When chef Jessica Pelland spent some time cooking in restaurants in Argentina before coming home to Calgary to formulate the Charbar menu, she knew that she needed to include empanadas. These doughy hand-pies are ubiquitous in South America, where they can be filled with anything from blue cheese and ham to a caprese-style mix of tomato, mozzarella and basil. Despite having room to get whimsical, Pelland knew that she wanted to stick to something fairly traditional for the Charbar version.
“Anything that is wrapped in flaky dough is a go-to for me,” Pelland says. “In Buenos Aries every single hole-in-the-wall is selling empanadas. I took inspiration from a few of them and mixed a few traditional types together.”
Pelland has played a bit with the filling over the years and often offers specials with different empanada varieties, but the current menu’s empanada is filled with slow-cooked Alberta beef.
Pelland seasons her beef with a South American chile paste called aji panca and smoked paprika, which gives the meat a nice red colour. She also throws in a good portion of onions (“The amount of onions should be almost equal to the meat,” Pelland says), hard cooked egg, cilantro and some potatoes. The whole thing gets wrapped in a savoury dough and is served with a side of hot sauce butter. It’s simple and rustic, just a little bit spicy, and wholly delicious.
Charbar’s empanadas sit on the restaurants small plates menu and can be eaten as an appetizer or combined with another dish to make a meal (pro tip: if you’re dining with children, they make for a great kids’ meal for two with a side of Charbar’s addictive beef fat fries). The empanadas come two per order and are priced at $13.
618 Confluence Way SE, 403-452-3115, charbar.ca