Wednesday, September 7 –
It is a really, really good thing we love onions – love them so much that using 4 onions for one meal didn’t even make me blink. I did end up using only 3 because I thought the proportions were off, but I would have used 4 if it had worked better with the amount of other ingredients. So I started out by making the dough for the empanadas, which I found on YouTube. As the dough was resting in the fridge, I started cutting the veggies for the filling. Noticing that this recipe called for an entire diced onion to be boiled with one chicken breast and then thrown away, I quickly moved to improvising. (Really? Boiling meat? And throwing more food away? Naaaaaw… not me.) So instead I chopped 1.5 onions, the green bell pepper, the leeks, and added the spices and put all of it into a large pan with two chicken breasts and some olive oil and covered it. I let the veggies cook down while using the steam from them to keep the chicken breasts moist.
While I was cooking the filling, Wonderful Boyfriend put the salad and salad dressing together. Because there were only 3 of us for dinner this time (Roommate Extraordinaire and us), he just built little salad piles (with the beets on the side, because I wasn’t so sure about them) on the plates instead of making a bowl of it. Saves on dishes and hard-to-save-squishy-salad-stuff leftovers. I moved on to making the bean dish while Roommate Extraordinaire shredded the chicken breasts and put the meat back into the veggies to simmer down a little bit more. (This dinner definitely took all 3 of us, and I was very glad for the help.) The bean dish also called for 2 onions, which I toned down to 1.5 just like the filling. I kept the rest of the recipe just like it called for, and let me tell you it smelled sooooo good as it was simmering.
Everything else done and prepped, I moved on to rolling out the dough and cutting out circles for the empanadas. I used a soup bowl pressed onto the dough to make an even line and then cut out the circles as carefully as I could. Roommate Extraordinaire put the filling and the egg in (we diced and crumbled the egg instead of using slices) and sealed them with a fork. The liquid from the filling started to make the dough sticky on the bottom so we used cooking spray and a cookie sheet to form them on. Then we fried them (yes, I know I could have baked them, but I was trying to be authentic…) and the smell of them cooking was amazing.
When we finally got everything dished up to serve and ready to eat, my mouth was watering. Onions? Cilantro? Fried dough? Yes, please and thank you. The salad was good, but mostly just a salad (and yes, the beets turned out just fine). I’ve had more interesting salads from combos I’ve made myself, but it was good none-the-less. The empanadas were good, crunchy, flaky, delicious pockets of wonderful – but I have to say it was the bean side dish that really pulled it all together. With a scoop of the bean dish on top of the empanada, the flavors mingled together and made all of us groan in happiness. It was so good, I have to say, that I almost wish that I had skipped the salad just so I could have more of the beans. I wouldn’t just give that recipe one gold star, it deserves many, many of them.
Things I have learned: Leeks taste a little bit like a mild green onion, and it feels like a waste to just use the white part. The next time I cook with them I will try to have a soup or something planned for the green tops so I’m not throwing so much usable food away. Continuing to keep with my “don’t simmer/boil/cook stuff just for flavor and then throw away” plan is working just fine. If you need the flavor of something like onion, use onion powder. I am also not really a fan of boiling meat, so simmering with the lid on did just fine keeping the meat moist and shred-able. Also, we started with drinking red wine while we were cooking and moved to white wine for the meal, which some people would argue was backwards, but it worked out just fine for us. Dare to be different than “conventional” because it might turn out more amazing than you even hoped!
Thoughts about wine: We started with a Malbec, which was so dark we couldn’t see through it, and so good it vanished before we could even get to dinner! It was a very good red, not too dry or woody tasting, and generally made me want to keep filling my glass. We moved to a white from Argentina with dinner, and it had a good, clean grapefruit flavor at the beginning with absolutely no lingering bite to it at all. It was refreshing rather than sharp, and it even went really well with the canary melon and blackberries that we had for dessert. I highly recommend both bottles!
Recommendations from our sommelier, Leigh Olson: One word ~ Malbec!
Malbec is the national variety in Argentina so it seems fitting that this meal be paired with the Regional Pairing strategy. “If it grows together, it goes together.” This meal, which reveals the Spanish influence of the Argentinian cuisine, demands a wine with a little backbone as well as some elegance. Malbec will not disappoint. This richly colored red wine has an intense fruit quality that will augment the mélange of flavors in the empanadas. The velvety textures prevalent in an Argentine Malbec, will offer a pleasant counterpart to the creaminess of the beans.
- Every day, Easy Drinker | Catena Malbec 2007
- Step it up | Luca Malbec 2007
- Money is No Object | Weinert Estrella Malbec
If you can’t find one of these, ask your wine steward at your local grocer. They can be great resources. Just tell them you are preparing a traditional Argentine meal.
Fun Facts: Malbec originated in the Bordeaux Region of France and was allegedly named after a Hungarian peasant who planted the grape throughout France. With more than 1000 synonyms for Malbec, this poor grape could have an identity crisis.
Serving Temp: 64 – 68 degrees. This is a room temp kinda wine. Just make sure that your room is not 74 degrees and you will be fine. Otherwise, store in the fridge and pull out about 45 minutes before you plan on serving.
Vessel of Choice: Since this is a Bordeaux grape, I am going to suggest a Bordeaux glass. Both Riedel and Spiegelau make beautiful glassware. Otherwise, a nice red wine glass that will allow the wonderful blackberry, tobacco and vanilla aromas to waft up to your olfactories.
Black Beans a la Olla
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large onions, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 (19 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (16 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Directions: Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat; cook the onions and garlic in the oil until the onions are translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the black beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, cumin, and cayenne pepper; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 5 minutes. Add 3/4 cup cilantro and simmer another 2 minutes. Stir in the green onions and remove from heat. Garnish with 1/4 cup cilantro.
Springtime Hearts of Palm Salad–Ensalada de Palmitos de Primavera
- 1 head of lettuce, leaves washed an torn (I used green-leaf lettuce here)
- 1 tomato, sliced into wedges
- 1 rib of celery, sliced into pieces cross-wise
- 1 can hearts of palm, drained
- 1 can cut or sliced beets, drained
- 1 hard-boiled egg, shelled and sliced
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
Directions: Hard boil the egg before anything else. To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to combine. In the bowl of your choice, place the lettuce. Add about half of the dressing and toss until the lettuce leaves are klightly coated. Layer the egg slices, then a ring of celery slices, a ring of hearts of palm slices, finishing with the beets in the center. Add the tomatoes fanning around the beets.
Empanadas de Polllo, Puerro, y Pimiento – Chicken, Leek and Pepper Empanadas
- 12 tapas or discos for empanadas, either store-bought (available at Latin Markets) or homemade
- 1 hard-boiled egg
- 1 chicken breast
- 2 onions
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 leeks
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 1 egg, lightly beaten, for painting
Hard-boil the egg. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan, and add the chicken breast, one onion, chopped very coarse, and a handful of coarse salt. Let poach until the chicken has cooked through, about 20 minutes or so–check the inside of the chicken to be sure it is not pink and has cooked thoroughly. Alternatively, use leftover cooked chicken, like from a rotisserie chicken. Remove the chicken breast to a cutting board and discard the onion and water. Let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Chop the onion into medium dice, and add it to the skillet. Chop the leek, (white part only) and add it to the skillet, as well. Let cook for about 10 minutes, lowering the heat slightly if needed, until the leek and onion mixture has softened and become translucent. Meanwhile, shred or cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add the chicken to the skillet, and the crushed red pepper, salt, pepper, and oregano. Stir well to combine. Peel your hard-boiled egg, if you haven’t already.
Set the empanada shells out on the counter to assemble. Lightly flour a baking sheet. Also have the slightly beaten egg in a glass, and a small glass of water. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of the empanada shell. Slice a sliver of hard-boiled egg and put it on top of the filling.
Moisten the edge on the top half of the shell with a little water on your finger. Fold the bottom half of the dough up until the edges meet and seal with your fingers by pressing down. The empanada should have a half-moon shape.
Use the palms of the hands to pack the filling firmly in the center. Next, fold the edges with the Repulgue: using your fingertip, fold one corner of the empanada over, pressing down firmly. Go to the edge again and repeat, pressing firmly each time. Go around the edge of the empanada and you’ll get a spiral pattern. You can also use a fork-seal, instead.
Paint the top of each sealed empanada with the beaten egg so that when they bake, they have a shiny, golden shell. Place the finished empanadas on the baking sheets. Put the empanadas in to bake for 12 to 15 minutes-they should be sizzling and very golden brown on top. Take out and eat very carefully while hot!