Less than a week before I departed Argentina which meant I had a week to learn how all of my favorite Argentinian meals were made. Kelli was in San Telmo for a week so together we signed up for a cooking class. Again, just like the tango dinner shows, there are upscale cooking classes and food tours that can cost up to $300 per person. Thanks to a tip from a fellow traveller we scheduled a class with Tierra Negra. It fit our budget and I can’t imagine how any other class could top this experience.
We arrived outside of a home in Palermo Hollywood. I rang the buzzer on the intercom and introduced us. The gate opened and we walked upstairs to the second floor where we were greeted by Verónica. “Are you Porteño?” She asked me. I laughed in amazement. How could she have gotten that impression. “When you rang on the intercom you sounded like a local.” My spanish has obviously come a long way from 8 months ago when I crossed the border into Mexico knowing little more than how to say hello. I let Verónica know that I was in fact a yankee from California. After a few minutes of conversation she realized I only sound like a local during introductions. After that there’s no mistaking it, Spanish is not my native language.
When we entered the dinning room Verónica introduced us to Manuel, the chef and her other half, and informed us that the other guests canceled so it would be a private cooking class this evening. After a quick intro on the evening’s agenda they opened a bottle of red and the class began. I like the class already.
Verónica and Manuel spent years traveling around the world; working in various restaurants along the way to fund their adventures. A few years ago they finally returned home to Argentina and opened up Tierra Negra. Using fresh ingredients they shared the recipes and techniques to make the dough and filling for two kinds of empanadas as well as dulce de leche and flan for dessert. Oh and we’d be pairing a variety of local wines throughout the night.
We mixed together all of the ingredients for the fillings and set them aside while we rolled out two dozen circular discs of empanada dough. I made a few ovals and octagons but eventually I got the dough rolled into perfect circles, even if they were never a consistent size. We filled them with the vegetable or meat filling and then came the hard part. I never could have imagined how difficult curling edges of dough could be. Manuel, Verónica, and Kelli were pros and for every one empanada I completed they were on their 4th. Manuel taught me the easier and lazy-mans technique of pressing a fork around the edges. Insider tip: vegetable empanadas are folded on top and meat empanadas are folded on the side.
After preparing the empandas we began making dulce de leche and flan. Dulce de leche is a popular sweet that I would say is similar to caramel but creamier. Whatever it is, I like it in icecream, on my bread in the morning, or as filling in cookies and pastries. It’s made my slowing heating sweetened milk. Manuel’s flan recipe was unlike any I’ve had before. The creamy dessert was topped with a hard caramel shell.
We moved onto the next bottle of wine just as the empanadas were finished baking in the oven. The four of us sat around the dining table and said a toast before enjoying the wonderful meal we prepared.
After a second serving of empanadas and more wine, we had dessert. The flan with dulce de leche was amazing. Of course I had a professional chef helping with the process but I’d say Kelli and I made one of the best meals. The night continued as Verónica, Manuel, Kelli and I shared stories and laughed. The food, wine, sweets, and laughs were plentiful at Teirra Negra. Thank you Verónica and Manuel for opening your home and sharing your food, wine, and culture with us.
If you’re ever in Buenos Aires, cooking with Verónica and Manuel at Tierra Negra is another must do. After the class they email you the recipes and instructions for all the dishes.