After my post on how to make tender and flaky short crust pastry, I thought it would be appropriate to post a recipe that uses short crust pastry. So today I'm sharing—without too much comment—a recipe for Chicken Empanadas that I found several years ago in an article on Spanish Tapas in Gourmet magazine. The original recipe was made with a yeast dough instead of pie dough...but since I love empanadas made with short crust pastry, that's how I have always made them and that's how I will pass the recipe along to you.
This is one of my favorite empanada fillings. It is moist and loaded with flavor. The recipe may seem a bit complicated (the list of ingredients is a bit long)—but with a little organization and planning it is fairly easy to make. If you are familiar with the technique of braising, you will recognize that this filling is just a simple braise. I hope to write a tutorial on braising this winter—and when I do, I will post the link here. But until then, if you carefully follow the method as described in the recipe you should not have any problems.
There are a couple of things in the recipe that are worth emphasizing. First, make sure that the liquid that remains in the pan after the chicken has finished cooking is reduced to the consistency of heavy cream. If the liquid is too runny, the empanadas will be soggy.
Secondly, make sure the filling is cold before building the empanadas. If it is warm, it will melt the butter in the pastry. The filling is also much easier to handle when it is cold. I find that it works best to make the filling the day before I need it—not only will it have plenty of time to chill, but the flavors will have a chance to blend.
As with almost any empanada recipe, you can make these in any size that will suit your needs—from small "two-bite" sized empanadillas for tapas or appetizers to larger turnovers more appropriate for an entrée portion. The only changes you need to make are the oven temperature (450° for smaller empanadillas and 400° for empanadas) and the cooking time (12 to 15 minutes for the smaller size and 20 to 25 for the larger).
Whatever size you make them, they can be frozen—in their baked or unbaked form. If you freeze them before baking, they should be placed directly in a preheated oven from the freezer. They will only take a few moments longer to bake than they do when they are baked from fresh. And when you pull them piping hot from the oven—for your next party...or for a quick meal on a busy weeknight—after having made them weeks before, this will seem like one of the easiest and most convenient recipes in your repertoire.
Chicken & Chorizo Empanadas with Olives & Raisins
2 to 2 1/2 lbs. whole chicken legs, including thighs
1 t. salt—or to taste
1/4 t. black pepper—or to taste
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, cut in a 1/4-inch dice
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
2 oz. finely diced Spanish chorizo (cured spiced pork sausage, casings discarded if desired)
1 t. Spanish smoked paprika
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/3 c. chopped green olives
1/3 c. golden raisins
3/4 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 recipe short crust pastry (below)
Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot, but not smoking, then brown chicken, turning over once, about 15 to 20 minutes total, and transfer to a plate.
Sauté onions, garlic, and bay leaves in fat remaining in skillet, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and beginning to caramelize, about 15 minutes.
Add chorizo and paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Add wine, stirring and scraping up any brown bits, and reduce by half. Add olives, raisins and broth and bring to a boil. 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 and cooked through, 30 to 45 minutes.
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.) When chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the bones and cartilage and finely chop the meat and skin.
Stir chicken into sauce and discard bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Chill the filling before using.
To form the empanadas, bring the dough to room temperature. Roll a sixth of the dough out on lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut dough into 3-inch rounds. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of filling in the center of each round.
Paint edges with egg, fold dough over filling and pinch to seal. Transfer formed empanadas to parchment lined baking sheets and brush with more egg wash. Gather the scraps and combine with another sixth of the pastry. Roll out, cut and form more empanadas as with the first batch of dough. Continue to form and roll, incorporating the scraps each time until you have used all of the filling. Chill the formed empanadas for at least 30 minutes. (See Spinach Empanada post for detailed instructions and pictures of rolling dough for empanadas). Bake at 450° until golden brown—about 12 to 15 minutes. Serve warm. Makes about 60 empanadillas.
Note: These freeze very well. After forming and placing on parchment lined sheets, freeze until hard. Transfer to freezer bags. Bake from frozen, adding a few minutes to the total cooking time.
To make larger empanadas for a light entrée (to serve with a salad): Roll dough out and cut 12 5.5- by 5.5-inch squares or 12 6-inch rounds. Place 1/12 of the filling (about 1/3 cup) on each of the squares (or rounds). Paint edges with egg, fold and seal. Brush with more egg wash and cut 2 or 3 vents in the top of the empanada. If you have larger appetites, serve two per person, or cut larger squares/rounds of pastry and make 8 empanadas with 1/2 cup filling each. To bake larger empanadas, reduce the oven temperature to 400° and increase the cooking time to about 25 minutes. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling through the vents.
(Empanada filling recipe from Gourmet Magazine, January 2005)
Short Crust Pastry
1 t. salt
3 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (340g)
1/2 to 3/4 c. ice water
Combine the flour and the salt in a medium-sized bowl. Rub the butter into the flour until the butter is in small pea-sized pieces. Drizzle 1/2 c. ice water over the flour/butter mixture. Using your hands, fluff the mixture until it begins to clump, adding more water if necessary. Turn the dough out onto a counter and form into a mound. Using the heel of your hand, gradually push all of the dough away from you in short forward strokes, flattening out the lumps. Continue until all of the dough is flat. Using a bench scraper, scrape the dough off the counter, forming it into a single clump as you do. Turn the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and press into a disc. Chill dough for at least 30 minutes.