These baked, Patagonian scallop and leek empanadas are filled with scallops, leek, red bell pepper, tomato and green (spring) onion. The filling is delicately poached in white wine and herbs before being enveloped in pastry, then baked until golden.
With little human development in Patagonia, the waters are free of pollution affecting other parts of the world. Seafood from the area is renowned and is naturally a popular staple for the local inhabitants as well as for the lucky tourists who come down to “the end of the world”.
It is not just scallops renowned from the area, but Patagonian tooth fish (commonly known as Chilean sea bass) as well.
Scallops are a favorite in many parts of the world so here is another way you can cook this versatile shellfish. Scallops go so well with the gentle flavor of leeks and then being poached in white wine and herbs. And why empanadas?
Empanadas in South America
Well empanadas are just everywhere in Central and South America! They are eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner or just as a snack to be eaten at any time. Almost all restaurants in Argentina and Chile will feature empanadas on their menu. And what are empanadas?
Like many other food cultures around the world, favorite fillings wrapped in pastry are common as they are a convenient way to eat things on the go. The original fast food if you like. They are not dissimilar to pasties (being the same shape but smaller) or pies in terms of the variety of fillings. They may more closely resemble samosas from India (without the warm spices which are not popular in Argentina and Chile).
There seems little doubt empanadas arrived on the South American continent as a result of Spanish (and Portuguese) colonization. The first empanadas were made in the Iberian peninsula, specifically Portugal and Galicia (the north-westernmost region of Spain), during the Medieval period and at the time of the Moorish invasion. The name “empanada” comes from the Spanish “empanar“, which means “to bread” or, in the case of the empanada, “to wrap something in bread”.
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Patagonian Scallop and Leek Empanadas
The most common empanadas are meat-filled or cheese, seafood is less commonly used as a filling. However, in Patagonia, we did come across seafood-based empanadas. Traditionally, empanadas are baked (and healthier) but many are now deep fried and these are probably more popular than the baked versions. Each country in South and Central America has its own favorite versions. You can read more about the regional versions here.
What got me thinking about the ingredients in this dish was the rather gourmet scallop pies I enjoyed so much from our favorite farmer’s market in Melbourne, the subject of a future post. And then when we came across scallop empanadas in Puerto Natales in Patagonia, I knew I had to make a dish like this.
The empanadas do take a little bit of time but you will love the results. With gourmet ingredients you can’t go wrong. If you want to try a wine that is a little different, do try and source torrontes, an Argentinian white wine that is a real surprise packet. We really enjoyed this wine in Patagonia and we were able to find it in wine and liquor stores with good South American wine selections.
Please try the Patagonian Scallop and Leek Empanadas and let us know what you think.