Monday, March 23, 2015

National Empanada Day

By: Laurie Wallin
Capital Cooking Contributor

April 8 marks National Empanada Day and Cuba Libre will be the place to be when the restaurant celebrates with an Empanada Happy hour from 5-7pm, where all empanadas will be $1 each. Guests will have the opportunity to choose from four savory Mamá Amelia’s Empanadas – Picadillo (ground beef and olives), De La Casa (hand-chopped chicken, corn, and Jack cheese), Queso (Mozzarella, Tetilla, Monterey Jack cheese and sweet roasted onions), and Parisien (Country ham, Serrano ham, scallions and four cheeses).

In addition, to honor Washington’s iconic Cherry Blossom season, throughout the month of April, Cuba Libre will also be showcasing two special empanadas. From April 1-12, guests will be able to experience (dessert) Goat Cheese Cherry Empanadas (goat cheese, sour cherries, toasted pistachio, and sweet cherry preserves) and from April 13-21, Cuba Libre will feature a Lobster Empanada (black corn turnover with coral butter, mango escabeche and passion fruit citrus mojo). 


As if this weren't enough, Cuba Libre is also offering an Empanada Cooking class on April 15 from 6:30pm-8:30pm. For $65 (including tax and gratuity) this class will teach participants how to make Cuba Libre’s signature empanadas. Guests will have an opportunity to learn about the rich history of Cuban cuisine, enjoy delicious tapas and empanadas, a complimentary cocktail, and even have the opportunity to cook hands-on!  Led by Executive Chef Matt Zaborski, I recently had the opportunity to attend a similar class and found it to be informative and delicious!

Chef Zaborski provided a lot of valuable empanada cooking tips during our class. The biggest takeaway for me was when he said that you shouldn't actually taste salt and pepper – that they should be used to bring out the natural flavors of the foods you’re cooking with. In addition, he noted that when mixing the ingredients for the empanada fillings, you should season after each new ingredient is added, which can seem like overkill for many home cooks. He also noted that working with room-temperature dough is easiest to shape the empanadas with.

Of all the empanadas I tried, my favorites were the cherry blossom empanada tart and the De La Casa empanada. The lobster empanada was incredibly unique with delicious flavor, and I’ll admit, the black squid ink made for stunning presentation. I also had the opportunity to sip a delicious Cuba Libre Classic Caipirinha cocktail and enjoy plantain and malanga chips with black bean hummus, Haitian eggplant salad and Cuba Libre salsa.

Be sure to join Cuba Libre in April for one of these events and don’t miss out on this opportunity to savor delicious empanadas! Happy Empanada Day! For more information on the cooking class, please visit:

Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar on Urbanspoon

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