Friday, February 18, 2011

Butternut Squash and Chorizo Empanadas with Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay

Plated Empanadas-2

I am finally writing the first post about a pairing from the anchor of this podcast:  Decanting Napa Valley The Cookbook (lets call it DNV so I can save some typing).  The pairing we chose first was a butternut squash empanada paired with Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay.  I will be honest and tell you that the choice was completely random.  Well at least random from the perspective that I went to my favorite purveyor of wine and spirits (Schneider’s of Capitol Hill) with my wine list from DNV and said “which of these wines do you have in stock?”  The Cakebread Chardonnay was the first choice and therefore the first pairing.

The Food

The empanadas were a perfectly balanced blend of spiciness from the chorizo and sweetness from the butternut squash.  The spice of the chorizo was further contrasted by the gruyere cheese which did a complete vulcan mind meld with the squash.

Empanada Filling

The only disappointment with the recipe was the use of puff pastry in place of empanada dough.  I will be fair and say that it did not diminish the flavors, but it just felt like cheating.

Empanada Washing

For a little variety I added a distant cousin to the empanada from another part of the world – Feta and Spinach Tyropitas.  Unlike the empanadas, I can share this recipe.  You will find it along with a recipe for empanada dough at the end of this article.

Sautee Spinach

The Wine

From the Cakebread Cellars Tasting notes:

“Our 2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay boasts lovely, perfumed aromas of fresh melon, yellow apple, lime and white peach, with complementary mineral and toasty-spicy oak scents.  On the full-bodied, yet sleek palate, the wine offers concentrated, beautifully focused, peach, apple and citrus zest flavors, with mineral and spice tones enlivening the long, refreshing finish. Delightful now, this purely delicious Napa Valley Chardonnay will blossom further with another six months in bottle and, with proper cellaring, will drink beautifully for another 3 to 5 years.”

Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay-1

The components that stood out for me were the fresh citrus flavors blending nicely with the well balanced oak and butter flavors.

The Pairing

The pairing worked exceptionally well.  The citrus flavors formed a nice contrast with the spice of the chorizo while the oak notes of the Chardonnay danced happily with the same spice.  The moderate buttery flavors of the Chardonnay picked the dance partners of the butternut squash and guryere cheese.  They were all very happy.

With the feta and spinach tyroppitas, the fresh citrus of the Cakebread formed a nice contrast with the saltiness of the feta cheese.  It was a battle that came to a pleasing draw.

Plated Empanadas-1

Final Words

I have no reservations in recommending this pairing.  It was a true pleasure, and I can’t wait to make the empanadas again (with dough made from scratch).  The only thing that is not completely positive is with respect to the price/value of the Cakebread Chardonnay.  Yes, Cakebread has a wonderful reputation, and yes, they produce wonderful wines.  And this 2009 Chardonnay is no exception.  However, I believe it is over priced.  There are plenty of Chardonnays that compete well with this wine for half the price.  I paid $44, and web prices range from $35 to $53.  When I get to the $40 range, I expect eye rolling back in the head, angles singing, pinch me back to reality, multiple winegasms.  The wine was good, but not that good.  The 2009 Cakebread Chardonnay is a good value at $25.


Sorry, you will have to buy the book for the Empanada recipe, but here is a recipe for Empanada dough and the recipe for the feta and spinach tyropitas.

Empanada Dough


  • 3 cups flour (plus a little more for kneading)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons shortening


1. In a bowl, beat the water, egg, egg white and vinegar together. Set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, mix together the 3 cups of flour and salt.

3. Cut the shortening into the flour mix with a pastry blender, two butter knives or a baseball bat (I don’t like this part). Make a well in the center of the flour mix and pour the liquid ingredients from the first bowl into the center (just like we did with the gnocchi)

4. Mix the wet and dry ingredients with a fork until it becomes stiff.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it just until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth.

6. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but never more than 24 hours.

Servings: Makes approximately 10 six-inch empanadas.

Feta and Spinach Tyropitas


  • 1 pound of crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 pound spinach sautéed with garlic
  • 2 tablespoons ouzo
  • 2 shots ouzo (for you!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine ground black pepper
  • 1 pound thawed phyllo dough
  • 2 cups melted butter (you can use clarified butter if you are a purist)


  1. Mix the first five ingredients together in a bowl.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  2. On a cutting board, layout three sheets of phyllo brushing with the butter between each layer.
  3. Cut into strips roughly 2.56573 inches wide.
  4. Place a healthy tablespoon full of filing (remember the bowl?) at the bottom of each strip closest to you.
  5. Fold into triangles.  Huh?  Easy…it is like folding a flag for all you scouts out there.  take a corner, fold it over the fat boy tablespoon of filling at a 45 degree angle.  Then just keep folding until you use up the 2.56573 inch strip. 
  6. Place on a sheet tray and bake at 375 degrees until golden brown (about 10 minutes).

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


1 comment:

  1. It was fun watching you prepare the meal, discussing the pairing around the table and enjoying your friendship that evening. I live through your cooking skills vicariously.