Many hands…

…make all different styles of crimps. That’s one of the really fun things about an empanada-making party. The Spanish section of the Modern Languages Department at the university has been hosting one for years now in preparation for their annual Day of the Dead party. Normally it’s organized and run by one of the adjunct faculty, a Puerto Rican woman who’s an experienced empanada maker. This year, for reasons that I still don’t fully understand (I’m only married to faculty), I got the job.

The order was for 650 empanadas, and even though I had plenty of help, it was still a huge undertaking. I began preparing ingredients Friday night, spent Saturday making the fillings with another volunteer (fortunately, from Argentina), held the assembly party on Sunday, then spent five hours yesterday morning baking them off. Thank the powers that be that I was able to secure a commercial kitchen for the long weekend. That made the process a whole lot easier.

The only down side was that I wasn’t able to secure the usual small army of little old Hispanic ladies that usually help out. My team was all young women, about a dozen, culled from the various Hispanic studies exchange programs. It was a good group, though they were nowhere near as fast and artful as the abuelitas (grannies) of years gone by. Still, most of them had at least made empanadas before, and that was a huge boon. Here’s a snap of some of the crew at work on Saturday. These women were a combined force of Brazilians, Colombians and others, with an Eastern European thrown in for good measure. It’s amazing how many Central and South American (and Caribbean) cultures make empanadas (I think all of them do), and as for Eastern Europe, pierogis are pretty much the same thing.

It’s hard to get a picture like this without at least one person blinking. Oh well.

Just about everybody had their own style. Whether that was a result of differing national identities or just grandmothers with differing opinions, I never found out (my Spanish stinks). And yes, those are store-bought empanada skins back there — what do you think I am, a miracle worker?

We collected them in foil pans and refrigerated them overnight. Then yesterday yours truly got up at the crack of dawn and went to bake them off (I really didn’t mind, it reminded me of the old days) . The empanadas on this pan are all fork-crimped. Though that style doesn’t exude either the authenticity nor the grandmotherly love of the hand-made crimps, it still does the job.

The good news is that Mrs. Pastry and I managed to deliver them all to the university by noon, which was when the party began. I hadn’t attempted to pull off anything like that in about three years. Nice to know that ol’ Joe still has a little of the hustle left in him.

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