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Culinary trip to Chili a treasured adventure

Jennifer Franklin / Tribune Community ContributorLake Tahoe Community College Student Jennifer Franklin took this photo of vineyards in Santa Cruz, Chili, during a culinary trip to the country with the college.
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As a new student to Lake Tahoe Community College in South Lake Tahoe, I was surprised and delighted to discover a food and wine scholarship to Chile. I’m a foodie at heart and enrolled in the culinary arts program. Having never traveled overseas, I was a bit apprehensive as to what to expect. But upon learning of my acceptance, I was thrilled to embark on my very first foreign journey.

After a long flight, I couldn’t wait to get out and smell the fresh air and check out the city. Upon finally arriving in Santiago, the excitement in the air was palpable.

The climate was warm and balmy, like the Mediterranean, and the rolling hillsides reminded me of Southern California. Over the course of 10 days we explored the city, from the cathedrals and farmers’ markets of Santiago, to ocean side restaurants in Valparaiso, riding on a vintage wine train with traditional cuisine through the Colchagua Valley and visiting top wineries and museums in Santa Cruz.

The food was fresh and delicious, as it was their summer when I arrived in mid-December. I enjoyed many buffets of fresh juice, meat and fish, summer salads, fruits, cheeses, empanadas and desserts.

The city was alive with people both day and night; and the architecture, a mix of old and new, was a sight to behold. Even though I speak very little Spanish, I had no problem communicating with everyone around me.

I learned so much about the culture, the history, the food and wine, and the lifestyle. I felt right at home, and by the end of our trip I didn’t want to leave, having made new friends with many locals and having grown fond of their relaxed style of living.

Even though it’s been several months since my return from Santiago, the memories are as strong as the day I left. I kept a journal paired with my photographs, so that I can remind myself of the special moments I shared with my fellow travelers and of the exhilaration from such a wonderful journey. I had no idea I would form such close bonds with my roommates and friends from class, and it is this that I’m most thankful for.

Chile taught me to slow down and enjoy life and appreciate the people around me without judgment. Our tour guide led us on one adventure after another, and I accepted without any expectations. I would not change a thing about my trip. Those 10 days will be treasured as some of the best days of my life, and I can’t wait to travel abroad again. I encourage everyone to do the same.

Jennifer Franklin is a culinary arts student at Lake Tahoe Community College.

In Chile, the most traditional empanada filling is called “pino,”a seasoned mixture of ground beef, onions, raisins, black olives and hard-boiled eggs. The empanada dough is easy to make, and can be pre-made and stored in the refrigerator. The pino tastes best if made the day before and allowed to rest overnight before filling the empanadas.

Empanada dough (see recipe below)

3 large onions, chopped

1 pound ground beef

2 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 beef bouillon cube, dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup olives, chopped

2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons milk

Prepare empanada dough and chill. Cook the onions and garlic in the vegetable oil and butter until softened. Add the ground beef, cumin, chile powder, paprika, beef bouillon, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook the beef, stirring and crumbling the meat, until browned. Add the flour and continue to cook for five or ten minutes. Remove the meat mixture and let cool. The beef mixture will keep up to two days in the refrigerator.

Shape the empanadas: Separate the dough into golf ball size pieces and roll into smooth balls. Let rest for five minutes. On a floured surface, roll each ball of dough into a 6-inch diameter circle, about 1/4 inch thick. Add 1 tablespoon of the beef filling, a few raisins and some chopped olives, and a slice of hard-boiled egg to the middle of the circle. Brush the edges with water and fold the pastry in half over the filling to make a semi-circle. Seal the edges by pressing down with your fingers. Brush the sealed edge lightly with water, then turn the edge toward the middle and press with your fingers to seal. Mix the egg yolk with 2 tablespoons milk and brush the empanadas with the mixture. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes eight empanadas.

This recipe produces a sweet dough that contrasts perfectly with savory fillings. Empanada dough is less flaky than pie crust (although you can substitute frozen pie crust dough in a pinch); it has a tender texture that soaks up the filling. This dough can be used for baked or fried empanandas. If you are going to fry the empanadas, omit the egg yolk and roll the dough out slightly thinner (less than a 1/4 inch in thickness).

4 cups flour

1-2 teaspoons salt

2-3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons butter, softened

12 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening, at room temperature

3/4 cup water

2 egg yolks

Sift the flour into a bowl. Stir in the salt and the sugar. Work the butter and shortening or lard into the flour mixture with your fingers until well blended. Whisk the egg yolks into the water. Stir in the 1/2 cup of water/egg mixture, a little at a time, until the dough comes together smoothly. Keep kneading the dough, adding more water/egg a little bit at a time as necessary (you may need more than 1 cup), until the dough is very smooth, about 5-10 minutes. You can knead the dough with a standing mixer and a dough hook attachment. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest on the counter for about an hour. (Dough can also be kept overnight in the refrigerator, then brought to room temperature before using.) Dough should be soft and smooth, and not elastic – if you poke a hole in it with your finger, the indentation should remain. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and roll into desired thickness.


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