I must admit I have been avoiding writing about this particular dinner. However, I am a firm believer in resolving problems via confrontation, and thus, it’s time to start avoiding the issues and begin the healing.
Drama aside, I do think that one of the most challenging aspects to cooking is planning and timing (I refuse to type the phrase ‘time management’) . If you’ve ever had a large dinner party, planned a multiple courses or just cooked a multi-faceted dinner, then you know how tricky it to make sure all the components are ready at the correct time, without having food sit for too long, or worse still, having the cook sit around waiting for something to finish wasting time and postponing your dinner.
Enter the empanadas. Elizbaeth and I had been meaning to cook a batch of these guys up for quite some time. We followed the Barcelona Cookbook’s protocol. The first phase involved making the filling, a slow-cooked, spiced ground meat mixture. The book prescribes letting the filling cool in the fridge completely to ensure it’s cold before empanada construction. This is key to preventing the filling from soaking into the dough too early and making the crust mushy. I had the filling done two hours prior to filling and even in the freezer, it really wasn’t as cool as it should have been. Next time, I’ll probably cook the filling the day before and refrigerate overnight.
If memory serves, the dough was rather straightforward. Again, having this stuff ready to roll out well in advance helps tremendously. E and I had a disagreement over what to cut it with, she wanting to buy a pastry ring and I insisting on foraging some random object in the shape of a circle. We settled on purchasing a large can of Spanish tuna, since the price of the object includes a good amount of delicious tuna. Hardly an original idea, but a good compromise. Crisis averted… for the moment.
Trouble really began, I think, as we started to fill the little guys. The Barcelona treatment called for a deep fat fry, but I knew that they can be done in the oven as well from a co-worker. So we took a quick survey of internet sites and, of course, got as many different answers as pages we visited. This ambiguity lead to differences in opinion , compounded by the fact that I realized that the (admittedly delicious) sauce wasn’t going to be ready until nearly an hour after the first batch of empanadas came out of the oven. Fingers were pointed as to whose job it was to check this ahead of time… and well… let’s just say that things got a bit heated. [Ed. Yay–cooking puns! I assure you, though, that the only things that got heated were the empanadas and some words.]
I’ll spare you the details of the battle, but by the time all the food was ready, we were tired, miffed and it was well past dinnertime. Still, the empanadas were very, very tasty, especially the next day at work where I enjoyed mine cold and Elizabeth had hers hot. The surplus of leftover sauce came in handy for a reconciliatory taco session the next evening and everything was again right in the world. The moral of the story? Don’t make assumptions, talk often and strive for clarity when working as a team. If anything, I think we take cohesion for granted at times so when things go awry it’s an unpleasant surprise. But cooking can be a dirty business, which is why it’s so often passed over in favor of prepared/reheated fare by many people. But not you, friends. Keep on fighting the good fight until next time. Cook on!
[Ed.—we didn’t do anything to this recipe so to get it, get the cookbook. No, seriously. Get it. We get no compensation from telling you to get it, but you get delicious food.]