Empanadas. Like Lay’s potato chips, one’s just not enough. People have been making empanadas for centuries. Their origins trace back to Spain and Portugal, but variations on these savory or sweet, baked or fried pastries
(depending on the region and the recipe), can be found throughout Europe, Central and South America, and the Middle East.
To what do empanadas owe their popularity and ubiquity? Maybe it’s their versatility — you can stuff them with virtually anything from spicy ground beef, roast chicken, and spinach and mushrooms, to pulled pork, shrimp, and refried beans. It could also be a matter of convenience — it’s a tidy, hand-held meal in one neat little package.
New York City has had its own American take on the empanada since 2009, thanks to Ariel and Leni Barbouth, Argentinian immigrants and entrepreneurs who merged the classic empanada-making tradition of their homeland, with the international melting pot flavors of New York City, when they introduced New Yorkers to the Nuchas brand.
The Nuchas emphasis on a wide variety of flavor combinations derived from all four corners of the globe reflect the Nuchas motto: Different is Delicious. Nuchas empanadas are crafted using ingredients sourced from reputable producers to ensure quality and consistency. The brand also has an SQF Quality Code level of fresh food preparation.
Ariel and Leni started serving their empanadas out of a food kiosk in Times Square. The soft and pillowy empanadas that are stuffed to the brim with filling, and encased in an almost paper thin wrapping that somehow never gets soggy, quickly caught on with Midtown locals. It became a regular lunch and snack break stop for area office types who liked having a “fast” food option made with quality ingredients that were baked instead of fried. It was also the perfect choice for tourists to take on the go. Creative vegetarian (portobello, spinach, and mozzarella, spicy cheese) and vegan (shiitake curry, seitan al pastor), along with meat (Argentinian beef, short rib, Italian sausage, ham and cheese, chipotle chicken) and dessert (apple, cranberry and nutella, medialunas (an Argentinian take on the French croissant) selections also made it fit for virtually any appetite and diet.
Pretty soon Nuchas food kiosks began popping up in other New York City locations. There’s a Nuchas at Greeley Square Park by Herald Square, Jacob Javits Center, and on Wall Street, not to mention Nuchas food trucks bringing their empanadas to neighborhoods throughout the city.
Nuchas recently launched home delivery service. That’s good news for everybody who has been missing their anytime-of-the-day Nuchas since the temporary closing of all the Nuchas locations a few months ago. It is also a wonderfully convenient option for those who have never tried Nuchas. I had a trio of Nuchas delivered to me last week. They came frozen, six to a box, and arrived in three days’ time, securely packed in dry ice.
I decided to try my Nuchas with wine. After all, this is a wine and food blog. The eclectic Nuchas flavor combinations also make for potentially exciting wine pairing possibilities. I decided to go the classic route with the Argentinian beef empanadas, and paired them with two organic wines from Argentina-based Domaine Bousquet.
Southern French winemaker Jean Bousquet brought his winemaking expertise from Carcassonne to Argentina in 1998 when he established Domaine Bousquet in the prime winemaking territory of the Uco Valley in Mendoza. The high altitude, mineral-rich soil, and cool climate of this region offer the perfect conditions for producing rich and balanced wines with concentrated fruit flavors. The dark fruit aromas and lush raspberry, blackberry, and violet notes of an organic Domaine Bousquet Virgen 100% Malbec, 2019, and a Domaine Bousquet Virgen Red Blend, 2019, consisting of roughly equal percentages of estate-grown Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, with fresh berry aromas, ripe plum, cherry and earthy notes, and balanced acidity, complemented the savory and mildly spicy flavors of the Argentinian beef Nuchas.
I decided to pair portobello, spinach and mozzarella Nuchas and Chipotle chicken Nuchas with a pair of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G.. All Prosecco are made from the glera grape and most Prosecco are produced using the charmat method of secondary fermentation (the process of creating sparkling wine through carbonation in stainless steel tanks). What distinguishes Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore from standard Prosecco is that Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G. (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin ) must be produced in Conegliano Valdobbiadene.
Conegliano Valdobbiadene is located in Treviso, within the Northeastern Italian province of Veneto. The cool climate, and elevated and hilly landscape of this area, is ideal for producing crisp and refreshing sparkling wines. The area was designated D.O.C.G. in 1969. This guarantees both the provenance of the wine and the quality of its production. Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G.. is classified as Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, and Dry depending on the amount of residual sugar it contains. I tried a light and crisp Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G. Brut San Fermo Bellenda, 2019 with soft floral and citrus aromas, green apple, pear, and brown sugar notes, with portobello, spinach and mozzarella Nuchas. The result was a seamless combination of subtly earthy and lively citrus flavors.
My final pairing was Chipotle Chicken Nuchas with a wonderfully balanced Canah Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Perlage DOCG, Brut with delicate lemon and floral aromas, and bright peach and green apple notes, that perfectly complemented the smoky and spicy flavors of this flavorful empanada.
The myriad flavor combinations that Nuchas offers make its empanadas a perfect complement to any number of wines, from crisp and refreshing sparkling white wines, to rich and fuller bodied red wines.