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By Jennifer A. Wickes
Other Articles by Jennifer A. Wickes
When I think of winter approaching, I think of snow, fires in the fire place, family get-togethers, soups and stews cooking all day in my slow-cooker, the holiday season, and Pastel de Papas. What is that, you might ask. It’s a meal my mother would make. She was from Argentina, where a lot of wonderful under noted meals come from. Foods such as alfajores (a type of cookie), dulce de leche (similar to caramel which is served on toast, ice cream or in cookies), matambre (flank steak, butterflied and rolled up with hard-boiled eggs, carrots and parsley inside), empañadas (meat turnovers or pasties), locro (a type of stew), facturas (Danishes), yerba mate (a type of tea), chimichurri (a sauce for grilled meats), chinchulines (part of the Argentine asado), milanesas (fried breaded veal) and pastel de papas are typical meals that you can find while visiting.
Being my mother was from Argentina, my exposure to the Argentine culture began when I was just an infant. In fact, I could not tell you, then, what of my life was unusual, for it was apart of my life. When I was 9, we ventured to Argentina for the first time. It was my mother’s desire for us to see where she grew up with our own eyes. We had a fantastic 2 ½ months meeting relatives, trying new foods, visiting different parts of Buenos Aires and generally soaking up the culture! Later, when I was 16, I went back to Argentina and lived there for several months with my aunt and cousins. On one hand, it was extremely hard to go to a foreign country at that age. Suddenly, I realized how little my mother’s culture was in our daily lives in comparison to actually living in the real country, and how I missed my friends and ANYONE that would speak English! Yet, it was an experience I knew I would never forget. I traveled into a couple of different provinces this time, with friends and family, experiencing life, learning Spanish, listening to their music, watching their movies and tasting new foods. It was a fantastic experience. One I will never forget. And one, no matter what, that can never be taken from me.
Unfortunately, my mother passed away in May 2003 at the young age of 64. I will forever be saddened by her death. At just 34 with two small children, I feel a tremendous loyalty to her in instructing my children on her heritage. My goal is to continue better contact with my mother’s family, expose my children to the Spanish language, play music from Argentina and make the meals my mother made me. Imagine my surprise, when my 3-year old son requested one of her meals shortly after my mother’s death!
My favorite dish, by far, is Pastel de Papas, the Argentine version of Shepherd’s Pie. I always enjoy making this meal. I love the scents of nutmeg and onion cooking in the kitchen. I take pleasure in simmering the meat in my skillet with the aromas of allspice and wine in the air. When I take the casserole dish out of the oven, I feel a sense of accomplishment; I feel like I am apart of tradition, part of a unique culture, part of life! I can hardly wait for my first bite. My mouth waters in anticipation. The complex flavors join in a flavor medley in my mouth. Invariably, I always eat twice as much as I should! And despite the fact I do not enjoy leftovers, this I could eat all week long!
So, it is with great pleasure that I share this meal with you! And to my mother, I raise my glass of wine in her honor. Salud! You will be missed.
Yields: 6 servings
• 2 pounds ground chuck
• ½ onion -- minced
• ½ teaspoon allspice
• ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
• 1-teaspoon thyme
• ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1-tablespoon sugar
• 4 eggs, hard-boiled -- chopped
• 2 green olives -- sliced
• 2 bay leaves, whole
• 2 cups water
• 2 beef bouillon cubes
• ¼ cup raisins
• ½ cup dry red wine
• 2 potatoes -- boiled and cooled
• 2 sweet potatoes -- boiled and cooled
• ¾ cup milk
• ¼ cup butter
• ½ teaspoon nutmeg
• 2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Brown the ground chuck with the minced onion until the meat is browned and the onions are translucent. Then, add the allspice, pepper, thyme, cayenne pepper, sugar, olives and eggs. Mix together thoroughly. Add the water, bouillon cubes and bay leaves. Cook until the liquid has evaporated. While waiting for the water to evaporate, soak the raisins in the wine. When the water has evaporated, add the raisins and wine and continue to cook until the wine evaporates.
Mash the boiled potatoes and sweet potatoes together. Season with nutmeg. Add the butter and whip until smooth. Then, add the milk. Mix thoroughly.
Place the meat mixture into a casserole dish. Pile the mashed potato mixture on top. Sprinkle with the 2 tbsp. sugar and place in the oven uncovered for 30 minutes.
Serving Ideas: Serve with a green salad and a glass of red wine.
® 2005 - Jennifer A. Wickes is a freelance food writer, recipe developer and cookbook reviewer. She has written five eBooks, and has had numerous articles, reviews and recipes in printed publications, as well as on-line. Her work can be found in The Library Journal, Cook's Country magazine, Ernest & Julio Gallo's Turning Leaf Wine brochure, Bon Appetit, Better Homes and Garden and much more. She is working on her first cookbook. For more information about Jennifer or her work, please visit her home page: culinaryjen.gather.com
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