This is a tale of an ugly empanada. A platter full actually. Made with love and buffalo meat, they were juicy, flavorful, and entirely unattractive. No matter. Sometimes it’s the doing and completing of something new that matters more than a perfect end result.
This story actually began south of the equator, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from where our family just returned after spending the holidays. Meat and Malbec are ridiculously good there, and there is a level of pride exuded in the ubiquitousness of both. Empanadas, made with said meat, were all over as well. We decided to try our hand at creating a meal, and booked a private cooking class for the whole family with El Arte de Amasar (The Art of Kneading), in the home of Chef Saul Gerson. Native to Argentina, he has a deep love showing how simple flavors shine with good quality ingredients.
We had a fantastic night. We made a silky ball of dough that we rolled out into lovely thin sheets with a pasta maker and cut perfect 12 cm discs to make gorgeous, scallop-edged empanadas that came out of the oven evenly browned and perfectly cooked. That combined with a rump steak and homemade chimichurri sauce, roasted potatoes, a dulce de leche and rum semifreddo, and a couple of bottles of Argentine Malbecs (one from the Salta region and one from Mendoza), and we had ourselves a dinner to remember that we got to help prepare. “I’m so doing this when I get home,” thought I. It’s the Yakima Valley, we have access to great meat and Malbec, right here.
Last January, rooted spent some time with the buffalo herd out at Perrault Farms in the Toppenish area for Where the Buffalo Roam.
Knowing they slaughter some males every year to keep the herd size manageable, I asked Silvey Perrault if she had any ground bison to spare. As luck would have it, she did. What could be a better American twist than a buffalo meat empanada and a Yakima Valley Malbec? I could picture the rooted photo shoot in my mind’s eye. Beautiful, homemade pastries, oven-warm on the kitchen counter…
Aileen and Shelley came over and we began the grand assemblage for our YV empanadas. The filling came together superbly. The buffalo meat with onion, red pepper, hard boiled eggs, olives, and spices was tasty.
But there was something about the dough that didn’t have quite the same texture. It just wouldn’t hold together in the same way. Maybe our flour is different here. I know Saul used beef manteca and all I could find locally was pork manteca. Perhaps those were the reasons why our dough was less than stellar.
We rolled it out, laughing all the way as we hoped it wouldn’t fall apart. We made it work. A 12 cm disc? Well, how about a Daisy Sour Cream lid. Scalloped edges? Well, maybe more of a potsticker like crimp.
They did brown, but not evenly. How did they taste? Amazing. Aileen grabbed a bottle of Malbec from Argentina she picked up at Costco, just to represent, and I had some Gilbert Cellars and Gamache Malbecs that we opened joyfully, and were totally fantastic.
In the end, it did what is was supposed to do. Brought us together, made us laugh, filled our bellies, and made us grateful that we could screw it up so perfectly together.
We will definitely be doing this again.