Argentina-Style Empanadas

Crispy, savory pastry meets seasoned, slightly sweet beef in this dish, with extra bursts of sweetness from the raisins throughout, and a surprise bite of hard-boiled egg and a tangy green olive.

Several months after JJ and I got married, we had the opportunity to visit his parents in the hometown where he grew up. Other than wanting to spend quality time with his immediate and extended family, we didn’t have a lot of expectations for our visit. We did have one main goal, however—to learn how to make empanadas from JJ’s father.

JJ and I had very distinct reasons as to why we wanted to learn, although equally as strong desires. For JJ, it was a beloved dish reminiscent of special moments throughout his childhood. I wanted to learn, on the other hand, because making authentic empanadas from my Argentine father-in-law was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Although JJ’s father was not too excited about the long, laborious process of teaching us how to make this main course, he conceded to our request, and we were soon learning how to make this tasty dish.

The empanadas that JJ and I formed that day were nothing near lovely, but they were delicious. Enough so, in fact, that JJ and I decided to try our hand at them again for our first Christmas together as a married couple several months later. JJ pulled up the short clips he had recorded from our empanada-making session with his dad, and I got out my notes with rough estimates of each ingredient used.

 It was quite the process for us to form and fry the empanadas, but several hours later, we had a heaping bowl full of these tasty, golden treats, and our tradition of making empanadas during the Christmas season began.

Since learning how to make empanadas, I have noticed that there are other Argentine empanada recipes online. Some are similar to the ones that we make with a few additional ingredients, and some are different altogether. Nonetheless, the recipe below is what JJ’s father taught us, and it is the one that we love and that we will pass on to our son as he grows. We hope it will stay in the family for many generations to come.

If you make these empanadas, please let me know how they turn out. I hope you like them as much as my family and I do. Who knows? Perhaps they will even become a new family tradition of your own.

Argentina-Style Empanadas

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef
1 ½ t paprika
1 t crushed red pepper
1½ T taco seasoning mix
1 to 1 ½ T sugar, according to desired sweetness
1/3 c raisins
2 hard-boiled eggs, cut into small cubes (around 12-15 pieces per egg)
Small jar green olives (one green olive per empanada)
2 packages Discos Goya*(thawed in refrigerator overnight)
Oil for frying

Directions:

Brown the beef and drain its grease.  Return to low heat and add the paprika, crushed red pepper, taco seasoning mix, and sugar and mix well. Stir in the raisins and remove from heat. Place a couple of tablespoons of the meat mixture into the middle of the disco Goya. Add a piece of hard-boiled egg and one olive to each, then fold the dough in half. Make a crease along the opened end, then pinch the dough along the crease line to ensure complete closure of the empanada.

Heat up enough oil in a frying pan for the empanadas to float above the bottom of the pan. Flip each empanada after 30-60 seconds, or once the side submerged in oil is golden. Fry the other side until golden, then place on a plate lined with a paper towel to allow to cool slightly. Makes 20 empanadas.

NOTES: If you are not familiar with discos Goya, I recommend searching for them in the frozen section of ethnic food at your local Walmart. If you do not have a local Walmart and/or simply do not have access to discos Goya where you live, the following website provides a fairly simple recipe for making them: https://www.laylita.com/recipes/how-to-make-empanada-dough/. Please keep in mind, however, that I cannot attest to the taste of these discos nor their similarity to discos Goya since I have always been fortunate enough to find discos Goya at the store.

To make a healthier version of this dish, use lean ground beef, lightly brush the dough with oil, and bake until golden.

The Best of 2020

I have kept a cookie tin on top of my refrigerator for a good chunk of the year. It has come down a number of times throughout these last eight months, but only long enough for me to jot down a note or two to toss into the tin among the growing pile of past notes.

Collecting these scribblings has been a spin-off of a tradition that I have held for years. In the past, I have written the best of each year in the form of a list—one that often includes experiences, events, celebrations, visits with family, any trips taken, and even more minor details such as new songs I’ve heard that I’ve liked. The list includes anything and everything that made the year special to me.

 I used to compile this list at the end of December each year, but more recently, I have started making it over Thanksgiving weekend, adding the events and experiences of December as the weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve have passed by. I’ve discovered that this weekend in particular is the perfect time to make the list for me, as it makes me more deeply aware of how generous God has been throughout the year, thus causing my heart to overflow with gratitude.

By mid-March, I recognized that the upcoming months would provide a difficult journey ahead, so I rummaged around the cupboard for the cookie tin and set off to starting my list in real-time, backdating the events and best moments of January and February to include in the container.

As the months have passed by, the tin has become a mound of colorful rectangles of paper—each one a testimony of God’s goodness and generosity in my life.

This Thanksgiving weekend, I plan to make myself a cup of decaf coffee or tea one evening after I get my son to bed, then I’ll take down the cookie tin and read each note, reminiscing over all the “bests” of this year. And once again, my heart will overflow with gratitude as I consider God’s kindness to me and His ever-present goodness, even in the midst of a year full of turmoil.

As we quickly approach the end of 2020, I want to encourage you to make a list of your own “bests” from this year as well. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just grab a piece of paper and start by listing whatever favorite moments come to mind. Next, take some time to think about each month and consider the best experiences from each one. Consult your calendar, day planner, journal, or even your social media account to jog your memory if you need to. Or ask family members what they remember or liked best about this year. It doesn’t really matter how you do it. What matters is remembering the special moments of this year and recognizing that not all was lost, nor was all of it bad. God’s presence has been with us as we have experienced the challenges and difficulties of this year, and He has still been kind and generous to us in the midst of it all.

For some of us, this has been the hardest year the world has seen in our lifetime. But if we take the time to sit down and list all the blessings God has bestowed upon us in this year, we may just see how beautiful it has also been. We may very well state what David stated in the Psalms:

“You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance.”

Psalm 65:11