Today marks the bicentennial of Argentina's independence.  On the 25th of May in 1810, nationalists  at the Cabildo Abierto (open town meeting) held in Buenos Aires voted to depose the viceroyalty of Spain.  Political chaos followed the decision, and it wasn't until July of 1816 that independence was made official by a national congress in Tucuman.  Nevertheless, Argentineans proudly celebrate this day as the beginning of their liberation from European rule.  
Picture
Flag vendors are stationed at every corner in San Rafael, selling the "Sun of May."  The Argentine flag was designed by General Manuel Belgrano in 1812, and features two cerulean blue bands divided by a white stripe bearing the image of a radiant sun with a human face.  There are several theories regarding the iconography of the flag; some say that it represents Inti the Incan sun god, while others suggest that the blue bands are waves of Rio de la Plata.   I think Belgrano was just captivated by the beauty of the Argentine sky when he came up with this design.  

Picture




At noon a parade of military groups, mounted police and gauchos makes its way through the city streets.   

Picture




It seems odd to us, but the policemen ride two to a motorcycle, with one cop driving the bike and the other standing upright, carrying a rifle while balancing on the back of the seat.   

Picture
The traditional food for the Dia de la Revolucion de Mayo is locro, a hearty, thick stew made from squash, white beans, corn, pork sausage and beef shank.  The open-air  stands serve locro  from large pots heated over wood fires.   

Picture
Deep-fried empanadas accompany the stew.  Locro is an indigenous peoples' dish adopted by Argentine society to commemorate its independence, as this South American recipe features local ingredients cooked in a traditional way.  It represents a distinct departure from European cuisine.  

Picture




To pair with the locro, we enjoy the Edicion Especial Ano Bicentenario red wine produced by Bodega Santa Ana in Guaymallen, Mendoza.   This blended vino tinto is a straightforward table wine with a pleasant fruity aroma and cherry taste.   A bottle of the Bicentenario sells for 6.69 pesos at Vea supermarket.  We paid 35 pesos for two portions of locro and a dozen empanadas purchased from a roadside vendor.  

Picture
 
 
Empanadas are a standard appetizer in Argentina, with fillings varying from beef to chicken to tuna.  We like to make them for the main course of our meal, and add spices to liven things up.   The great thing about empanadas is that they can be cooked quickly outdoors on the grill.  
Picture
The secret to making a good filling for empanadas is to cut the meat into very fine pieces with a sharp knife, rather than using ground beef.   We fry the meat, add chopped onions, olives and raisins to the mixture, and season with  several heaping spoonfuls of Madras curry powder.   The flavour of the filling is savoury and sweet.

Picture
The fun part of making empanadas is the folding of the filled dough circles, and the final sealing and crimping of the edges.  The dough circles (tapas) are purchased at the supermarket and come in a package of 12.  It's important to use the kind marked "horno" for cooking in  the oven or on the barbecue.  The empanadas are basted on both sides with vegetable oil in preparation  for the asado.  

Picture


When the wood fire has burned down to a nice bed of coals, the grill is ready for the empanadas.  They take about 3 minutes of cooking on each side to brown and crisp the dough.   We served these with chimi churri sauce,  braised spinach and homemade pickled beets.  

Picture
Our wine selection for pairing with the spicy empanadas is Finca Flichman Syrah Roble 2008. This full-bodied red has been aged in oak for 3 months and has a strong tannic flavour.  The syrah needs air, so let it sit open for a while before tasting.   A great wine to accompany any asado, priced at  only 16.49 pesos at Vea Supermarket.

Picture