In this Tradition Heard "extra" we're going into the kitchen with my former host mother, Alba Ovando Gámez. I lived with her for four months during a semester abroad in Buenos Aires with NYU, and now I've returned to her with a camera and an appetite.

Despite everything you hear about steak when people are talking about Argentina, it is empanadas that are the ubiquitous food group. They're affordable, delicious and filling... they are the staple food of the people of Buenos Aires. From corner stores and cafes to pizzerias and sit-down restaurants, there will always be an empanada on the menu. They come in a wide variety, from the more common pollo (chicken) and carne (beef) to the rarer choclo (corn) and caprese (mozzarella, tomato & basil). My go-to empanada in Buenos Aires is always pollo because the chicken is typically stewed and therefore juicy, others can often dry out in the reheating process.

Alba was gracious enough to give us a mini empanada cooking class in her kitchen. We made some simple beef empanadas. We started by sautéing onions in a skillet and then adding some lean ground beef. For flavor, we added salt, pepper, oregano and cumin to the beef. Once the beef was slightly cooked, we added small pieces of boiled potatoes to the pan. This is the basis of the empanada filling. You don't want to cook it through in this stage because the beef will finish cooking later on inside in the empanadas when you bake or fry them.

Now you chill the beef filling in the fridge so it gathers a bit and doesn't fall apart when you're filling the empanadas. We took the easy route in this video and used store-bought dough but it's pretty straightforward to make on your own.

When you're filling the empanada you wet half of the dough's perimeter so that that is seals closed when you pinch it together. You hold the dough like it's a little cup and fill it with the beef and then add the extras on top, in this case we put in some hard boiled egg, scallions and olive. Some people also add raisins, but Alba and I prefer to ignore those people.

Tradition Heard:
Oresti Tsonopoulos:

Youtube version:

Canon 5D mkII / 24-70mm f2.8 / Zoom H4n / Rode VideoMic / FCP

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