An Argentine dish traditionally served at Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve dinners as part of a cold buffet, the torre de panqueques (also known as fiambre alemán or torre primavera) always proves to be a crowd-pleaser. At its most basic, the torre de panqueques consists of alternating layers of ham, cheese, lettuce and tomato sandwiched between thin, lacy panqueques (crepes). To add a little pizzazz — in terms of both flavor and presentation — many home cooks include roasted red pepper, hard-boiled egg, green olives or hearts of palm.
While the dish makes a perfect appetizer in warmer weather, with the fresh veggies keeping things on the lighter side, don’t let that stop you from preparing it at any time of year. Hosts find the torre de panqueques particularly appealing for a large get-together or holiday gathering because it can be made in advance and refrigerated until your guests arrive.
Torre de Panqueques
Yields 10 portions
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cold whole milk
2/3 cup cold water
3 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. butter, melted [plus 1 Tbsp. to grease the pan]
1 small head Romaine lettuce
5 small tomatoes, sliced thin
8 oz. sliced boiled deli ham
8 oz. sliced deli cheese such as American
salt and pepper
Optional [any combination of the following]:
strips of roasted red pepper
chopped or sliced hard-boiled egg
chopped or sliced green olives
chopped or sliced hearts of palm
Preparing the panqueques
Combine the first five ingredients and beat the mixture until smooth using a blender or whisk. Add the melted butter and blend just until smooth. Don’t overbeat the batter, as the panqueques will turn out rubbery. Strain the batter if it looks lumpy. Refrigerate the batter, covered, for a minimum of 1 hour.
Heat an 8-inch non-stick frying pan [or crepe pan, if you happen to have one] over medium heat. Lightly brush the pan with melted butter.
Pour ¼ cup of batter into the center of the pan, and then tilt the pan to evenly cover the bottom. Cook about 1 minute, or until lightly browned and lacy on the bottom. Flip the panqueque with a spatula, and cook briefly on the other side [it will look speckled]. Remove the panqueque to a wire rack or plate to cool as you continue making the rest, stacking successive panqueques one on top of the other. Don’t get discouraged if the first panqueque turns out badly — this is common.
This recipe yields 10 panqueques. Once cooled, the panqueques can be stored in the refrigerator in a ziptop plastic storage bag for several days if you’re not ready to assemble the torre de panqueques.
If you have a springform pan, you can use it as a guide to help keep the panqueques and other ingredients from sliding around. Otherwise, just assemble the torre de panqueques on a serving dish.
Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise over a panqueque, and place it in the bottom of the springform pan (mayonnaise side up). Top the panqueque with a single layer of lettuce leaves and then a layer of sliced tomato. Season with salt and pepper. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise over the next panqueque, and place it in the pan. Top the panqueque with a single layer of boiled ham and then cheese. Alternate layers of lettuce and tomato and ham and cheese until you run out of panqueques. If you choose to add some of the optional ingredients to the torre de panqueques, intersperse a couple layers of those items or use them as garnish for the top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving (can be made up to one day in advance).
Remove the torre de panqueques from the refrigerator. Spread a final layer of mayonnaise on the top panqueque and decorate the torre de panqueques with chopped vegetables and/or hard-boiled egg. Remove the springform pan ring and slice the torre de panqueques into portions with a serrated knife.