Recently, Mrs. Gaucho and I had the good fortune to visit the production facilities of El Porteño Empanadas. Like most Argentines, founder Joseph Ahearne, was running a little late. We waited patiently and finally followed his car past a rickety security gate, towards a stripped down concrete building, and stopped in a remote parking lot, where we would later eat lunch among some tools and tumbleweed.
Ahearne’s kitchen facilities in San Francisco’s Hunters Point are rustic and humble—much like the origins of the Argentina’s most famous comfort food—but this has no bearing on the absolutely delicious empanadas being created within its confines.
Founded in 2007 in San Francisco, El Porteño’s menu includes six savory options (the beef, chicken and mushroom options are the most popular), two sweet empanadita flavors, and three types of Argentine biscuit-cookies known as alfajores. They are currently sold at the San Francisco Ferry Building, Bay Area farmers markets, and are now available through local Whole Foods stores.
Ahearne gave us a tour of the kitchen, explained the origins of the company, and treated us to a delicious lunch (featuring items from their catering menu) of beef brochetas con chimichurri, ensalada mixta, maiz, and housemade alfajores for dessert.
Ahearne grew up in Napa as part of family deeply connected to the area’s food and restaurant scene. His mother, originally from Argentina, taught Ahearne the family recipe for empanadas. His sister, who has a culinary background including a stint as a pastry chef, helped perfect the empanada dough for El Porteño. The result is a fluffy, flaky crust that is similar to French pastry dough rather than the harder, drier crusts that one often finds with other empanadas. The company also uses local and seasonal ingredients in many of its empanadas including Prather Ranch organic dry-aged grass-fed beef; Fulton Valley all-natural chicken; organic Far West Fungi mushrooms; local chard; and housemade dulce de leche. Read the rest of this entry »