Who doesn’t love a good empanada?
Well, me, for one… as much as I hate to admit it.
But before all you empanada lovers come to their defense–I know they’re delicious! And it’s not that I don’t like them really as much as it is that the particular combination of ingredients, especially onions, just do me in.
To speak true Chilean, you must refer to these savory delights as “empana’as” (because Chileans “eat” the d while waiting in line for fresh empana(d)as to come out of the oven). You get extra points if you dream about biting into a “rica empanáa caldúa” (a delicious and very juicy empanada).
There are many different kinds of empanadas, and I really do love a good fried cheese empanada with a squirt of hot sauce, but this is September, month of Chilenidad, and that means there’s only one empanada that counts. The only real empanada worth talking about this month is pino…. No, not pine (which would be a literal but silly translation), but rather a special beef mixture that goes into a number of other classic Chilean dishes (such as pastel de choclo).
Empanada de Pino
This classic empanada is filled with a mixture of beef (ground or chunked), onion, raisins, a black olive, a quarter slice of hard boiled egg, wrapped in dough, brushed with an egg glaze, and baked until the crust is golden, the contents piping hot, and the mouthwatering aroma fills the air.
Other Classic Empanadas
Non meat-eaters don’t despair! Chile’s second favorite empanada is the fried cheese version… a flaky golden-fried crust with plenty of melty cheese on the inside. I prefer mine with a squirt of ají (hot sauce).
Many people like shellfish empanadas (too many almejas—clams—for my taste), and the variations beyond that are endless: all types of seafood, vegetables, and assorted cheeses in every possible combination.
How to spot a good empanada:
The best Chilean-style empanadas de pino (beef empanadas) have xxx essential components: the pino (meat mixture), a black olive, a slice of egg, and raisins wrapped in dough and backed until golden.
The Filling (pino): should be made with good quality chopped beef (although ground beef is acceptable) cooked with onions, but should not be overwhelmed by them (a sure-fire sign of cheap, poor quality empanadas are those that have more onion than meat). The mixture is seasoned with cumin, black pepper, “ají de color” (non-spicy paprika-like powder that gives it a reddish color), and a bit of chili pepper or merkén give it some kick. Raisins are often included in the blend.
The Dough: should be smooth and consistent, made with lard, and should break easily but not crumble or fall apart.
Putting it Together: the meat is spooned into the center of the dough, along with a black (never green) olive (pits are preferred, so don’t chomp down too hard) and a wedge of hard-boiled egg. The dough is folded over and sealed neatly so that the juice does not escape. Shapes vary and may be triangular, rectangular, or even half-rounded.
The Bake: Empanadas are usually brushed with egg and should be baked until uniformly golden with no burnt or raw spots.
The Finished Product: Good empanadas should be aromatic and served piping hot. Many people report that empanadas should be “caldúa”—juicy and dribbly—in fact, the dribblier the better. (Be sure to roll up your sleeves and have plenty of napkins on hand!). They should be very flavorful and slightly spicy and spark the appetite for the next course, which, more often than not, is going to be a lot more meat!
The Best Empanadas in Santiago
You can also head over to Tasting Chile to discover all the very best empanadas in town—chosen by those who really do love these emblematic Chilean delights enough to sit down and taste nearly 70 empanadas over 2 days…
Do you have your own favorite “picada de empanadas”? How about places outside of Santiago?
If you’d rather try your hand at making your OWN empanadas, click here to check out Sonia Hofstadt’s foolproof empanada de horno recipe!