I had a fun mix of people from different aspects of my life for this meal, and bonus: there were 3 cute kids! I really enjoyed the group, who were all very gracious about having 15 adults squeezed into my one bedroom apartment.
We started with empanadas as an appetizer. I’ve made these before, as they’re popular in other countries as well. The most traditional Chilean versions are made with meat, but since some of my guests are vegetarians so I made a cheese version. Wegmans had recalled their queso fresco and had none in the store, and the person assisting me informed me that they were recommending fontina and monterey jack as substitutes. Really?!? I’m such a cheese snob and tried not to show my disbelief about this recommendation. I beelined it to PriceRight where I found queso fresco aplenty, and where I also scored frozen empanada dough preshaped into discs. PriceRight for the win!
I used both the pre-packaged empanada dough discs and puff pastry for the empanadas, and used this recipe for the filling. I loved the egg-yolk wash on top that made them really pretty.
Beef, potatoes and corn are popular ingredients in Chile, and I made pastel de choclo for the appetizer – a traditional version and a vegetarian version. The corn topping was fun to make, and I found it so interesting that corn in Chile has a higher starch content, so making the corn topping with U.S. corn required adding cornstarch and cornmeal to the
frozen because it’s non corn season fresh corn.
I enjoyed both versions – the beef version is rich and flavorful, and the vegetarian version contains two of my favorite things: potatoes and cheese.
Alongside the pastel de choclo I served sopapillas con pebre. These sopapillas are made with pumpkin, so that was fun for the season.
I don’t have much experience frying, and asked my guests if they had any tips (because of course dinner wasn’t ready when everyone arrived and I was still dashing around the kitchen as I greeted people). Autumn told me that you put a wooden spoon in the oil, and if bubbles form around the spoon then it’s hot enough. Good tip!
I made two desserts with dulce de leche, which I love. I’ve made it before the traditional way with cream and sugar, etc. This time I thought I’d try the version of boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk in water for hours. It did not go so well. I boiled two cans for over two hours. I opened one can and it wasn’t even close to done. So, I finished that one in the oven and boiled the unopened can for a few more hours. It was a late night. I used some of the dulce de leche to top tres leches cake. I’ve always wanted to make tres leches cake, and though the dessert likely originated in Mexico, it’s popular in Chile. I don’t think I’d make this version again, as it was a bit soggy and not very beautiful, but it’s definitely a treat.
I also made merenguitos, or little merengues, to sandwich the dulce de leche. They’re supposed to look like little kisses, but I don’t have the proper tools and instead used a sandwich bag with a cutoff corner.
I failed to take a picture of the group, but it was a lovely afternoon/evening.