Down Argentine Way: the Xmas episode

This is part 1 of a Down Argentine Way posting, with three episodes: the Xmas episode (“Nothing says Merry Christmas like empanadas”), about the filled pastry, from El Sur in San Francisco; the football episode (“Wild cheers for Lionel Messi”), about Argentina’s Word Cup win; and the dream episode (“Don’t blow me up, Argentina”), about my Argentine lover Carlos, in a dream that somehow ended up with a bombing and the POP (phrasal overlap portmanteau) toadstool pigeon as a morning name on 12/24.

The setting: Down Argentine Way. From Wikipedia:

(#1) Theatrical release poster

Down Argentine Way is a 1940 American musical film made in Technicolor by Twentieth Century Fox. It made a star of Betty Grable in her first leading role for the studio although she had already appeared in 31 films, and it introduced American audiences to Carmen Miranda [AZ: who was Brazilian]. It also starred Don Ameche, The Nicholas Brothers, Charlotte Greenwood, and J. Carrol Naish.

… the film was banned in Argentina after being “hissed off the screens” by audiences there for misrepresenting the real culture of the country, wrongly including many Mexican and Caribbean mannerisms and costumes, as if they were part of the Argentine landscape. In 1941, an attache at the American Embassy in Buenos Aires reported that the film had ceased being shown in Argentina because of its “ridiculous and disturbing images”

The movie is raucous and vulgar, with a preposterous plot, Betty Grable mostly reading lines rather than acting, and Carmen Miranda blowing fuses with her manic energy — but I find it thoroughly enjoyable; I think of it as a covert Marx Brothers movie, with roughly half the cast in drag.

But the food. From NOAD:

noun empanada: a Spanish or Latin American pastry turnover filled with a variety of savory ingredients and baked or fried.

The empanada zone is a category of foodstuffs that also takes in things with the names:

turnover, calzone, samosa, knish, pasty, (Chinese) dumpling, (South Asian) curry puff, meat pie, Hot Pocket

The category structure is complex and impinges on a variety of other food categories — a topic for a posting of its own. In addition, the nature of empanadas varies from country to country (within Latin America, Spain, the Philippines, Indonesia, the U.S.), and from region to region within a country. However, within Argentina, the beef empanada is certainly a characteristic foodstuff, and the classic Argentinian empanada looks like this:

(#2) Illustration from the bon appétit recipe for Argentinian Beef Empanadas, by Gaby Meian on 5/27/22

A semi-circular / half-moon-shaped package of dough (the BA recipe uses puff pastry, but a variant of pie dough is more common) encloses the filling, with the dough crimped along the circumference (for mass production, there are special tools to do the crimping). The result is a “hand-pie”, a portable nosh (of meat, in this case).

The Xmas empanadas. Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky had a dozen frozen empanadas shipped down the Peninsula to me from the restaurant El Sur –“Argentinian inspired empanadas in San Francisco CA” — in Potrero Hill, maintaining absurdly that “Nothing says Christmas like empanadas”. Knowing that I am very fond of empanadas.

(#3) El Sur’s photo, showing empanadas in several shapes, accompanied by two sauces (chimichurri and (spicy) salsa criolla)

chimichurri: parsley, oregano, garlic, red pepper flake, red wine vinegar, sunflower oil [on this lovely green sauce, see my 7/9/16 posting “chimichurri”]

salsa criolla: red and green onion, bell pepper, tomato, serrano pepper, red wine vinegar, sunflower oil

What she sent:

— 4 verdura (breakfast, vegetarian): stuffed with greens and a variety of cheeses

— 4 Parisien: Kurobuta ham, prosciutto, green onion, 5 cheeses, chives

— 4 Traditional (beef and traditional spices)

Bringing the frozen El Sur empanadas to life requires baking them for 30 minutes (or until they are browned) in a 400-degree oven, and that requires some extremely careful handling of cooking materials with my very disabled hands. But I was (just barely) able to manage that for Boxing Day lunch: two Parisiens, with a sauce of my own devising (soy sauce + pepper sauce), an ample and satisfying lunch, and absolutely cheesy-delicious. Two little tangerines for dessert.

Now to score some chimichurri for the beef boys.

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