Argentina is all about the empanada. You can’t walk a block without encountering some sort of establishment that sells the coveted handheld pockets of love. As for flavors and gustos, there are as many variations of empanadas as there are cooks in Argentinacarne (ground beef), carne cortada con cuchillo (chopped steak), ham and cheese, cheese and onion, caprese (tomato, cheese and basil), humita (sweet corn-like mush), mushrooms and cheese, and vegetables (mostly swiss chard in a white sauce). Every region has trademarked their own emblematic empanada: the salteña from Salta, the tucumana from Tucumán, la mendocina from Mendoza and las patagónicas made from Patagonian lamb. But I’d learned from an early age that not all empanadas are created equal. My abuela Dorita's topped the charts, until I tried my suegro, Jorge Luis', knife-cut beef empanadas al cuchillo. I couldn't get enough of themraisins and all.
That day, my then love-interest-now-husband, Gastón, and his dad elevated the empanada to a new art form. Their masa consisted of a simple blend of lard or butter (or both), flour, salt and water. As I sipped my Quilmes beer, I was entranced with the way Gastón’s strong hands—the same hands that lassoed and took down hundred-pound calves back at the ranch he worked at—swiftly made the most delicate repulgue crimped edge that rivaled only abuela Dorita’s. Lucky for me, he seemed to have inherited the Argentine gene for nimble fingers that could effortlessly create an immaculate border that locked the filling in, keeping it from seeping out while the empanadas baked.
I don’t know if the empanadas that night were just that good or if it was thanks to new-love euphoria, but that first-bite anticipation of waiting for the molten-hot empanadas to cool was at once the best and most agonizing feeling—like waiting to be kissed for the very first time. I didn’t even mind the raisins hiding in my hand-held hot pocket. And that was a big deal, since up until that point, I’d never met a raisin-laden empanada that I didn’t dissect until I’d removed each and every one of the golden buggers before devouring the rest. It was one of my few childhood culinary fetishes that abuela Dorita had absolutely no patience for. That made two of us. Dorita and I never did see eye-to-eye on the great raisin debate.

After dinner that evening, as we lingered at sobremesa, Jorge Luis jokingly let me know I’d passed his empanada test.

Test?” I asked, confused.

That's when Jorge Luis explained that empanadas are hand-held pockets for a reason: they're to be eaten with your hands. And only your hands. Doña Petrona, Argentina’s very own Julia Childs, once announced on her cooking show, Buenas Tardes, Mucho Gusto—in her characteristic singsong cadence—that any guest who dared eat an empanada with fork and knife at her table would be sentenced to never, ever again be invited back. Instead, empanadas are to be kissed, long and hard to keep the juices from going all over the place. I can’t say I wasn’t relieved. I never had eaten an empanada with a knife, but I certainly didn’t know that was a tableside requisite among those parts.

If you'd like to treat your loved ones this Valentine's Day to Jorge Luis' hand-held pockets of love, I promise each and every person at your table will be assured a long and juicy, soul-satisfying smoocheroo. You can get this knife-cut beef empanada recipe, among many more, just in time for February 14! Simply pre-order my culinary memoir, Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food and Love in Thirteen Courses HERE, and we'll send you a complimentary Advance Reader Copy today, along with a digital copy of the recipe. You'll then receive the final hard copy of Sobremesa in May, just in time for Mother's Day. Simply send a copy of your receipt and address to this email with "Preorder and ARC" in the subject line. (While supplies last.)

Let me know if you give this recipe a try. I'd love to hear from you. Just email me. I'd also love to hear if you bought the book and what you think. Your support means the world to me!

With love, te quiere,
Josephine Caminos Oría
President and Founder
Author, Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food and Love in 13 Courses (Scribe Publishing Co., May 2021) and Dulce de Leche: Recipes, Stories & Sweet Traditions (Burgess Lea Press, 2017) 
Early praise for Sobremesa:

Sobremesa takes us inside Josephine’s kitchen where we get the chance to explore her unique culinary journey and her beloved Argentina. Josephine’s story tells us about a side of Argentine cuisine and eating culture that isn’t usually written about: the importance that family, friendship, delicious food, and vino have at the table. A delight to read that will warm your corazón.”Allie Lazar, Argentina-Based Freelance Eater and Writer, Creator of Pick Up the Fork Food Blog

“As a young girl, I enjoyed Josephine. But even more, I have loved meeting Josefina. I found myself transported to extraordinary middle places: Argentina and the United States, the ghostly limbos between life and death, youth and adulthood. Sobremesa reads like a cross between magical realism and the food section of the New York Times. Delicioso!”—Beth Ostrosky-Stern, Pittsburgh Native and New York Times Bestselling Author

“At once a magical matrilineage, recipe book, and love letter to Argentinian culture, Josephine’s Sombremesais not only a moving culinary memoir, but a timely cultural portrait and call to return to a slower, more sensual relationship with our loved ones and ourselves.”—Allie Rowbottom, author of Jell-O Girls

“Josephine didn’t just find a love for Argentina, reconnecting with her family’s past and heirloom recipes. She’s uncovered a sisterhood in sobremesa, and wants to extend it to those who still don’t know about it or who don’t yet know they just might need it most. Because it’s there, in the intimacy of our own kitchens that we join forces, connecting in the place that, for so many people and families, is a meeting point, a place where culture lives on and transforms itself.”—Sofía Pescarmona, Entrepreneur and Viticulturist, CEO and Owner, Lagarde Winery and Fogón Restaurant in Mendoza Argentina