Anyone can seal an empanada with the tines of a fork, but if you're interested in a more authentic look for this classic South American turnover, try your hand at a fancy repulgue. The repulgue refers to a special method for crimping or folding the edges of the dough in order to close the empanada. Apart from its obvious aesthetic value, the repulgue does a bang-up job of sealing in the filling, which is crucial since empanada leakage is just, well, embarrassing.
The repulgue fulfills one other important function: a means to ID your empanada. A case in point: when your box of piping hot empanadas arrives from your neighborhood empanada joint, how do you tell your queso y cebolla (cheese and onion) from your friend's verdura (veggie)? Well, to eliminate the guesswork, most shops will provide a diagram showing the various repulgues and their corresponding fillings. Please turn your attention to Exhibit A:
Since, to date, the Argentine Congress has failed to pass the measure *Ley de Estandarización del Repulgue de las Empanadas Argentinas (legislation to standardize repulgues throughout the country), every empanada shop is at complete liberty to choose which repulgue to assign to each type of empanada. As such, from place to place, little to no relationship exists between the style of repulgue and the filling, with the exception of fatay – an Arabian beef empanada – which is almost universally triangular.
I currently have about six different repulgues in my repertoire, although my favorite is the classic braided pattern that Rebecca at From Argentina With Love demonstrates so capably in this video [click here if you can't view the embedded video].
Now that you've been schooled on the repulgue, go forth and make empanadas! If you're in need of some inspiration, try my recipe for empanadas de humita (with creamy corn) or Rebecca's empanadas mendocinas (with ground beef). Lastly, don't get too worked up if your repulgue doesn't turn out just so; like most things in life, la práctica hace al maestro (practice makes perfect).
[*Don't hold your breath for this one, folks.]
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