I have a great love of what I think of as international hot pockets. A delicious savory filling in a pastry crust is always a winner in my book, and it seems like every cuisine has one. Samosas, dumplings, peirogies, pasties…they’re all excellent.
So when I saw this empanada recipe on Smitten Kitchen I immediately added it to the list of potential frozen apps to bring to the shore with my family.
I made some changes, mostly switching out the chorizo (which I don’t often have) for Italian sausage (which I do always have), and using hot Hungarian paprika instead of sweet Spanish paprika. Pretty sure my changes resulted in highly inauthentic empanadas, but they were a huge hit with my family. There was talk of my quitting my job to open an empanada shack, and there was some skepticism about whether I had really made them myself since I just pulled them out of a plastic bag in the freezer and threw them in the oven. So yeah, not only is the filling tender and flavorful and the crust flaky and buttery, but they freeze wonderfully. I make them in giant quadruple batches and freeze them in gallon freezer bags. Sadly I think I’ll have to hang onto my day job. They’re good, but they aren’t that good.
Chicken and Sausage Empanadas adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 24 empanadas
- 2.5 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (or thighs+legs)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper pepper
- olive oil
- 3 hot Italian sausages
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp hot paprika
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup white wine*
- 1/3 cups chopped green olives (I just use the standard cocktail olives with pimentos. Pretty sure it’s meant to be the much better non-pimento-ed kind. Use what you’ve got)
Sprinkle chicken w/ salt and pepper and brown well on both sides in a swirl of olive oil in a deep skillet. Remove chicken and set aside.
Squeeze sausage out of the casing and brown well in skillet, breaking up into small pieces as it cooks. Drain off excess fat if needed, you want some still in there, but you don’t want it to be swimming in grease.
Saute the onions and garlic w/ the sausage till the onions are softened. Add the bay leaf and paprika and cook for another minute. Add olives, broth and wine*, and bring to a boil, deglazing the bottom of the pan. (i.e. scraping up the yummy brown bits). Put the chicken pieces back in the pan along with any collected juices and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes until the chicken is nearly fall off the bone tender.
Pull out the chicken pieces and place them on a (clean) plate and allow them to cool until you can handle them. While the chicken is cooling, if needed, simmer the remaining stock/wine/onion mixture until the liquid is the consistency of heavy cream.
Remove the skin and pull the meat off the bones in small pieces and mix it back into the broth/onion mixture and allow to cool for ~25 minutes.
Note: *I don’t always have white wine on hand, so sometimes I sub in 1/4 cup dry vermouth and make up the rest of the liquid with extra chicken stock. You could also just use all chicken stock, but the little bit of alcohol definitely adds something worth having. Vermouth is a great general sub for white wine because it keeps much much longer than a bottle of wine. A Tbsp here, a Tbsp there, it’ll last you a long while. Plus you’ll be ready if any martini drinkers drop by.
The finished filling, it’s not pretty, but trust me, it’s tasty:
- 4.5 cups flour
- 3 tsp salt
- 2 sticks butter, frozen
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup ice water
- 2 Tbsp white vinegar
- 2 tsp paprika*
Combine flour, salt and paprika and mix well.
Place half of the flour mixture in the base of a food processor fitted with a shredding disc**. Shred the frozen butter. Dump the frozen butter shreds and flour into the rest of the flour mixture into a large bowl, and break up the butter clumps gently and as quickly as possible.
(You are trying to distribute the butter evenly while heating i t up as little as possible.)
Whisk together the cold eggs, ice water and vinegar, add to the flour/butter mixture and mix until the dough just comes together. I’m serious about the coldness here. The colder the liquid the less your butter pieces will melt and the flakier your crust will be. It will still look dry and a little clumpy. Like this:
Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour, and up to 6 hours. While it’s chilling the water will distribute itself and the dough will come together.
*I often make multiple flavors of empanadas in one session to freeze. I realized that i was going to need a way to tell one flavor from another, so I started adding colorful spices to the dough to color code the different flavors (pink/paprika=chicken, yellow/turmeric=beef, brownish/chili powder = pork). I decided I liked the hint of flavor it adds, so I do it all the time now even if I’m only making one flavor.
**The shredding blade is not necessary. It’s my favorite way to make large volumes of pastry crust in short order, but using a hand held pastry cutter, or just two butter knives will work just fine. You just need to break the butter up into small pieces without letting it melt.
Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Work with one piece at a time, and keep the other thirds in the fridge covered with plastic wrap.
Divide each chunk of dough into 8 roughly equal pieces and roll them into balls. Roll each ball out into a 3″ by 7″ inch oval on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin.
Gently pick up the dough oval and make sure that it’s not sticking anywhere, then place 2 Tbsp filling in the center of the circle and fold the dough in half over the filling to make a half circle.
Seal the edges of the pocket by folding the bottom edge over the top and pinching well. Keep the seal close to the filling, but don’t pull it taut. Press the seal all around with the tines of a floured fork.
And now in photos in case the text description makes no sense (sorry about the nail polish):
At this point if you wish you can freeze the empanadas on a tray till firm and then package in freezer bags or saran wrap and foil. (saran first, then foil)
Bake directly from frozen (or unfrozen) at 400 degrees for ~20 minutes on a parchment or silpat lined sheet till golden brown. Your oven may vary, keep a close eye on them and switch the position of the cookie sheets halfway through baking. Remember the filling is already cooked, so no worries about undercooked meat. As soon as the crust is done you are good to go. They’ll look like this:
The one on top there is actually a beef empanada, with tumeric in the dough – hence the yellow color.
And then if you cut one open it’ll look like this, and you’ll want to cram it into into your mouth as quickly as possible so as not to lose any flaky goodness. Mmmm…
P.S. Just for funsies – recipes like this can get pretty tedious. I like working with dough, but when I make a quadruple batch of empanadas (24×4=96) that’s a LOT of rolling and filling and sealing. So this is how I make it less tedious:
That’s blurry me, on the couch in my sister’s living room, rolling out empanadas on a cutting board on my lap (kinda getting flour everywhere…sorry sis) while watching Harry Potter DVD’s. So now you know my secret, and you too can engage in couch cooking! Hopefully you are less messy than I am and/or you have a coffee table without little grooves around the edges to trap the flour when you try to wipe it up. (sorry again sis!)
(The choice of a blurry picture is intentional…my hair is a fright and I think I’m still wearing my PJ’s.)