Thursday, July 29, 2010

Let's Take a Trip to the Caribbean

In pursuit of more yummy chicken recipes to make with leftovers, I finally got brave enough to try an empanada recipe I've had lying around. And now I don't know why I was so intimidated by it!  An empanada is basically just a hand pie with fillings that range from meats and cheese to just veggies to fruits and even pumpkin. Sealed in a dough that Mr. Devlin compares to what is around a gordita at Taco Bell, the hand pie can be fried in hot oil or baked and is served hot. And all of it can be prepared ahead of time!

First, you need the dough recipe. This is a basic dough that can be used with any filling, even sweet ones.

In one bowl mix together the following:
3 cups of AP flour
1 tsp salt
3 tablespoons shortening
In a smaller bowl, whisk together
1 egg
1 egg white
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 cup cold water

Now add this to the flour mixture and blend together with a fork until most of the flour is absorbed. The dough will be too stiff to completely work with a fork so turn the dough out on a flat surface and knead together until the flour is completely absorbed and the dough is smooth and soft--this took all of maybe 3 minutes. Now wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least an hour but no more than 24. *If you need to, you can freeze this dough, by the way. It would make a good standby item in the freezer.

Now, for the filling.
According to the recipe I had, any combo of meat, veggies, cheese and a bit of spice will work so long as your filling isn't really wet (which would ruin the seal of the dough or burst when cooked).
I mixed together 2 cups of chopped chicken with 1 cup of black bean salsa that I drained the liquid off of. Then I add 1 1/2 cups of grated sharp cheddar. Seriously-that's all. I stirred it together and chilled it until my dough was ready.

Next, I rolled out the dough with a little flour to keep the dough from sticking. It is a soft, pliable dough that was really easy to work with. Roll out to about a 1/8-1/4 inch thickness. You don't want them to be too thin. True empanadas are usually cut in a 6 inch diameter circle and filled; but first of all, I don't have a 6 inch cutter (and now maybe I know what to ask Santa for) and secondly, that's a pretty big item to drop into my fryer. Yes, I fried them. You bet your sweet bippy I fried them.

 So, I cut out circles with a 3 1/2 inch cutter (the biggest I had). Essentially, this is the next size up from the size of cutter I would use to make pierogies with, if that gives some of you an idea on size.
Don't use too much flour because it will be hard to seal your dough later. Another thing I liked about this dough was that second and third cuts from the dough didn't seem to make the dough tough or hard to work with. I could just smoosh it back into a ball and roll it out again.

If you are frying these (and I totally recommend it because they were awesome and you really do only live once), heat your oil to 375. Regular ol' vegetable or canola oil is fine for this. IF you are baking them, preheat your oven to 375.

After cutting my circles, I used a teaspoon to place a little filling in the center. Then I pinched together the sides with my fingers, making sure the whole thing was sealed together. Again, this was just like making pierogies. You can use a fork if you want the edges to be all pretty but it's not necessary. IF you didn't heed my warning about too much flour and the sides aren't sticking together, keep a small bowl of water nearby and wet the edges with a bit off your finger and seal that way.

I managed to get exactly 24 empanadas from this recipe with exactly the right amount of filling.
For frying, drop in 2 or 3 at a time and watch the dough get those sweet flaky blisters on the outside. Fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side before removing to a rack over a sheet pan to catch any excessive oil. *Do not drain things on paper towel. All you are doing is setting your food back in cold oil that it will just re-absorb, making your food soggy and yucky (*technical term). Make sure you allow the oil to stay at proper temp or you'll have soggy empanadas.

If you are baking these, I'm sorry  er, bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden.

I meant to have a picture of the pile of these that I served for dinner but, seriously, they got devoured before I had a chance.

MMM, cheesy goodness, flaky crust

I also think the next time I've got some left over taco meat or fajita meat, I'm gonna make another batch of empanadas with it.

Now, imagine these babies filling with some cinnamon apple or pumpkin or peaches and ginger. Imagine putting some cold creamy vanilla icecream on them too. Not. Too. Shabby.

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