No saying in our current state of affairs is more truthful and sincere than Tolkien's famous words: "If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." Right after the highly esteemed "love verse" in 1 Corinthians, of course.
Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of volunteering for International Week at Selah's preschool and, much to my belly's delight, I experienced not only a content stomach filled to the brim with Filipino lumpias, homemade Mexican fideos (they're so simple but addictive!), Chinese stir fry shrimp and eggs, chiffon mango cake, all among other delicacies, but also a mind renewed by the sight of parents and children alike reveling in the simplicity of sharing a meal. I was in dire need of a breather from the mayhem the world has been facing lately. Do you not?
As we the citizens of the world have fallen prey to this bait of animosity and hostile reactions fueled by the masses, which I believe is what the media has been fishing for and by golly has it been a success, I've been tying my best to remain reflective upon the good things that are happening in the world. Not all is lost, you see.
I was reminded of that as I watched Selah and her multi-ethnic friends at preschool. No three kids are from the same background and no food was the same on that lunch table. As I connected Selah's present life and my past from when I was just a timid tween, terrified on the plane and even more so as I'd stepped foot into the most multicultural setting I'd ever been on--a rugged school in the middle of Los Angeles and a melting pot of sorts--I knew right then that a childlike spirit can get us far in this nation. That's what the United States has been made of, childlike dreams and aspirations, and I can't help but think that we will be okay. I am optimistic that as long as we turn to God in humility and prayer, as hard as the going may get here and there, we will triumph over this current state we're in.
I always wish I could keep this space light and free from current events, but as I've been given a humble little platform here, I sense the obligation to share my thoughts. From Scratch, Mostly, after all, is a hodgepodge of thoughts coming from my appreciation for culture and the sublime things culture lends, namely food. And that's why perhaps I'm so keen on being a self-proclaimed foodie, because it allows me to take a peek at the nuances of each culture and the stories behind why certain things make an individual happy or sad.
All that to say, I'm grateful that I get to share my third-culture-kid ways with you on this blog. My Korean-Argentinean palate and affinity for anything South American obligates me to share with you this gem of a recipe. I made it, took it to Selah's school, and a few parents made sure that I knew it was their favorite food item on the table. One of the moms asked for the recipe and one grandma who was a baker most of her life was rather impressed, and so here we are!
After several years of trial and error in my quest to achieve the perfect Argentinean empanada recipe, homemade empanada shell and all (ahem), I'm rather confident this has the potential to become your staple empanada recipe as well. It comes closest to the empanadas I remember noshing on as a kid, and I hope to lend you that same experience with this treasured recipe of mine.
Argentinean Empanada Shells
Makes approximately 12-14 shells
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp vegetable shortening (I use Crisco)
3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
5 tbsp ice water
1 egg yolk+1 tbsp milk (for egg wash)
1. Stir flour and salt in a large bowl until well incorporated.
2. Add vegetable shortening and butter and knead the dough with your bare hands until large and rough chunks begin to form.
3. Pour ice water little by little, kneading the dough and alternating in that manner. Make sure not to over knead, but just enough so it becomes a uniform ball. Seal with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
Argentinean Beef Empanadas
Makes approximately 12-14 depending on size of empanadas
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 of an onion, chopped
1/2 russet potato, chopped in small cubes
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp ground thyme
2 tsp dried oregano leaves
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup water
1 beef bouillon (I used Knorr)
1/2 cup pitted green olives, chopped
4 boiled eggs, chopped
1. Heat oil in a large heavy pot (or wok will work too) over medium-high heat. Cook bell peppers, garlic, onion, potatoes, until they are barely halfway tender, stirring often.
2. Add ground beef, thyme, oregano, paprika, salt, pepper, and cook over medium heat until meat is slightly browned.
3. Pour water and add the bouillon. Cook over medium heat until bouillon is dissolved and mixed throughout. Add olives and boiled eggs last. Cook for another 2 minutes and set aside to cool down before wrapping them in the empanada dough.
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F degrees. Take little pieces of the dough (about the size of a golf ball or a little bigger) and roll each ball out into a disk with a rolling pin, dusting with flour as needed.
2. Spoon some filling into the center of each disk but do not over stuff as is the natural tendency.
3. For the repulgue method of crimping (the pretty braids on traditional Argentinean empanadas), simply seal the empanada at the edges like a taco. Take the one end of the empanada and bring it in an upward manner with a sort of a twisting motion. Repeat this step all throughout. It's a bit difficult to explain and I apologize as I had a stop-motion-vignette ready for you all! But it didn't upload correctly so hopefully I will get that sorted out. This method of crimping takes practice so don't be discouraged!
4. Whisk the egg yolk and milk together. This will be the egg wash for brushing on top.
5. Place empanadas on a baking sheet at about 1/2-1 inch apart from each other. Brush each empanada liberally, but only brushing sensibly on the crimped edges as the edges tend to bake and brown faster. Bake for approximately 12 minutes, brush the empanadas with the egg wash one more time, and bake for an additional 5-6 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm and enjoy!