Andrea Nguyen's family fled Vietnam in the early 1970s with little more than a tattered orange notebook full of family recipes that her mom rescued from their home. The notebook later became the inspiration for Nguyen's James Beard Award-nominated tour de force, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen--the first Vietnamese cookbook published in English.
She followed with the book I'm giving away here today--Asian Dumplings, and has since become a contributing editor at the venerable Saveur magazine, launched the amazing Asian Market Shopper app (which assists shoppers in learning about and preparing Asian ingredients) and authored another book--about tofu--that will be published next year.
But what, you may ask, does this have to do with the food of Argentina? In a word, EMPANADAS.
While I was reading through Asian Dumplings (which is full of all types of delicious filled pockets, dumplings, gyoza, and samosas from all across Asia), I came across Andrea's recipe for Beef, Sweet Potato, and Raisin Turnovers--Empanadas from the Philippines!
The Spanish, with their ever-reaching colonial scope, influenced not just the lands of South and Central America, but the islands of Asia, too, where recipes like this one are popular. This delectable treat would be right at home in Argentina. It's another example of the fusion that happens when people immigrate to a new place and bring their traditions with them. In the case of cooking, it's usually the best recipes that survive and get adopted as local favorites.
Another thing I love about Andrea's work is that she is dedicated to sharing the emotional connection between food and the people eating it, which I hope is one of the most significant elements of From Argentina With Love. So many of my eating experiences in Argentina have been special--and different from those at home--because of that heartfelt connection from kibble to kisser. It's what I think is the thing most worth celebrating, whatever cuisine.
Andrea was kind enough to send me a copy of Asian Dumplings book to share with my readers, and to the winner of today's giveaway, she'll be including a personal message along with the book. Just enter your comment in the comments section below, the winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday, July 13th at 12:00om EST. Us residents only. Good luck!
A note about these wonderful empanadas--the short pastry used here is divine and well worth the effort! It is flakier than the baking pastry used in Mendoza and other regions for baked empanadas, and of course different from the pastry used in fried empanadas.
The fine print: Cover image and recipe from Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen copyright 2009 used with permission, thanks from Ten Speed Press. Thanks also to Andrea Nguyen and Kristen Casemore.
Beef, Sweet Potato and Raisin Turnovers
Dough: (You can also use pre-made dough or cut rounds from pie crust if you are short on time)
8 3/4 ounces (1 3/4 cups) bleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon sugar (use 1 tablespoon for a stronger savory-sweet contrast)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons shortening
1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
one large egg yolk combined with 5 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
3 ounces ground beef (preferably chuck)
1/3 cup diced sweet potato (orange-flesh variety preferred)
1/4 cup water 2 teaspoons light (regular) soy sauce
1 pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons raisins
1 large egg, separated
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1. To make the dough in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt in a the work bowl and pulse 2 or 3 times to combine. Add the shortening and process for 10 seconds to combine. Sprinkle in the butter pieces and pulse 10 to 15 times, until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs. Break apart pieces larger than a pea. Transfer to a bowl. (Alternatively, put the ingredients in a bowl and use a pastry blender or your fingers in a quick rubbing motion to combine the ingredients.)
Work in the egg mixture, one-third at a time, using a rubber spatula to fold, mash, and press the ingredients together after each addition. When all the liquid has been incorporated, you should be able to press the dough into a ragged mass with the spatula. If not, work in additional ice water by the teaspoon. Transfer the dough to a work surface (no flouring is needed) and very gently knead the dough into a ball. Pat the dough ball into a 5-inch disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
2. Meanwhile, to make the filling, heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the onion is translucent and sweet smelling and the garlic begins to turn blond. Add the beef, and use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir and mash the meat into small pieces. Cook for 30 to 60 seconds, until most of it has begun to brown. Add the sweet potato, water, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Stir, lower the heat slightly, and cover. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until the potato is nearly tender; there should still be some liquid remaining.
Uncover, add the raisins, and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, or until the potato is tender and there is very little liquid left. Remove from the heat and use the spoon or spatula to mash half of the potato and make the mixture cohere a bit. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool completely before using. You should have about 3/4 cup. (The filling can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated. Return it to room temperature before using.)
3. If the dough was refrigerated for longer than 1 hour, let it sit at room temperature until malleable. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly beat the egg white and keep it nearby.
4. Unwrap the dough and put it on a lightly floured work surface. Gently squeeze on the dough to elongate it. Roll it into a 12-inch log. Use a knife to cut the log into 12 pieces. (Halve the log first to easily cut even-size pieces. The tapered end pieces should be cut a little longer than the rest.) Loosely cover the dough pieces with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel to prevent drying.
5. Work with half of the dough pieces at a time, keeping the others loosely covered. Use an Asian-style wooden rolling pin to roll each piece of dough into a circle 3 1/2 inches in diameter and just a bit thicker in the center than at the rim. Use a minimum amount of flour to dust your work surface and rotate the circle. Roll from the center outward as you would a basic dumpling wrapper.
Holding a wrapper in one hand, use a spoon to position about 1 tablespoon of filling slightly off-center on the wrapper, pressing down very gently and keeping about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of wrapper clear on all sides. Brush egg white on half of the rim and then bring up the other half to meet it and close. Press with your fingers to create a half-moon, sealing the rim well and creating a half-inch brim. For extra security, use your thumb and index fingers to form a rope edge or press with the tines of a fork. Place the turnover, pretty rope edge facing up, on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining wrappers, spacing them about 2 inches apart, before working on the second half of the dough. Assembled empanadas can be frozen on the baking sheet until hard (about 2 hours), transferred to a zip-top freezer bag, and kept frozen for up to 1 month; partially thaw before brushing with egg and baking.
6. Lightly beat the egg yolk and brush it on the turnovers, taking care to cover the spine. Bake 1 baking sheet at a time for 20 to 22 minutes, until golden brown. Put the baking sheet on a rack and cool for about 10 minutes before eating. Empanadas are great at room temperature, too.