First Attempt at Empanadas

1 Jun

Not the prettiest empanadas around

I think there are definitely some foods that are easier to cook if you grew up watching them being made in your kitchen. I may not have picked up the exact recipe for risotto from my mom, but I made a pretty good version on my first attempt because I knew what the technique was all about from watching her make it many times. Empanadas, however, had never been seen in our kitchen until a couple of weeks ago, when I decided to try making them. My parents noted that they are essentially Cornish pasties, a British staple, with a different dough… but that didn’t help much, as we’ve always bought Cornish pasties instead of making them. So I was on my own here, hoping the sauce was the right consistency and inexpertly rolling out discs of dough to inconsistent thicknesses. I’m sure they would have been prettier (and maybe tastier) if I had had years of experience watching and helping someone make them, but I think they turned out pretty delicious regardless, and hopefully I will just get better at it. Next time, I would probably chop the chicken finer and thicken the sauce even longer, as I felt I ended up with mainly big chunks of chicken in these, instead of all the other delicious things.

Making things round is hard

Empanadas, and especially these empanadas, are definitely not a quick dinner. The dough can be made ahead of time, and I would suggest making the filling well ahead of time, as well, so that you are not sitting around hoping it will hurry up and cool already. The original recipe from Smitten Kitchen/Gourmet made extra dough for the amount of filling. I went the opposite route and made more filling than dough (because I couldn’t be bothered thinking through too many conversions). I still came out with 12 empanadas, which left lots of leftovers after 3 of us ate them for dinner, and the filling was delicious on its own for lunch. I also accidentally had Mexican/fresh rather than Spanish/dried chorizo. It worked fine but required pre-cooking, which the Spanish would not.

The finished filling

Chicken, Chorizo and Olive Empanadas (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Makes 12 empanadas, with leftover filling
Equipment: Baking sheet, preferably with silpat; large skillet with lid
Ingredients
Dough:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 stick (1/2 cup, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold
1 large egg
1/3 cup ice water
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar

Filling:

About 2 pounds chicken. Whole legs (including thighs), or whole bone-in breasts, split.
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 oz (1/3 cup chopped) dried Spanish chorizo, or 2-3 links fresh Mexican chorizo
1/2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
1/4 cup chopped pitted green olives
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 egg for egg wash

Make Dough: Up to six hours ahead of time, sift flour with salt into your largest bowl. Cut butter into 1/2 inch cubes, and work into flour with fingertips or pasty blender until it resembles coarse meal, with some (roughly pea-sized) lumps. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl. Add to flour mixture, mixing with fork until just incorporated, the mixture will look shaggy. If bowl is big enough, gather dough in bowl and knead gently once or twice with heal of your hand until it just comes together. If your bowl is not big enough, do this step on a lightly-floured surface. Form dough into a flat rectangle and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 1-6 hours.

Make Filling: If using fresh chorizo, remove from casings and brown in large, heavy skillet over medium heat until some fat has rendered out. Drain fat and remove chorizo. Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the large, heavy skilled over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken, turning over once, about 6 minutes total, and transfer to a plate. Halve onions lengthwise and then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Mince garlic cloves. Saute onions, garlic and bay leaves in fat remaining in skillet, stirring frequently, until onions are softened, 4-5 minutes.

Add chorizo and paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add olives, wine, and broth and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits. Return chicken to skillet along with any juices accumulated on plate, then reduce heat to moderately low and simmer chicken, covered, turning over once, until tender, 25 to 30 minutes total.

Transfer chicken to a clean plate. (Sauce in skillet should be the consistency of heavy cream; if it’s not, briskly simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.) (Gina’s note: no idea if my sauce was the right consistency, but it seemed pretty thin even after simmering for a few minutes.)When chicken is cool enough to handle, discard skin and bones and coarsely chop meat. Stir chicken into sauce and discard bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper, then cool filling, uncovered, about 30 minutes.

Form Empanadas: Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 400°F. Divide first dough into 12 equal pieces and form each into a disk. Keeping remaining pieces covered, roll out 1 piece on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 5-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick).

Spoon about 2 tablespoons filling onto center and fold dough in half, enclosing filling. Press edges together to seal, then crimp decoratively with your fingers or tines of a fork. Transfer empanada to a baking sheet, lined with a silicone mat or waxed paper. (Mine stuck fiercely to parchment paper.) Make eleven more in same manner.

Beat an egg with 1 tbsp of water. Lightly brush empanadas with some of egg wash and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer empanadas to a rack to cool at least 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

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