Texas Beef Council Hand-Picks Chef Carlos Crusco & His Popular Empanada Recipe
By Trish Wesevich
Austin Personal Chef Carlos Crusco got close to the heat when we was chosen to participate as an open-fire chef and panelist alongside world-renowned Argentinean Chef Frances Mallman at the Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit this past Spring. Carlos’ long-time culinary relationship with the Texas Beef Council landed him a coveted spot cooking alongside numerous reputable Texas chefs while offering him the opportunity to showcase his own culinary talents and recipes. He gave a presentation and conducted a demonstration for 200 people on how to prepare his signature empanadas. He was honored to have been asked to participate in such a world-class event.
The Buffalo Gap Food & Wine Summit started 10 years ago just outside of Abilene, Texas. Each year a different county is featured and this year it was Argentina. Carlos has strong Argentinean roots and is a personal chef and caterer in Austin specializing in the South American cuisine he grew up with. He cultivated a relationship with the Texas Beef Council years ago when he began writing food articles for various publications and has been asked to cater dinners for the Texas Restaurant Association, Le Cordon Bleu and the Council themselves.
“Much coordination and preparation was needed ahead of time to cook over the open flames as Mallman so famously does”, explained Carlos. He said all of the spits and cooking apparatuses had to be welded, on site, according to Mallman’s specs, before he arrived. Carlos, working with two other chefs, Juan Bochenski, Executive Chef, and Julio Carera, Assistant Chef, who both run kitchens at Santa Fe’s Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, cooked from six a.m. to midnight, in front of a crowd, preparing a nine-course meal for 350 people who came from all over Texas and the U.S. to attend the summit and this dinner. Four to five winemakers from Argentina were also present to pair their wines with the menu Frances Mallman had designed.
“I probably cooked 300 scallops”, Carlos exclaimed. He said it was challenging to stand over the open flames the entire day and in front of an audience who were asking questions all the while. Many culinary students were also invited to participate and were equally as honored as Carlos to do so. He described it as a very respectful environment. The more experienced chefs, such as Carlos, were invited to wear aprons that distinguished them from the other line cooks. “It was a collaboration of the highest degree, even under very high stress”, said Carlos. There were 60-80 professional waiters serving the food that had been so masterfully prepared over live fires, in the West Texas sun, all day long and into the evening. Carlos said he was exhausted for days and smelled like fire for two weeks.
The Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit, Inc. is a Texas non-profit organization founded by Tom Perini of Perini Ranch Steakhouse in Buffalo Gap, the late Fess Parker of Fess Parker Winery & Vineyards, and Dr. Richard Becker of Becker Vineyards and is held in the Spring every year in this off-the-beaten-path West Texas spot. Carlos said that Tom’s wife, Lisa Perini, puts her whole heart into planning this summit each year. Previous notorious chefs who have been featured in this nationally- acclaimed event include Mario Batali & Jacques Pepin. Stephan Pyles, one of the founding fathers of Southwestern cuisine, also participated in the summit by preparing a country-style lunch with his own restaurant staff.
Carlos prepared 4 recipes for the Argentinean cooking class he conducted: Empanadas Tucumanas, Chimichurri, Dulce de Leche and Alfajores de Maizena – described by Carlos as “little cookies which are the Oreos of Argentina! “
To prepare the Empanadas Tucumanas yourself you can make your own dough or save some time by purchasing the pre-made empanadas discs, Tapas Las Saltenas, which can be found at the Phoenicia Bakery or Fiesta.
Recipe by Carlos Crusco
The traditional Argentine meat filling is beef, green onions, & hard boiled eggs with olives, spices and potatoes used as options. Tucumanas carry raisins and utilize a fatty cut of meat known as cuadril (similar to the rump). Each region has different fillings: in the North (Salta) they have potatoes, Central (Cordoba) they have grated carrots and cubed beef, and in the West’s wine country (Mendoza) they are known to be spiced with toasted cumin.
- 1lb ground beef (80% lean) – remember fat equals flavor
- 2 tbsp.’s olive oil
- Chimichurri spices (i.e. dried oregano, pimenton, red pepper flakes)
- 2 sprigs of fresh green onions – ¼” chop
- 1 – 10 oz. jar of green olives (preferably with pimento) – roughly chopped
- ½ – ¾ cup of raisins
- 3 eggs – hardboiled and finely chopped
- ¼ – ½ cup of beef stock – depending on the moisture of the mix & beef’s fat content
- 2 packs of Tapas Las Saltenas (for baking) – found at Phoenicia Bakery or Fiesta
- 1 egg plus 2 tbsp. of water – beat egg with water to create an egg wash
- Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees and set out a sheet pan covered with parchment paper.
- Add olive oil into a large sauté pan on high heat and add beef all at once looking to crumble the meat into small pieces – season with salt, pepper and Chimichurri spices.
- One cooked, remove the beef into a very large mixing bowl – Do not discard the fat.
- Add green onions, olives, and raisins to the meat mixture.
- Add enough beef stock to the mixture so that it stays moist.
- Very important – Taste the mixture and re-season if necessary.
- Let mixture cool completely (use refrigerator to speed up process). Once cool, add the chopped eggs. Using a spatula, mix with care so as not to break up the eggs into a mash.
- Set on a table the following: the meat mixture, a glass of water, and the tapas.
- Take 1 tapa at a time & dip your finger into water to moisten one half of the outer edge of the circular pastry. Take 1-1.5 tbsp.’s of mixture and place into the center of the tapa.
- Grab both ends of dough, press them together to seal so there are no holes/open spaces.
- Once sealed, you may crimp the edge with a fork or a more technical finger method known as “repulgue”. With a fork, lay empanada flat & press fork tongs onto the dough.
- If repulgue, take pointer finger & thumb on both hands pressing dough between the fingers. Simultaneously maneuver your right hand up & to the left to crimp and your left hand down & to the right to crimp. You can also use a “fold-over repulgue” method where you keep folding the dough over itself to create a seal (like the en papillote technique).
- Brush egg wash conservatively on empanadas & bake 15-20 min’s or until golden brown.
- Remove from oven and let cool down. Serve with Chimichurri and enjoy!
Equipment: Sheet pan, parchment, sauté pan, mixing bowl, spatula, spoons, brush.