#43: Bolivia – Saltenas

What you can’t see here is the amazing filling…beef, potato, onion, peas and black olive.

When I have the opportunity to cook for a few people, I like to take it up a notch (even if it’s sometimes at my own peril). I have had Bolivian saltenas on my “to make list” for a while. And yes, I’m that type A that I have a list. It helps for me to plan out meals, ingredients, and to make sure I don’t forget about a great dish I had somewhere that I want to replicate at home, or an awesome looking recipe I found online. But I digress.

I have made empanadas before, though not part of this particular cooking challenge. The first time, I had way too much filling so the next time I doubled the dough recipe and still had filling leftover. Those empanadas were a bit more traditional, filled with chicken and olives and all sorts of goodness. They were fantastic and the leftover filling was eaten over rice for many days. But from what I could tell, saltenas would be a bit different.. And I think the biggest takeaway here is to 1) read the recipe carefully, sometimes a few times; and 2) consult a second recipe just to make sure things line up.

First off, these were fantastic. They filling was great, the dough was tasty and relatively easy to work with, but there were definitely some execution challenges. For the recipe I used, it did indicate that the filling (which is more of a stew like consistency than typical empanadas) should completely cool before putting in the dough. I thought this meant maybe 2 hours max. At the 2 hour mark, it was still fairly liquidy and I was starting to run a bit out of time. So I put it in the freezer for a bit to firm up. I then consulted a recipe that suggested that sufficient cooling would be a minimum of 4 hours or OVERNIGHT. So that wasn’t going to happen. So I just hoped for the best.

Once it became time to fill the saltenas, yet again I found that I had far too much filling, and the amount of filling that was suggested to go into each saltena was far too much. I was trying to avoid leakage as much as possible but this was a struggle. And the braiding? Yeah, that didn’t happen. I was just trying to get the filling to stay inside the dough and seal the top enough that I didn’t have a explosion in the oven. So these aren’t the prettiest, nor are they the most filled, but again, they tasted FANTASTIC. No complaints from the peanut gallery, only praise for the attempt. Oh and yeah, we ate stew for the week.

Here’s the main recipe that I used: https://www.thespruceeats.com/bolivian-style-beef-empanadas-3029698

Overall Level of Effort: 5

Skill Level: Advanced

Would Make It Again? I may stick to slightly simpler empanadas from here on out. So I’ll say no.

Additional Notes: I provided a lot of commentary in this post but one additional takeaway I’ll mention here (and it may be a result of the time factor with letting the filling cool)-this did not have the stew like consistency in the empanada that I was expecting. Per the instructions, the use of a unflavored gelatin would help solidify the contents, but then liquify upon cooking in the oven, so that a stew would “ooze” out of the empanada when you eat it. Something didn’t compute here and while tasty, the filling had little to no liquid qualities after baking. I still loved the taste, but science may not have been on my side with this one.

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