpkin with a potato masher and mix in the green onions and one egg. Salt and pepper to taste.

Spread out the pie crust in normal pie dish or big shallow tart tin. Add pumpkin mixture, smooth out and sprinkle with cheese. Bake in over until golden brown crust. I can’t remember exactly how long 50-60 min?


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