Friday, February 26, 2010

80 Plates In My Kitchen & How Emily Used Every Single One of ‘Em

So last weekend, I had Emily and Melissa down to do 80 Plates: Central and South America.  We started out planning to do just Chile and Mexico, but then Emily thought, “what the heck!  Let’s toss in El Salvador to round things out!”  We divided up the ingredient list and after a delay of a couple of weeks due to Snowmageddon, we were ready to roll!  Melissa came down to party too, since there is no party like a cooking party :)

My request was to learn to make empanadas, which is one of my favorite foods at my favorite Mexican restaurant, Pancho Villa.  Emily had an empanada recipe from Chile, so we decided to use that, and she brought a chalupa recipe from Mexico and we decided that would be our Mexican dish.  She also had been wanting to try horchata, a rice drink that is quite popular in Central America, and we decided to try that for El Salvador.  Thus, we had a menu.  Melissa ran to the store and contributed salsa, guacamole, and sour cream, and the party was on :)  Oh, and to celebrate EMILY’S BIRTHDAY, she made a Tres Leches cake, and we finished prepping it here.

DISCLAIMER:  Leah was cuh-rank-ee during this whole afternoon, so consequently I didn’t do the picture taking or a whole lot of cooking.  I’m doing my best here, people, work with me!

P1040093 We started out by making the empanada dough.  I will include the recipe at the bottom, as this is a recipe from the same cookbook Emily provided when we did 80 Plates Ecuador.  The crust was a mixture of butter, flour, baking powder, salt, egg, and water.  My stand mixer was put to work to put it all together.


P1040141 Once she formed it into a ball, it went into the refrigerator until we were ready to bake the empanadas.  Meanwhile, I worked on the filling.  It required finely cubed steak, chopped onion,   cooked together in a bit of oil until tender.  I chopped up onions and the steak and got to cooking! Once it was done, I added cayenne, oregano, flour, salt and pepper, then let it cool in the pan off the heat. 

P1040096 Then we decided to pour the liquid over the Tres Leches Cake, which translates to “Three Milks Cake”.  The three milks in question were evaporated, sweetened condensed, and heavy cream.  We did use fat free evaporated and sweetened condensed milks, but what can you do about the heavy cream, really?  So Em mixed them together, and we were all going to take turns doing some ladling onto the cake.  Emily got the first ladleful on there and screamed, “Stop!  We’re supposed to poke holes in it first!” and we all busted up laughing.  Alright, it was funny at the time, ok people?!

(I should note that she had already baked the cake before she got to my house, and she used The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for it.)

So she and I got forks out and we poked holes in the cake, and whaddaya know, it absorbed the milks much better!  We all took turns with the ladle and soon the cake was swimming in sweet, delicious milk.







P1040095 We set that aside and used the  extra milk that was left over to make the the horchata.  Emily decided to make up her own recipe to an extent, as the recipe she had called for soaking rice in water for hours, straining it, and then blending the hell out of it to make rice milk.  Why bother when rice milk is readily available?  Basically all that was required was to pour the rice milk and the other milks into a saucepan with some sugar and cinnamon and regular milk and heat it up!

P1040114 P1040115 P1040119Once that was done, we put it in the freezer and let it cool off for a while.

This was all taking some time, mind you.  When Emily first arrived, she, Michael, and I all spent a couple hours catching up on all the hot gossip since we’d seen each other in October (was it that long ago!?).  Then Melissa arrived and since they didn’t know each other, they had to become fast friends.  Meanwhile, we had a 10 month old squealing at us.  And we were trying to make 3 or 4 different things at once!!!  It was wonderful chaos in the kitchen :-)

So, now it was time to stuff the empanadas and get them baking so we could make the chalupas.  I had vetoed the idea of putting olives in the empanadas, since I don’t like olives, and on Michael’s behalf, we agreed not to let raisins into the empanadas.  We added cheese and hard boiled eggs and while I rolled out the dough, Emily stuffed the empanadas and got them oven ready!  And look!  She brought me a real rolling pin!!!!!!  WAHOOO!!!!  No more using a wine bottle!!!!!

 P1040150 P1040153 P1040155

Yum!  A quick brush with some egg yolks and we were ready to roll!!!

P1040094 Time to turn our attention to the chalupas.  Again this was a Pioneer Woman recipe, and we did make a modification for The General:  he didn’t get refried beans, while the rest of us did.  Emily was fully in charge of the chalupas as by now, the only thing keeping Leah calm was me sitting on the basement floor playing with her.  I felt like a heel in that I wasn’t helping and I wasn’t really learning, but I did make the chalupas again this week for dinner, so I can say honestly I have made them now and know how.  In addition to a traditional Mexican cheese blend, we used a Queso Fresco, which is a delicious crumbly Mexican cheese.  And we did use fat-free refried beans.

P1040157 The directions are pretty simple, you fry up your corn tortillas in a little bit of oil on the stove until they are crispy on both sides, but haven’t turned brown.  I don’t know about Emily, but when I made them later in the week, I found that turning them pretty regularly and keeping the heat consistently on medium was the key to making it work.

Once the tortillas are are cooked, you spread each one with some refried beans and then top them with the cheese!  Then into the oven they go under the broiler until the cheese gets nice and bubbly.  We did keep a close eye on them while they were in there because broiling is very tricky and things burn very quickly.

P1040177 P1040181

Finally, it was time to eat!!!!!  I took the obligatory group shot of my guests:

P1040183…and we dished up and dined.  From the left, you can see the chalupas, the horchata, and the empanadas.  YUM!!!  It was time for The General’s obligatory first bite and he decided to go with the chalupas:

 P1040187Everything was absolutely DIVINE.  YUM!  I so enjoyed our tour of Central and South America on this one.  The horchata was very sweet and creamy, but the cinnamon was a nice touch too, kind of like an egg nog.  The chalupas were crispy and cheesy and gooey and delicious.  The empanadas were very filling and the crust was perfect while the filling was delicious. They had a real kick to them courtesy of the cayenne pepper.

After we stuffed ourselves, I made up some whipped cream to go atop the cake.  Leah decided to help by eating her first beater, and fingerpainting an obliging Melissa with whipped cream!  (God, I know she’s my kid, but she is SO STINKIN’ CUTE!)  Then Emily frosted the cake and added cherries to the top!  We put in a birthday candle since it was her birthday the day before and then it was time to eat some cake!




Oh my, what can I say about Tres Leches cake?  I have always been very hesitant to try it on account of the fact that I don’t tend to like things that are squishy from being in a liquid, but this was a-ma-zing!!!  YUM!!!

So all in all, an excellent meal with excellent company.  Hooray for cooking from south of our borders and thanks to Emily and Melissa for a wonderful Saturday!  Can’t wait for “ladies night”!




1 box vanilla rice milk
1/3 can evaporated milk
1/3 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 T cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in sauce pan and heat over medium until cooked through.  Chill thoroughly.  Serve over ice.

Empanadas Chilenas

1/4 lb. butter
2 c. flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 lg. egg
1/4+ c water

Cut butter into small cubes and mix with dry ingredients.  Mix in egg with flour mixture.  Slowly mix in water until dough is semi firm.  Shape into a ball and refrigerate at least 15 minutes.

1/2 lb. boneless beef round steak, cut into 1/4 inch cubes (Chilean style) or 1/2 lb. ground beef (Argentina style)
1 c chopped onion
2 T cooking oil
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t oregano
Salt and Pepper
2 t flour
3 T raisins
1/3 c sliced green olives with pimientos
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped

In skillet, cook beef and onion in oil about 5 minutes until tender.  Add in spices and flour, remove from heat and let cool.


Divide dough into 8 portions and roll each portion into a 6 inch circle.  On half of each circle, place 3 T meat, 1 t raisins, some olives, and some eggs.  Fold over remaining dough and press edges closed to seal.  Brush empanadas with egg yolk.  Bake in 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.