Spicy chicken empanadas are a bite sized appetizer, perfect for parties or a Cinco de Mayo celebration!
Empanadas came into my life at a time when I needed them most. It was summer, and we were doing an inordinate amount of picnicking–as a mother with two toddlers is wont to do–and I was running out of ideas for “portable” lunches/snacks. While my eldest two sons were content to eat nothing but sandwiches or cheese & crackers, I would have preferred to eat large salads, or bagels & lox, or hummus with vegetables for lunch. However, my toddlers were highly suspicious of such things. All I knew was that if I had to eat another sandwich, I was going to lose
what was left of my mind.
Kid food will do that to a person.
Thankfully, my sweet Bacon Slayer came to the rescue when he brought home the wrong thing for dinner one night. No, really! I’d asked him to stop at a little market in the Mexicantown area of Detroit on his way home to pick up tamales, but what he came home with was empanadas. Apparently it wasn’t Tamale Day at the little market. Lucky for us, it was Empanada Day! Their empanadas were fantastic! My boys devoured them faster than I could plop them on their plates. I knew at that moment that I had found something to save me from the sandwich-and-cracker-oblivion that was driving me mad.
I guess you could say that empanadas saved my sanity.
As my family has grown over the past eight years, this recipe has evolved to this current incarnation, and Friends–I have to tell ya–these empanadas are by far my favorite snack/appetizer/meal on the planet! The savory chicken filling has just enough heat to compliment the slightly sweet corn dough that encases it.
Empanadas make a great snack, picnic meal-on-the-run, or party appetizer. The dough takes minimal effort, and the filling can (read: should) be made with leftover chicken and pantry items. Win-Win-Win-Win-Win!
And they freeze beautifully for another Win.
For the dough gather milk, unsalted butter, egg yolks, all-purpose flour, baking powder, kosher salt, and masa harina.
Place the flour, masa harina, baking powder, and kosher salt to the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse 5 times to distribute the dry ingredients.
Food Dork Interjection: Masa, literally translated, means “dough flour.” Masa harina is a finely ground dough flour made from specially treated corn that has been dried, soaked with lime, ground, and dried again. You cannot substitute regular cornmeal, as the both taste and texture will be off. Masa harina can be found in the ethnic/Mexican/world foods section of larger grocery stores, Mexican specialty markets, or online. But I digress…
Add the cubed butter to the bowl and toss to coat. A fork would be a wise utensil for tossing butter into flour when a sharp blade is just below the surface. I used my fingers because I live on the edge. Don’t be like me.
Pulse 3 to 5 times, or until the butter is the size of small peas.
Drizzle the egg yolks over the pebbly mixture. The yolks don’t need to be beaten ahead of time–one of mine broke when I was separating the eggs. It happens.
Just try to spread out the yolks as much as possible so that they don’t ooze to the bottom of the work bowl.
Oh! Be sure to save the egg whites after you separate the yolks–you’ll be needing those a little later.
Pulse a few more times until the egg yolk is distributed–you’ll be able to tell because the mixture will take on a pale yellow hue. Pretty!
Turn the processor on and slowly pour the milk through the feed tube. I highly recommend pouring from a liquid measuring cup to minimize spillage. I was being lazy and didn’t feel like transferring the milk back to a measuring cup after the cast photo, and as you can see, that move got me a Do-Over because most of the milk missed the feed tube entirely and I had to start over. Le sigh.
After slowly adding the milk, continue to let the processor run until the dough comes together–about 3 minutes. Initially the dough is going to look like it will never come together, but just give it a little time and it will happen.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, roll into a ball, and cover loosely with plastic wrap so that it doesn’t dry out. Allow the dough to rest for about 10 minutes while you make the filling.
The filling requires cooked chicken that has been shredded & diced, cheddar cheese, McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning, ground cinnamon, cumin, chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, and salsa.
Set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and place the salsa into the strainer. Let the salsa drain for several minutes to get rid of some of the juice. Trust me when I tell you that soggy empanadas are a real bummer. For real, Dude.
Finely mince a few chipotles in adobo sauce. (Pssst! Chipotle chilies in adobo sauce= smoke jalapeno peppers canned in tomato sauce.) I usually chop up two of them for a nice bit of back heat, but if you can take the heat, by all means add a few more!
Place the shredded & diced chicken, minced chipotles, drained salsa, cumin, cinnamon, and Montreal Steak Seasoning into a bowl.
Give it a good stir and then set it all aside to get happy whilst you tend to the empanada dough.
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Roll the dough to 1/8-inch thickness and cut discs with a 3-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter. If you don’t have a circular cutter, then the rim of a drinking glass will do. Re-roll pieces and repeat until all of the dough is used. I usually end up with between 28 and 32 discs, depending on how thin I rolled the dough that day.
Place the discs onto a baking sheet, one inch apart, and scoop a teaspoon of filling onto the center of each one.
Plop a pinch of cheddar onto the filling.
Remember those egg whites that I told you to save? Get ’em out and whip ’em with a tablespoon of water until they get nice and frothy. Then brush the egg wash around half of the perimeter of the dough circles. The egg wash dries out quickly, so I usually only do 4 to 6 at a time.
Fold the discs in half over the filling, being careful to keep the filling in the center of the dough. Press the edges lightly with your fingers to seal before pressing firmly with a fork to crimp the edges closed. Continue until all of the empanadas are sealed.
Bake at 375° F for 12 minutes or until empanadas are golden. See that crispy leakage of cheese emanating from an empanada that didn’t seal properly? That crispy-cheesy mess is fair game for snacking on right out of the oven. If you’re into that sort of thing.
Transfer finished empanadas to a wire rack. Empanadas should be served immediately with a little salsa and guacamole for a great appetizer or snack.
Or…OR! Serve ’em up along side a big ol’ salad and classic margaritas and call it a meal. Or you can be like me and pack your empanadas in a cooler and enjoy them cold while picnicking at the beach. Delicious! And if I’m really being honest, then I’d tell you that leftover empanadas are equally delicious right out of the ‘fridge for breakfast.
What that TMI? I never can tell.
Bottom line? These Spicy Chicken Empanadas rock, so eat them any which way you can.