April 8, 2013 -- As an avid consumer of empanadas, April 8 is one of my favorite days of the year -- National Empanada Day!
My grandmother, Yolanda Nelida Costantini taught me at a young age how to cook Argentinian empanadas, typically stuffed with beef, onion, green olive, hard-boiled egg, raisins, and sweet paprika. She taught me how to let the beef filling freeze the night before so that the empanada is juicy, how to stick green olives in the corner of each one to keep the sauce from running out, how a bit of egg yolk gives them a golden shell, and of course, how to artfully fold the empanada closed. I still make my own, and they remain my favorite food.
In honor of National Empanada Day, we visited New York's favorite empanada food truck, Nuchas, in Manhattan. Yannis Moati -- the catering and special events manager at Nuchas -- was nice enough to give us a tour of the inside of the truck, and let me test out his Argentinean empanada to see if it was up to par with my grandma's recipe. I won't give away the answer. For that you have to watch the video above.
It wasn't a surprise to find out that their best selling empanada was the Argentine, but it was a surprise to hear aboutall the other empanadas they have. One is made with short rib and marinated in red wine -- definitely not your average food truck. They also have a few vegetarian options that aren't just cheese. My new favorite? The sweet empanada. It's filled with apples, cranberries, pears, nutella and chocolate, and wrapped in white almond dough. I know, I know.
Although their main base is in Times Square, on any given day you can find Will, Thomas, or Nicole (the busy employees running the inside of the truck) all over Manhattan. Although the trio are from different places, they were all familiar with the empanada growing up. Nicole's "nona" from Uruguay used to make them for her when she was a toddler. She'd make them with ground beef and hard-boiled eggs. Her nona and I would get along just fine.
Will's from Ecuador and grew up eating fried empanadas made with corn or plantain dough. They're sweeter than the Argentinean empanada but just as tasty.
I've always argued that the empanada formula -- cheese or meat on the inside, dough on the outside -- is truly universal.