Saturday, April 3, 2010

There is nothing worse than an empty empanada!

The most important thing I learned during my recent trip to Argentina was that there is nothing worse than an empty empanada.  Teresita, my guide along the culinary tour told the group this important bit of information while teaching us how to make empanadas.

I have already written about my various experiences in Buenos Aires, but now, as promised here are a few pictures from my trip.

The Recoleta Cemetery:
Empanadas from la Morada, Bereber and El Almacen de Pizza:

The culinary tour in Adrogue with Teresita:

Hanging out with the Westridge Group:
Delta Unplugged River Tour in Tigre:

Empanadas at home with the fam from Tatu:
Trip to Mar de las Pampas and home made empanadas:

Empanadas from la Peña del Colorado:
Enjoying my daily dose of ice cream at Freddo, although I prefer Perssico and Volta....:

Hope you enjoyed the photos!  Until my next empanada adventure....

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Stomach will forever remain in Argentina....

I can't believe that my trip is coming to an end.  After almost three weeks of adventures in Argentina, I am headed back to Washington, DC tomorrow.  It seems like I just got here, but as I think back to everything that I have done,  it is clear I have accomplished a lot and consumed a hefty amount of empanadas!

Although I will not be able to post pictures until I return to the states on Friday am, here are some highlights of my trip since my last post:
  • Reconnecting with an old friend from my study abroad program and being able to meet all of her wonderful friends here.  My good friend Maria moved back to Argentina after finishing college and has been working here ever since.  During a wonderful meal at one of my favorite restaurants, Bereber, Maria told me all about her life here.  She helped start a wonderful website, YoQueVos.com.ar, which sends out daily e-mails highlighting interesting restaurant, shops, and designers from around the city.  It is such a treat to check out all of the hidden gems they have found in this massive metropolis of a city.  While enjoying a wonderful chicken tagine filled with pungent olives and cured lemons accompanied by my favorite Viognier from the Escorihuela Gascon vineyard in Mendoza we reminisced about our wonderful study abroad days. 
  • Attending the opening of the Cuban art exhibit with Maria and a few of her friends at the MALBA museum.  I had gone to the MALBA museum early on during my visit to Buenos Aires as it houses some wonderful modern art from Latin America.  I had read about the Cuban exhibit on their website, and was disappointed when I arrived on my own to find that it had not opened yet.  You can imagine how delighted I was when Maria invited me to the opening.  After seeing the exhibit, and enjoying a couple of free glasses of Malbec we headed over to a casual dinner at a pizza place nearby called El Almacen de Pizzas.  Of course, I had to order one of their empanadas before diving into a big pizza pie.  I decided to order the BBQ Chicken pocket per the recommendation of one of Maria's friends.  It reminded me of a a BBQ chicken pizza in an empanada, although their was no cheese, ha.  It was a sweet BBQ sauce coating wonderfully cooked  shredded chicken with glistening white onions weaved in throughout.  After the empanada we all shared some Italian style thin crust pizza.  It was a wonderful meal, and is always great to share a meal and wine with new friends.
  • Meeting up with the Westridge interim trip group here in Buenos Aires. For those of you who dont know about my alma mater, Westridge School for Girls in Pasadena, each Spring the school offers what is called interim week.  It is a week where students sign up for projects that teach them interesting new things that go beyond the normal classroom education. There is always a trip or two as options, and this year they brought 21 girls down for a 10 day trip to Argentina.  Lucky for me, my old adviser and good friend Bonnie Martinez was one of the leaders.  I decided to join in on a number of different activities with the group, mostly the meals!  There were so many wonderful meals with the group, but some of the most memorable were definitely at El obrero in La Boca, where we had fresh Ravioli filled with cheese and squash in a home made tomato sauce.  We enjoyed home made spinach pasta with fresh pesto at Desnivel.  The pasta was to die for, and I could not help myself but finish the whole bowl.  What made things even worse was that the waiters brought out some of the best chimichurri I have ever had in my life, so in addition to carbo loading up on some of the best pasta I have ever had, I downed multiple rolls doused in the restaurants perfectly balanced chimichurri.  The last memorable meal with the group was on the 29th, national ñoqui day in Argentina , at a local family restaurant in San Telmo.  At my table, most of us elected to order the home made ñoqui filled with cheese in a caprese sauce. As the plate was placed in front of me I was delved in.  Expecting the heavier ñoqui I am used to having in the states, I was delighted when they were more like little cheese filled clouds.  Each ñoqui was so delicate and so perfect.  The caprese sauce was like a wonderful blend of fresh tomato sauce, fresh basil and melted mozzarella atop the massive plate of ñoqui clouds.  There were other great memories with the group, to many to account here.  I am so happy our paths crossed during my trip here.
  • Returning to Marks Deli for some fresh salads in Palermo Soho.  This place is has a number of wonderful fresh dishes, but more than anything it brings back so many memories from my study abroad days. After a day of shopping in the Palermo Soho area I decided to pop in for a lite lunch, a nice change of pace from the pasta, meat, empanada and ice cream diet I have become accustom to over the last few weeks.  As I starred up at the menu on the big chalkboard I knew immediately that I would be ordering a fresh lemonade mixed with fresh mint leaves, a drink almost impossible to find in this city. I then decided on a salad with fresh greens, smoked salmon, goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, avocado and a citrus vinaigrette.  As I sat and watched the Buenos Aires elite wander by with their many shopping bags I enjoyed my fresh food.
  • Eating ice cream almost every day since I arrived here. Ask anyone who has traveled to Buenos Aires and has tried the ice cream, and they will assure you that the ice cream here is the best in the world, beating out Italy's world renowned gelato.  There are a few places that are well known, and I have tried every single one of them.  Each one has similar flavors, a variety of dulce de leche flavors, banana split (banana ice cream with chocolate chips and dulce de leche swirled throughout), marscapone and chocolates of all kinds. Up until yesterday I was sure that Persicco was the best, but after venturing into Volta my mind was made up, Volta takes the cake.  Serving ice cream here is like an art form, and each size cone or cup comes with two flavors, so deciding on flavors is much easier when you know you are going to get two. Although I usually get banana split without even thinking about it, I decided to try the Cafe Caramel, coffee ice cream with dulce de leche, and the coco, coconut ice cream with dulce de leche.  I didnt want it to end. Creamy ice cream with the perfect amount of dulce de leche swirled in each flavor.  After enjoying my cone filled with heaven I decided that would be my last ice cream here in Argentina on this trip.  I want to remember those flavors as long as possible.
  • Taking a trip to Mar de las Pampas with my host family.  Last weekend we took a four hour drive out to a small beach town called Mar de las Pampas. We had rented a small cabin of a friend of Luciana and Alejandro's just a couple of blocks off the beach.  It was such a beautiful place.  The sandy roads weave through forest until you get to the beach.  Through the tiny little roads the forest is filled with little mod cabins, they looked straight out of the 60s.   The trip was not just great because of the scenery, but also because of the food.  The first night we were there, we went to a small restaurant called La Casa del Mar.  The meal started off with an appetizer of gambos al ajillo, big shrimp cooked in olive oil with garlic and herbs.  The bowl of shrimp came out piping hot, and with a smell I could die for.  There is nothing better than perfectly cooked garlic!  After the shrimp came the meal.  I ordered brochette of salmon.  Two massive skewers came out filled with chunks of bright pink salmon, grilled shrimp, onions, peppers and squash drizzled with an herb cream sauce.  Although everything was cooked to perfection and full of bright flavors, I could not make it through both skewers, I accepted defeat..... One of the other days we were there we took full advantage of the barbecue in the back yard of the cabin. Alejandro took control as our Asador and grilled up some chorizo for chori-pan (chorizo on bread), morcilla (blood sausage), short ribs and another cut that I cannot remember at the moment.  As sides he grilled some whole russet potatoes and whole onions. There is not much more to say but it was a true Argentine grill, and it is hard to beat that!  The other meal highlight was making empanadas for the family.  I finally was able to show off my skills.  Per usual I did not make the dough, but I did purchase a different type than usually, and was very pleased with the results.  I made my traditional Argentine beef (without the raisins, because they are not fans of sweet and savory), and my spinach empanadas with home made bechamel. Although we had some issues getting the oven turned on, once the problem was resolved, we enjoyed my fresh baked pockets and I received the seal of approval from the critics I was most worried about, my Argentine friends.  It was an all around wonderful weekend.
  • Taking a delta tour with DeltaUnplugged.  When I was looking up cooking classes I had not only come across the culinary tour I took earlier on in my trip, but also found out about this tour of the delta in Tigre, just outside of Buenos Aires.  I woke up bright and early on a Wednesday morning to catch the train to Tigre so I could be there by 9am to catch my water taxi. After arriving to Tigre I caught my water taxi.  As we weaved through the rivers for about 45 minutes I started to get very excited for the day ahead. Finally the boat driver yelled at "lo del suizo!" and I knew I had arrived.  The boat pulled over to the dock and we were greeted by Ralph and Ana, our hosts for the day.  The guests for the day were myself, two couples from the US and one couple from England who were here on their honey moon.  After Ana gave us a brief history of their house and the island we all sat down for breakfast.  Ralph, a former chef on large boats had made us three types of fresh baked bread served with home made marmalade and dulce de leche.  My favorite bread was one that they described as a German braided egg bread, which I quickly deducted was a traditional challah.....  After breakfast we all boarded their small sail boat for our 5 hour tour of the rivers. As we weaved around through the willow covered and papyrus lined channels we sipped grapefruit water.  Ana continued to educate us on the area, watching carefully for local birds. Halfway through our ride we anchored ourselves in the shade, and Ralph and Ana prepared our lunch.  For being on such a small boat, they put on an amazing spread.  We had beef empanadas, squash quiche made with squash from their garden, cheeses, a wonderful avocado and corn salad, a crudité platter, a  large sort of latke like potato dish and ralph coked up some chicken and steak on a travel grill he brought along board. It was an amazing lunch in the willow shade accompanied by a Malbec, no surprise there.... When we returned to their house Ana immediately handed each of us a bowl of ice cream.  Ralph had made strawberry ice cream and ginger wasabi ice cream.  The two flavors complimented each other so well and I really didnt want it to end.  I hope to find ginger wasabi ice cream at home, or at least try to make it myself.   Before heading back to the big city we sat and had mate with Ralph and Ana as they showed us their wedding pictures and old pictures of the house they bought back in 2002.  It was another amazing day, full of new adventures, great food and new friends.
  • The last meal here in BsAs was one of the best yet.  I met up with Coby, one of the tour guides from the Westridge trip at La Peña del Colorado in Palermo. It is a small quaint restaurant with murals on the walls and simple wooden tables throughout. I had heard great things about the empandas, so of course  had to order some. After we put in our order, I chose the cheese and onion, choclo (corn) and carne picante, the music started. Apparently they have live music every night.  We were lucky enough to see a guitarist from Mendoza who played Spanish inspired songs.  The highlight was when a young women went up and sang a couple of songs with him.  The music was elevated by the pockets provided by the restaurant.  The cheese and onion was gooey and melted in your mouth, the carne was traditional and had a nice bite, but the highlight was the choclo.  Inside the light dough was a mixture of fresh corn, creamed corn and the essence of nutmeg.  The nutmeg really brought the whole pocket together. After the empanadas I enjoyed a bowl of humita topped with butternut squash and goat cheese.  The Humita was much like the choclo empanada.  A perfect bend of fresh and creamed corn.  The softness of the squash complimented the humita quite well, and the goat cheese just brought it all together.  Between the perfect traditional food and the live music, I could not have asked for a better meal.

I am not sure what my last night here has in store, but I assure you I will report on the goings on along with posting pictures of all of the experiences described here in my empanada blog.  If you are lucky, maybe some recipes will follow as well.  See you back in the states!

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Back to the Home land

    As many of you know, I have returned to the land that sparked my love and interest in the wonderful world of empanadas. I just finished my MBA and have a couple of months off before I start working, so I decided to take a trip down to the Southern Hemisphere to visit the family I lived with during my year abroad and to learn more about the art of empanadas.  I apologize in advance that this post will not include pictures, but I neglected to bring my camera cord with me to Buenos Aires, and will not be uploading the pics until I return on April 1.

    So, since I have been here a little over a week now and it has been quite a while since I last posted, I thought I would give all of you eager followers an update on the goings on of my empanada adventure.  My hiatus over the past couple of months is due in large part to me finishing up my MBA and playing a large role in the GW Business School Follies production.  That is all over now, and I am down in BsAs concentrating on what I can put in my next pocket.

    I arrived in BsAs Friday March 12, three and a half years since I left the city after a year of studying abroad here. My host "dad" picked me up from the airport and took me back to the apartment, where they had fresh empanadas waiting for me.  They know that I am very interested in empanadas, so it was very thoughtful of them to welcome me with these delightful little pockets of magic.  They had ordered a variety of empanadas from a local empanaderia called La Pasceña.  When I was living here we ordered from there quite often.  They make a very interesting, dense dough, and very traditional delicious fillings. Each flavor empanada comes in a different shape and when you order them they come with a key that helps you identify which empanada is which flavor. I immediatly picked up a carne picante empanada to see if anything had changed since I left.  As I remembered, there is very little spicy food to be had in Buenos Aires, and a carne picante empanada solely signified a carne empanada with a few extra spices in it.  You can imagine how surprised I was when I had to ask for a glass of water because of the heat packed into the carne picante empanada.  The Argentines had learned something over the past three and a half years, and I was pretty excited about it.

    After finishing my spicy pocket I moved onto an empanada de verduras, or spinach empanada.  I have blogged before about my own spinach empanadas, but these were a but different.  They definitely dont use as much onion as I do, nor do they add in as much nutmeg.  I am not going to lie, I prefer the flavors I add into mine, however, the dough La Pasceña uses really complemented the lightness of their spinach filling.  I must learn the recipe!

    Although I was really filling up, and jetlag was setting in, I decided to try one more pocket.  They suggested I try one that was filled with mozzarella cheese and a sort of tomato mixture, almost like a pico de gallo, sans spice of course.  It was quite delightful.  Packed with many italian flavors, sort of like a cheesy bruschetta pocket if you will.  I will definitely be replicating this one upon my return to springtime in DC, as I know it will be a great addition to the many dinner parties I plan on having this Spring.

    The next day I woke up in Sunny BsAs excited to take on the day.  Well, I did sleep in until about 11, but when I woke up, I was excited about being there!  After washing the jetlag off of me, I spent a few hours playing barbie and princess with Olivia, my host parents', Luciana and Alejandro, 3 year old daughter.  When I left Buenos Airres, Luciana and Alejandro were a newlywed couple.  Upon my return they are now parents to an adorable 3 year old girl, Olivia, and 4 month old boy, Jeronimo.  After a few hours of playing with Olivia, we all ate lunch.  Luciana fixed a delicious bowl of polenta with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese.  A dish I never make at home, but was simple and delicious!  That afternoon, they all headed out to their country house and I stayed behind as a friend was coming into town. 

    That evening, at about 8 I headed over to el centro to meet Marie Campbell at her hotel as I had made dinner reservations at a new restaurant in town.  Per the suggestion of a wonderful food writer I had met on my flight over here, I made us a reservation at Standard in Palermo Hollywood.  Marie, her friend and I all headed over from their hotel to Palermo.  We were a bit early so we decided to sit at the bar and have a cocktail before dinner.  The restaurant is quite small, but very clean and simple.  The walls are light wood paneled and the tables are set with simple white table cloths. As we sat at the small 5 person bar we perused the wonderful cocktail menu.  I was set on this passion fruit vodka concoction and Marie and her friend both ordered some sort of caipirinha.  Each drink was bursting with flavor, and went down like juice!

    After lifting our spirits a bit we headed over to our table.  Our waiter immediately brought us some empanaditas.  They were stuffed with a wonderful gooey cheese, tomato and some spice I had never heard of, but really got your tongue going if you know what I mean. As we savored the little mini pockets we eyed the menu, discussing eagerly what dish each of us was going to order.  Marie selected the 12 hour cooked ribs, her friend selected a seafood risotto dish and I was set on lamb with a mustard sauce.  The waiter looked surprised as we placed our orders, but we didnt make much of it.  Then, as our food came out, we realized why our camarero was so in awe of our menu selections.  No one had informed us that the dishes were served family style and were intended to be shared.  Each one of our dishes could have served 4 people easy.  We did as best we could, but packed up most fo our meals in a doggy bag for me to bring back to the family's apartment.

    Despite our gigantic entrees we could not forgo dessert.  Since we all had such heavy dishes, we picked a lighter dessert, a dessert our waiter suggested. It was called something like a tropical island.  It was like a light meringue with a delicious tropical caramel sauce all over it.  There definitely was not any left to take home in a doggy bag....

    The next day the three of us met up at the antique fair in San Telmo.  This is most definitely my favorite outdoors market in BsAs.  We wandered around the booths for a couple of hours and then went and had a light lunch on the terrace of one of the restaurants in the plaza. After lunch we did a little more shopping and then said our goodbyes as they had to get ready to go back to the states.

    Moving into the rest of the week, I have had some great experiences I would like to highlight.  Most of my time has been spent wandering around, getting reacquainted with the city and seeing all that there is to see.  One of my main objectives here of course is to research empanadas.  After doing some research I decided to venture over to a place called La Morada in recoleta.  I had been there once during my year here and remember that they had some of the best pockets in town.  I walked into the small little empanada shop, filled with only 5 or six tables.  It was later in the afternoon, so there were only a few people sitting inside, but calls continued to stream in for orders the entire time I was there. After looking over the simple paper menu I elected to try three types, carne suave (very traditional), choclo (corn), and mozzarella, panceta and dried plum.  I was most excited about the last one, as it is very unique and seemed to be the perfect mix of sweet and savory. As they arrived at my table I immediately noticed the difference between these pockets and those I had on my first day here.  They were definitely baked, but the dough appeared to be dry.  When I bake them at home, I usually put an egg wash on them, but they clearly did not put anything on the dough before putting them in the oven.  Although the dough appeared dry, it was cooked to perfection,  Each bite of all three types of pockets was absolutely divine, a little pocket from above.  The best of all three, as expected was the sweet and savory one. The panceta and dried plum came together in the oozing mozzarella to create a symphony of flavors.  I will definitely be trying this one at home, and if you are ever in BsAs, go to La Morada for a wonderful empanada experience.

    Later on in the week, I decided to sign up for a culinary tour.  After researching cooking classes in BsAs, this tour managed to pop up on about every search, so I figured I would give it a go. It is called Teresita's culinary tour, and takes place about an hour outside of the city in a town called Adrogue.  I had never been to, nor heard of this town, but the reviews of this tour seemed very positive and the website is very well done, so I figured I would give it a go.  I headed over to el centro to catch the bus by the Obelesik at about 9:30 am.  I arrived in Adrogue about an hour later and walked over through tree covered streets to Teresita's house.  I arrived to her cottage where she and her husband greeted me.  They asked me to wait out back as they finished preparing things.  I headed through her kitchen into the back yard, which was a magical garden filled with orchids and birds.  I felt like I was in Alice in Wonderland.  I chatted with a nice French woman who was coming along at the tour as we waited for the others.  Slowly but surely all of the other participants arrived, a couple from Sweden, a mother and son from England, and three couples from the states.

    Once we had all arrived we headed over to the outdoor market, which apparently takes place every Friday.  Teresita explained every vegetable and fruit we saw, what it is, what its used for, where it comes from.  She also explained the different meats and fish that were at the market.  Everything looked wonderfully fresh and it was hard to resist buying up everything.  In the end I had controlled myself and only purchased a small packet of home made pizza spices and a chimichurri spice mix from an old Bolivian woman.

    After the market we walked into the town bakery.  Controlling myself in the outdoor market was nothing compared to the will power exerted in the bakery.  Fresh baked goods of all sorts filled the store.  very display case and counter was filled with an airy wonderful baked concoction. Teresita showed us all of the very traditional pastries in the shop and talked about when they are usually eaten (I could have eaten them all day everyday!).  We then watched a man make traditional miga sandwiches.  These are very simple snack sandwiches, which are made out of a ginormous piece of white bread (without the crust) some mayo, a layer of ham, another layer of bread, a layer of cheese and then topped with another piece of bread.  They then take a large wooden block to press it down and cut it into squares.  I guess these are their twist on tea sandwiches.

    From the baker we headed to the butcher.  Teresita went over every cut of meat in the store.  They had everything, and the meat looked soooooo good!  The butcher brought out a half a cow and we got to see where everything is cut from.  Some people might be grossed out by all of this...but to tell you the truth, it just made me hungry!  We ended our walking tour at a Delicatessen, where we saw traditional Argentina food already prepared and ready to take home. I was happy that this was the last stop before heading back to Teresita's because my mouth was definitely starting to water at the site and smell of all of the wonderful prepared dishes.

    After the tour we went back to Teresita's to prepare some traditional empanadas and enjoy a traditional lunch with some wonderful Argentine wine. Because this was a tour covering many different types of food, and because Teresita teaches a separate empanada class, she had made the meat filling in advance.  What Teresita taught us was to make the dough and how to fill the empanadas.  I was very excited as I make filling all the time, but rarely make my own dough, and I was very interested in learning how to roll the outside of the dough to close the empanadas since I always just seal them up with a fork.  I volunteered to mix the dough, and everyone was fine with that since they all knew about my passion for empanadas. The recipe was quite simple, flour, saltwater and the key ingredient, lard.  You just mix those things together and kneed a ball of dough.  Then you make mini golf size balls and roll them out into super thin circles.

    As Teresita showed us how to fill and close the empanadas she taught us something very important, "There is nothing worse than an empty empanada."  I could not have put it better myself.  I was surprised how easy it was to roll the edges of the dough to shut them, and they look so beautiful.  Once we were finished filling all of the dough, Teresita lined them up on a pan to put them in the oven.  Much like the pockets at La Morada, she did not put any sort of wash on them. She explained that it is very traditional to have dry dough. She also told us that it is important to have the oven at a high temperature and keep the empanadas in the oven for as little time as possible (about 10 minutes).

    While the empanadas baked up we all headed out back to the beautiful table set up in the garden.  The sommelier poured us sparkling wine from the Patagonia region as we had our first appetizer, a silver fish marinated in white wine and vinegar on home made crostinis.  After finishing the light yet vibrant crostinis and a couple of glasses of sparkling wine, we moved onto the first course.  Teresita brought out a tray of piping hot empanadas that had just come out of the oven.  As she served us our own little pocket creations, the sommelier poured us a lovely floral Torrontes from Salta. The empanadas were to die for.  The filling was perfectly seasoned, and the dough was nice and thin yet held the whole thing together.  Once we gobbled up the empandas we were served little pots of humita, a corn and pepper mixture with gooey cheese on the bottom.  This was accompanied by a second glass of the Torrontes.  Although we were all well on our way to full, we were then served the main course, tournedo (a cut of meat) in a Malbec reduction, with stuffed squash and crispy fried Yucca. This was paired with a Malbec from Mendoza.  The meat was cooked to perfection and the squash was filled with a wonderful cheese and vegetable mixture that complemented the steak quite well.  We could barely put anything else in us, but there was still dessert and a dessert wine to be had.  For dessert we had a a roasted peach with cardamom and vanilla ice cream, served with a sweet Torrontes wine.  I could not have been happier. The dessert was a perfect way to end the day.

    The tour was extremely informative and so much fun.  I had some great food and made some wonderful new friends.  There are more stories to be told about my trip, but I will update you on those later. Now it is time to go create some new memories out in this wonderful city and find some new tasty empanadas to try!  Hasta luego!

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Long time no pocket

    As I was preparing my brussel sprouts to roast for dinner last night, and then today as I was lounging on my couch re-watching Julie & Julia, I was reminded of my poor empanada blog project and how I have completely neglected it over the past month.  Much has happened over the past month that has prevented me from working on this wonderful food journey, threw a big Halloween party fundraiser, participated in the capstone case competition of the MBA program, applied and have been accepted to a Marketing class and consulting project in Dubai, prepared a Thanksgiving dinner for 18 and have taken a few finals. Despite my busy schedule, I have in fact made some empanadas over the past month, I just have not written about them!

    Now, lets see if I can remember everything I have cooked over this past month.  Maybe it would be better to just tell my story visually.  I did get a great new camera for my birthday, which has allowed me to take some wonderful pictures of my little pocket creations.

    Before I tell you about the fantabulous empanadas I made for Thanksgiving, take a look at what I have been up to over the past month.

    Now lets get to the empanadas.  While I made a few over the past month, the best ones had to be the two types I created for Thanksgiving.  Both are actually repeat recipes, but turned out to be some of my best.  This year we had Thanksgiving at my parents house.  There were 18 of us, and 7 turkeys were made, yes 7 turkeys. I took charge in planning the whole menu.  We started off with my butternut squash, leek shitake mushroom empanadas, curried cauliflower soup and crustini with blue cheese, cranberries, walnuts and balsamic drizzled frisee.  The empanadas were super easy.  All you do is peel and dice a butternut squash into 1/4 cubes, then roast it with a little salt, pepper and olive oil. While the squash is roasting, you saute chopped leeks, sliced shitake mushrooms, fresh garlic and thyme.  Once the squash and leek mushroom yumminess is done, mix it all together and then add in some crumbled goat cheese.  These really turned out to be the perfect start to a wonderful, and indulgent meal!

    Here are some photos of the other two appetizers.  I dont have any pics of the cocktails, but my Uncle Andy and Aunt Liisa made some refreshing Turkey day cocktails for us during our cocktail and appetizer hour.

    For the main meal, I put together a fairly decedent menu.  My mom and I made Rye bread and bacon stuffing, fresh cranberry and fuji apple sauce, mashed potatoes with crispy shallots, and roasted carrots and parsnips with fresh dill.  My aunt Trudy made a stuffing and a corn casserole and my friend Lauren made some wonderful brussel sprouts with bacon, everyone could not get enough of the brussel sprouts!  To top off the meal, my dad made the traditional Jello mold, a staple at all Carlton family meals. 

    Now I am sure you are curious about these 7 turkeys I mentioned.  Well, I had originally planned on us having an apricot and herb glazed Turkey stuffed with citrus, garlic and onions, and my dad was going to fry up a bird, like we always do.  Even though that would have been enough for 18 people, my Aunt Trudy decided she wanted to make a slow roasted Jack Daniels Turkey, and my Uncle Andy smoked a Turkey breast.  That's four birds.  Well, since we were frying up a bird, and we need so much oil (approximately 4 gallons) we told people to head on over with their own Turkey that they could fry up and take home as a party favor.  So, my dad spent the entire afternoon frying up Turkeys for everyone.  Unfortunately, as was expected, there was way too much Turkey and we didnt even get to carve the fried turkey to eat on Thanksgiving!  Next year we will make sure that if my dad is out there frying all day, that the fried Turkey will be the main event of the meal and it will not go uneaten! Here are some pics from the day and meal:

    Now onto the real good stuff, dessert.  Even though we were totally stuffed, some of us saved some room for some sweet treats.  Most of the desserts were brought by other people.  I decided I wanted to make one dessert though, a bananas foster and chocolate empanada.  I have made this one once before, and I just knew it would be the perfect addition to this rich holiday meal. These are super simple as well. I heated up a few tablespoons of unsalted butter and about a cup of brown sugar.  Once that was melted and hot, I threw in 3 diced bananas to the pan.  When the bananas softened up, the show started.  I poured in a few tablespoons of rum and a few tablespoons of brandy, then BAM!  I lit the liquor on fire and the crowd went wild.  I have a great little video of the bananas on fire and my mom screaming in the background, unfortunately my computer skills arent developed enough for me to figure out how to put a video on this blog.  Maybe one day...... After the bananas were cooked to perfection, I drained most of the sauce, and set it aside for later.  I then folded in 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and some chopped pecans. Once the filling was cooled, I stuffed it into puff pastry pockets.  I thought that the puff pastry would go much better with this dessert filling than the more hardier empanada dough I usually use.  I baked them with an egg wash and cinnamon sugar on top.  When they were baked and ready I drizzled the left over banana sauce on top of them.  Even though people were struggling, I made them try these wonderful dessert creations!
    Some of us needed milk to wash them down.....

    And as we all know, a big Turkey dinner can really tire you out....

    Oh wait, we almost forgot the rolls!

    All in all, it was a fabulous meal, and we had some amazing empanadas.  I will try not to go so long without posting.  I have already started thinking about my Carlton family Christmas empanadas.....I'll give you one hint.....they involve BACON!