11/15/2012 11:45 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Thanksgiving, Argentinean Style

Flickr photo by Bunches and Bits

Thanksgiving's about as American a holiday as they come -- if only because we all can participate -- and it's wonderful. And the best part is that at heart, it's a deeply personal thing: a celebration of a time and a place, of a season and its bounty, of a family and its traditions. Everyone and anyone can bring something to the table.

You wouldn't have known, sitting around the Thanksgiving table in my Argentinean household growing up, that my parents had come to Thanksgiving later in life. There was a bird -- always bigger than it needed to be -- brined, roasted with aromatics and doused in gravy. There was cranberry sauce spiced with orange, root vegetables studded with rosemary, and buttermilk mashed potatoes. And there was pie: pumpkin, pecan and, sometimes, apple.

And there were empanadas.

Yes. In my Argentinean household, that's what we brought to the table. Both at Thanksgiving, as apple empanadas, and after, as turkey ones.

Turkey and apples are two staples of the Thanksgiving table that have been reinvented and repurposed in so many ways that they're hardly recognizable. Still, in the sharing spirit of Thanksgiving, let me add some new ones to your list. From my house to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.


Note: If you live in a neighborhood with a Central American population, you should have no trouble finding empanada dough in the frozen foods section of the market. (My local C-Town carries several brands!) The most common is Goya brand empanada dough. Their best version is the "criollo" kind, which comes purposed for either baking or frying. Either works, really. If you can't find the criolla brand, or Goya, whatever's available is probably fine.

And, here's a quick demo on how to fold and seal an empanada.The trick is to make sure they're well-sealed. If you need to, use a little water on the edges. (Demo done with a classic Argentinean filling: ground beef, hardboiled eggs, green olives and raisins.)


at: apple empanadas

Apple empanadas are a quick and delicious alternative to the classic apple pie. They're good any time you have an extra apple on hand and are craving a sweet Fall bite, but they're extra good at Thanksgiving when pie seems a bit much after Turkey. Three ingredients and a little patience and voila! The magic of autumn in the palm of your hand.

The key to apple empanadas is not to fry them too quickly. If the oil is too hot, the dough will cook through before the apples and sugar have time to caramelize. The result is a crispy dough with cold, unappetizing, raw apple-sugar inside. Fry the empanadas slowly, and for longer.

The one potential drawback to apple empanadas is that making them in advance is not ideal. They're best fresh -- hot and sticky and jusfryert out of the . Then again, from start to finish it's just twenty minutes, and by the time dessert comes out you might welcome a few minutes to yourself in the kitchen.

makes one dozen

12 discos for empanadas, defrosted
2 hefty apples (use a tart pie apple, such as Cortland, Jonagold or Fuji)
3/4 cup sugar
a tablespoon of cinnamon (optional)
canola oil, for frying

1. Peel, core and dice the apples.

2. Lay out empanada dough on a lightly floured surface. If including cinnamon, mix into sugar. Spoon a tablespoon of diced apples into the center of each round of dough. Sprinkle a hefty teaspoon of sugar on top of the apples, being sure to avoid the edges of the dough. Seal empanada well.

3. Fill a wide sauce pan with a 1/2 inch of canola oil. Heat on low until the oil bubbles slightly. You don't want the oil to be too hot, or the empanadas will cook too quickly.

4. Gently place empanadas in oil, as many as you can fit in the pan without crowding. Fry on low heat on one side for about five minutes. Flip, and fry on low heat on the other side for another five minutes or so, until the dough is a crispy brown and you begin to see strands of caramelized sugar linking the empanadas in the pan.

5. Lift empanadas out of oil, allowing excess oil to drain away. Lay to cool on a plate (no paper towels! They'll stick to the caramelized exterior!) Cool slightly and enjoy.

after: turkey empanadas

The turkey-cranberry combo is a classic Thanksgiving leftover, but sometimes the simply-reheated or sandwich versions can feel rather tired. And after a day or so in the fridge, the turkey's often on the dry side. When you've hit the dry-turkey-can't-eat-another-sandwich moment, hide the leftovers in an empanada. Sauteing the turkey with onions infuses a bit of moisture and new flavor into the turkey, the cranberry sauce adds some, yes, sauciness and the craisins and cashews provide a texture and crunch.

The amounts noted here are variable. Add as much or as little cranberry sauce and turkey as you want or have. The only thing to watch for is the consistency of your cranberry sauce. If it's a thin sauce when heated, reduce it by simmering it on the stove until its more spreadable in its consistency. You don't want it leaking out of your empanadas mid-bake and making a mess of things.

makes one dozen

12 discos for empanadas, defrosted
3/4 lbs leftover turkey, diced (skin's ok)
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
1/4 cup cranberry sauce
1/3 cup craisins
1/3 cup cashews, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of paprika
1 egg, for basting
1. Preheat the oven to 400F.

2. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in large skillet. Add chopped onion and cook on low until translucent, about four minutes. Add diced turkey and saute until the meat begins to brown. Season with paprika, salt and pepper, to taste.

3. Lay out empanada dough on a lightly floured surface. Assemble empanadas. First, smear some cranberry sauce in the middle of the round of dough, being careful not to touch the edges. Then, add a tablespoon of the turkey onion mix, and lastly, top with a few craisins and cashews. Seal empanadas well.

4. Lightly grease a cookie sheet (parchment paper, ungreased, works as well.) Arrange empanadas on sheet. Whisk egg with a tablespoon of water and set aside for basting.

5. Bake at 400F for 16-18 minutes, basting empanadas with egg wash and rotating the pan half way through, until the empanadas are golden brown.