Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Pocketful of Goodies: Marine's Empanadas Delicias (For Cuizine; from the Vault)

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 7:49 AM

When most people think of empanadas, the apple and pineapple Mexican pastry versions are usually what comes to mind. Yet there is a world of different fillings and doughs out there and a great place to begin trying them is at Marine’s Empanadas Delicias. Several customers, Colombian natives, told me that these are the best empanadas in the city. The menu lists nearly fifty varieties of empanadas categorized under beef, chicken, cheese, vegetable, fruit, special, and double-sized and most just over two dollars a pop.
The word ‘empanada’ is derived from the Spanish past tense ‘empanar’, which means to cover with bread. Marine’s makes two types of empanadas, Colombian and Argentinian. In Colombia the dough of the empanadas is made from corn meal while the Argentinian version is made from white flour. Each is formed into circles and filled with different ingredients then folded up like a half moon. The edges are crimped on the Argentinian style and simple pinched close on the smaller Colombian type. Served with the savory dishes is a requisite bowl of chimichurri sauce made from chopped parsley, garlic, dried oregano, onion, paprika and a dash of vinegar.
While Marine’s serves traditional Colombian fare, you’ll find that they have reached out to a wide audience with empanadas such as the Hippie, with salami, fried onions, and raisins. There also is the fugazzaetta, with gooey fresh mozzarella and fried onions. On my first trip I tried the Hot Tia Maria with stewed meat, jalapeno, tomatoes and onions. The combination of ingredients was simple yet warming and popped with flavor. I also sampled the Chuck Wagon, filled with chopped sirloin and mushrooms in a red wine sauce. It’s counterpart, the chicken reina, substitutes chicken and white wine and both were exceptionally good. The Viva Mexico is simply mozzarella and poblanos stuffed into the pocket yet the oil from the peppers melds beautiful to each cheesey bite.
A section of the menu called ‘antojitos Colombianas’, or Colombian favorites, provides the dishes native to Colombian tongues. Chicharons are what we Southerners know as pork cracklins. It is a snack food of sorts. They also have tamales prepared in banana leaves, morcilla, which is blood sausage, and chorizo, of course. Under ‘Platos Tipicos Colombianas’ you’ll find the plate meals like the bandeja paisa with grilled beef, rice, pork skin, a corn patty, plantains, and a fried egg. Now that’s a hearty meal. Other dishes such as the arroz con pollo and the daily lunch specials provide an affordable, freshly made repast.
Marine’s also sells baked goods made fresh daily. One of the best sellers, pandebono, is a bread roll made with both yucca and wheat flour blended with cheese. Bunelos, pan alinado, and pastel tres leches
are just a few of many options to satiate your bready urges.
The owner of Marine’s, Yiredt Delgado, opened the bakery seventeen years ago under a partner. She then bought them out six months later and has ran the place every since. The kitchen is her pride and she boasts that they use fresh ingredients everyday and that nothing is frozen or from cans. Her staff is loyal, most have worked there from the beginning and that means consistency.
She talks about her childhood when her mother would have fresh fruit smoothies ready for the children when they walked through the door after school. “We didn’t have soft drinks and such, just fresh fruit smoothies.” And they too are a very popular item at the restaurant. Exotic juices like guanabana and curaba are blended with ice and water or milk. For three dollars, it is a great deal for something so natural and delicious. The Monkey Juice, a blend of banana, coconut, and pineapple juice outranks chain smoothie stores any day.
Marine’s has been around for nearly two decades and surely they’ll be around for two more. The next time you’re in the mood for a casual meal, or even a great idea for party snacks, Marine’s is waiting for you with her pockets full of hidden surprises.

3227 Hillcroft Ave
Houston, TX 77057-5805
(713) 789-2950


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