Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Empanadas with a bit of Tango

A few years ago my husband and I ventured into downtown Seattle to have dinner. It was a Friday night during the holiday season and we hadn't made reservations anywhere. Our first try was at Wild Ginger but we were told the wait was going to be over an hour. We decided to move on.

Our next attempt was a small but attractive looking restaurant near the Moore Theater. It was called the Buenos Aires Grill. When we entered the restaurant was busier than it appeared from the outside and we were concerned that another long wait was inevitable.

We were greeted by the most wonderful woman who informed us that they had no available tables and that the rest were reserved for the night. When she saw our disappointed faces though she said that a reservation she was expecting was 10 minutes late and if we would wait another 10 minutes and they didn't show up she would give us their table. We quickly agreed and she escorted us to a small table in the bar area. Ten minutes later she took us to a lovely two person table.

Their menu is very Argentinian. They have traditional grilled meats so you can expect some smoke and fire from the kitchen that is visible to most of the diners. I had a delicious pan fried steak with an egg on top. I know it sounds strange but it tastes delicious. We also had some very tasty empanadas before our meal. Some diners order what is basically a mixed grill of the restaurants favorite cuts. You can order a plate of grilled vegetables to accompany the meat.

The best part of the experience though came when a pair of tango dancers appeared and proceeded to dance through the restaurant. Wheeling deftly between the tables the couple are flawless and mesmerizing. What was a nice meal with excellent service was immediately elevated to a unique dining experience that I wouldn't have missed for the world.

Since then we have taken friends and family to the Buenos Aires Grill. The first time we took my Mom and Dad, my Sister asked the handsome tango dancer if he would dance with our Mother, Melody. He agreed and soon approached us in the bar and asked her to dance. He handled her perfectly and she loved it. Later in the evening as we departed we saw the dancer near the door and thanked him. He turned to my Mother and said in the most exquisite Latin accent "Thank you for the dance Melody." It was a perfect moment and not one to be forgotten by her.

I cannot recreate the experience of the Grill at home but I did run across a fantastic looking beef empanada recipe I had to try. My husband and I rarely buy beef anymore but a beautiful day inspired a purchase of organic, grass-fed rib eyes for the grill. They were delicious but way too large and we both left 1/2 or 1/4 of our steak on the plate. I didn't want to waste such tasty steak so I pulled out the empanada recipe. It actually calls for ground beef but chopped steak worked pretty darn well.


2 hard boiled eggs
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 T olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3/4 lb ground chuck
2 T raisins
1 1 /2 T chopped pimento stuff olives (I used chopped black and they were fine).
1 14 oz can whole tomatoes in juice
2 frozen pie crusts
Vegetable oil for frying

Cut each egg crosswise into 12 thin slices. Cook onion in olive oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until softened. Add garlic, cumin and oregano and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in beef and cook , breaking up lumps with a fork, about 4 minutes.

Add raisins, olives, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and tomatoes with juice, cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced but mixture is still moist. Cool.

Take out pie crusts and place on floured board. Use bowl with six inch diameter to cut discs from pie crust. You can usually get 4 discs per pie crust, collect left over pastry, roll out again, and you can get 2 more. Repeat with second pie crust.

Place about 3 T meat on each disc, place sliced egg on top of meat, moisten edges with water and fold over to form semicircle, then crimp with a fork.

Heat oil in skillet until about 360 degrees. Fry empanada, about 3 at a time at 4 to 6 minutes per batch. (You can also bake these for a less greasy result. I preheated the oven to 425 degrees, brushed the tops of the empanadas with beaten egg and water, placed them on a cookie sheet, and then baked them for 15 to 20 minutes until golden).

In my opinion these wouldn't be nearly as delicious without the chimichurri sauce. I followed this recipe exactly and it adds such a burst of flavor that you could quickly become addicted.


1 cup fresh parsley leaves, packed
1/4 cup fresh oregano (packed) or fresh cilantro leaves ( used cilantro).
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (dried)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt to taste
1 T shallot, minced

Just before serving, combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Sauce is served at room temperature. If sauce separates prior to serving just give it a good whisk.

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