chicken & cheese empanadas

empanadas by the james kitchen
empanadas, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

When I buy a chicken for supper we always have a ton of leftovers and since it is a super french free range, Label rouge, grown up chicken, we want to use up every bit.

So, we might have a roast chicken to start with, the next day I will take it to pieces and save the bones and debris for stock (stash it in the freezer until there is a gathering of two or three carcasses to make a big batch of stock and there is the leisure time to do it). Then there is all the leftover meat and roughly a trillion things to use it for. Last time we made chicken & cheese empanadas baked in the oven (healthy baby) although we have freid them occasionally, too. The filling itself is savoury, garlicy, cheesy and crunchy – so tasty that you really have to stop yourself “testing” it all the time (for seasoning, of course, ähm, for seasoning, and what about the seasoning?). Check again for seasoning, if you must. The dough is so quick to make, although I find that it is hard to reuse the cut-offs since it gets unflexibile.Normally this amount of dough is enough for two greedy people and some lunch pickings for the next day or four reasonably behaved eaters.

Empanada dough

3 cups of all-purpose flour (type 405)

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup of ice-cold water

1 egg + 1 egg white (use the remaining egg yolk to glaze the pastry)

1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons of cold butter, cut in cubes

Mix the eggs with the water and vinegar. Put the flour and salt into a food processor, add the butter pieces and blend with a few quick pulses. Add the wet ingredients and pulse again until a dough has just about come together. Of course, this could be made as well by hand or with a pastry blender. Knead the dough just a few times by hand to form a smooth ball and wrap the dough into cling film and cool for at least 1 hour. In the meantime, make the filling.

Preheat the oven to 180/200° C or 400° F. Roll out the dough about 3mm (1/8 inch) thick and cut out circles. Either larger or smaller circles depending on the size of your preferred empanada. We used a ravioli cutter with a diameter of 12 cm (4.5 inches) and got about 14 discs. Fill with about 1 heaped tablespoon of the chicken & cheese filling, close the empanadas, pressing the edges firmly together (if nobody gave you this handy gadget for Christmas, then use a fork to seal the pockets) and brush with the egg yolk (mixed with a dash of water). Bake for about 12 minutes. Depending on your empanada sizes adjust the timing. Of course, they could be fried in hot oil, too and will taste fabulous as well.

Chicken & cheese filling

left over chicken meat, chopped in pea size pieces

1 red onion, diced

1 red or yellow (bell) pepper, diced

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2-3 tablespoons of pickled jalapenos, chopped

1 teaspoon cumin

salt, pepper, cayenne pepper or chili flakes

grated cheese ( I use 1/2 cheddar cheese and 1/2 middle-age gouda chesse), just about double the amount than chicken

Mix all the ingredients together, I like a little more cheese than chicken, but a fair amount of vegetables in the mixture. Generally I use what I have got and that has to do and usually is very tasty. Although I would keep these proportions as a guidance in mind. Adjust the seasoning, add more chili or jalapenos for more spice and maybe you will have to add some more cumin.

Dig in. So far we have never even tried a different filling. What is your favourite?

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