When shrimp empanadas are served, you know the González family is celebrating.
“Empanadas, particularly these ones filled with shrimp, are intimately linked to Mexican holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Lent. The preparation of shrimp empanadas becomes a joyous and collaborative process, uniting people and my family members as we all pitch in to make and eat them together,” says Emily González, 22, who lives in Chicago’s Albany Park, which she calls ”the most diverse neighborhood“ in the city.
These empanadas de camarón are a must-make at the González’s annual Thanksgiving feast, deliciosamente representing the Mexican half of their family heritage. The other half is Cuban, which usually gets the most food representation at their Thanksgiving table, when they make: ropa vieja, black beans, congrí, yuca with garlic and lime, and pastelitos de guayaba or guava pastries. Just wait until Christmas, though, says Emily, a college senior. That‘s when Mexico rules the holiday menu. She and her family make tamales, pozole and many more traditional recipes from her father’s side of the family tree.
Emily’s maternal grandparents are both from Havana, Cuba, and her father’s people are from Guanajuato, Mexico. She and her two sisters love to get into their parents’ kitchen, and make family-famous dishes from both comida traditions for family dinners big and small.
Emily learned to prepare these shrimp empanadas from her father. ”They are one of his favorite dishes,” she says. At first they followed “a complex process that took us two days every holiday season. Over time, we discovered convenient alternatives, with premade empanada dough emerging as our favorite due to its texture.”
Now, Emily go straight to the frozen Latino section of the grocery stores to buy premade. “Honestly, the Goya empanada discs very closely resemble our traditional dough,” says Emily. “This store-bought shortcut allows us to redirect time and attention to other Mexican and Cuban holiday-friendly recipes.” That’s just the kind of abuela-cooking cocina hack we love here at Familia Kitchen.
This week, Emily is getting ready to shop and start cooking with her sisters and parents for Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday season. They will be making these this shrimp recipe as the appetizer, of course. ”Gathering with my family for an empanada-making session remains a cherished tradition. We have explored various flavors in the past, but our shrimp empanada recipe stands out as the best!”