Here, Eat This

Stuffed: Mushroom Empanadas at Riel

Ryan Lachaine, chef-owner of Riel in Montrose introduces us to a mushroom empanada that will blow your mind.
Ryan Lachaine, chef-owner of Riel in Montrose introduces us to a mushroom empanada that will blow your mind. Photo by Bradford Eu
We set out to find and devour stuffed food from every possible culture right here in the Bayou City. From empanadas to dumplings, kolaches to samosas, we're getting stuffed.

Former Underbelly Chef de Cuisine Ryan Lachaine opened his first restaurant Riel in January 2017. In the 25 months since its opening, the modern Montrose kitchen has landed on the pages of publications like Esquire, Food & Wine, Tasting Table and more.

The French-Canadian chef with Ukranian roots describes his contemporary fare as globally-inspired Gulf Coast cuisine. The seasonal menus are small, highly refined and seem to draw inspiration from anywhere and everywhere the 2013 Eater Young Gun desires.

From 48-ounce ribeyes, to Gulf oysters, caviar-topped tater tots and classic pierogies, Lachaine's cuisine seems to reflect his own unique heritage as well as the regional culture(s) of his adopted Gulf home.

Still, despite Riel's impressive menu of epicurean delights, you may wonder what could possibly earn it a spot in the Houston Press' weekly column about stuffed dough? While your apprehension is not unfounded, rest assured that we have thoroughly vetted this week's focal dish, and few could be more fitting.

click to enlarge Mushroom empanadas are a hit at Ryan Lachaine's hip Montrose restaurant, Riel. - PHOTO BY RYAN LACHAINE
Mushroom empanadas are a hit at Ryan Lachaine's hip Montrose restaurant, Riel.
Photo by Ryan Lachaine
Lachaine introduced his now famous mushroom empanadas, purportedly inspired by his mother's mushroom pop-over recipe, to the Riel dinner menu sometime in late 2018. Since then the flaky, crispy pouches of hand folded fried dough have become something of a smash hit in Houston culinary circles.

Ever since those Spanish conquistadors foodies brought the wonder of the empanada to the New World, we've looked for ways to improve on it. From the corn masa varieties of Colombia, to the plantain filled sweet bread of Costa Rica, to the beefy Gaucho of Argentina, the empanada has seen its fair share of variants.

Stuffed with a tantalizing filling of button mushrooms cooked with onions, lemon and thyme, then folded in marscapone cheese and topped with chimichurri, Ryan Lachaine's gourmet empanadas are an elevated chef's take on the Spanish snack food that will send your taste buds into orbit.

While we tend to focus on more ordinary street fare in our pursuit of stuffed perfection, these mouthwatering, palate awakening handfuls of global inspiration are a reminder that any dish, no matter how pedestrian, can be turned into a culinary masterpiece in the right hands.

Like everything on his award-winning and constantly updating menu, it won't be long before Lachaine rotates these beauties out in favor of a new rave-worthy creation. For now, diners can enjoy them on Riel's dinner menu from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
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Houston Press contributor Carlos Brandon is a freelance writer, blogger, and self proclaimed Houston hip hop historian. He contributes to various publications and can usually be found haggling with food truck cooks or talking politics on the METRO Rail.
Contact: Carlos Brandon