Francis Mallmann and Seven Fires

As Gourmay readers are aware, I am an avid follower of “Mind of a Chef” which airs on PBS at the bizarre hour of 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. The program lasts only 20 minutes, but contains some of the best educational cooking footage from leading chefs around the world: David Chang, Sean Brock and René Redzepi to name just a few. I am rarely disappointed.

Last week, Mind of a Chef featured a lovely interview with Francis Mallmann, an iconic outdoorsman who cooks with wood-burning fires in the southern regions of Argentina. Mallmann, best known for his book, Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, has recently released Mallmann on Fire which features Mallmann’s love affair for cooking with wood fires. PBS has not yet realized the full version of Mallmann’s superb interview with chef Ed Lee, but you can catch the trailer by CLICKING HERE!

For those who who want to see Mallmann in action (Spanish speaking) cooking wild trout and Polenta in Argentina, watch the video below. Please note that you are likely to work up a hearty appetite if you plan on doing anything remotely similar to eat fresh trout, but Argentines are noted for their theatrics as well as their appetites. Enjoy!

World Cup Semifinals

This afternoon Brazil will play Germany in the first World Cup Semifinal match without Neymar and Thiago Silva. Frankly, I don’t think Neymar will be missed given his lackluster performance to date, but Thiago Silva is another matter.

Germany will certainly field the more imposing team, but I still believe THE BIG FIX IS IN and Brazil will reach the finals.

Now, I had thought Belgium would beat Argentina in the Quarterfinals. While the pomme frites certainly played better for most of the game, the Argentine defense was impenetrable and Messi was magnificent. Having Lionel Messi on your team is like having an additional player up front. His level of creativity, vision and balance are simply unmatched in professional football today. What a joy to watch!

It is a mistake to bet against Messi which argues that The Shoes will try and stomp him into submission early in the other semifinal match tomorrow as they did against Spanish players in the World Cup Final four years ago. Sadly, this game is likely to be determined by how firm the referee is on giving Messi a bit of room to maneuver. On the Dutch side, keep an eye on Robben who displays supernatural athletic skills and has Greg Louganis diving skills.

The Dutch are still smarting from being ousted by Argentina in the 1978 World Cup Final hosted by the Generals in Argentina. What a great day for Military Dictatorships!

I am giving the nod to Argentina, which would then setup a battle to the death in the World Cup final with Brazil. These two countries simply don’t like each other!

In closing, I would like to pay tribute to Alfredo Di Stefano who died in Spain recently at the age of 88. I never had the opportunity to see him play, but he was the consummate superstar for Real Madrid in the 50s and one of the first foreign mercenaries from Argentina to play in Europe.

Tita’s Empanadas

Ana (left) and Tita

Ana (left) and Tita

When we moved to Argentina in the ’50’s — yup, the 1950’s — my mother was lucky enough to hire a wonderful household team to work for us. They were two amazing women. Clara Gomez (aka Tita) was the cook, and Ana Sartor was the housekeeper. Tita had worked for an Italian family for many years, and was a FABULOUS cook — you know, homemade pasta, and great sauces and all the wonderful Neapolitan dishes. Nothing was beyond her skills. She cooked three meals a day for our family, and also produced amazing dinner parties, receptions, and cocktail parties for our parents, who entertained quite a bit. Tita was a great cook, and smart as can be, but she had never learned to read, so Ana would sit down in the kitchen and read the recipes to her. It was a team effort.

Ana was a wonderful human being, and a really important person in my life. She was good, and kind, and laughed easily, and our youthful bad behavior didn’t seem to bother her too much. She actually covered-up for us on occasion. She was also ever-willing to go on adventures and include us. I remember going on many long walks with her. She’d say “vamos a salir a la calle…”, and we’d take off walking through the neighborhoods around Olivos in Buenos Aires. She even took us walking in some of the more unsavory areas — like along the railroad tracks. I can’t think of her without smiling. I really loved her.

My mother tells a story about when she first moved to Argentina. They would ask her what she wanted for lunch, and she would say that she wanted a tuna sandwich, or a salad, or a bowl or soup…you know, something American. She’d get her tuna sandwich, and then she would start smelling the most amazing smells coming from the kitchen. They were cooking a real lunch for themselves. After a short period of time, when they asked her what she wanted for lunch,  she would respond “…whatever you’re having.”

This is Tita’s recipe for Empanadas. I asked her how to make them, and wrote it down before I left home to go to college. Enjoy!

Tita’s Empanadas
Empanadas are a traditional Argentine appetizer. They are frequently served before an Asado (Argentine bar-b-q) with a glass of red wine. Tita made great empanadas.

Dough:

2 lb flour
11 T melted butter
1 egg
1 egg yolk
Salt
¼ cup milk with 1 ½ T salt

Put the flour on a dough board. Make a nest in the middle and add the eggs and melted butter.  Pour some of the milk/salt mixture into the nest and start to knead, adding more milk slowly until you have easy to handle dough. Knead the dough until it has bubble. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then divide it into several parts. Roll it out thin.

Cut the dough into circles using a 1 lb coffee can.

Meat Filling:

Brown in oil
2 lbs chopped onions
1 large or several small hot peppers
Green olives, sliced

Add, and cook until browned:
2 lbs ground beef

Drain off excess grease and add:
Cumin
Raisins
Hard boiled eggs, chopped
Salt and pepper

Assemble the empanadas:

Place filling in the middle of the dough rounds. Fold over the tops, and seal and crimp the edges.

Place on cookie sheets if they are to be baked.

You can also deep fry them – they are especially good this way.