Chicken Empanadas with a Spicy-Smooth Green Salsa


I’ll be teaching a hands-on Mexican snack class at Kitchen on Fire in Berkeley on May 3 for Cinco de Mayo. This is one of the recipes I developed for the class. The recipe requires quite a few steps, but they are all easy and relatively quick. This dough is an adaptation of the empanada dough in The Jimtown Store Cookbook and very easy to work with.

Bring these to the next party you’re invited to. I guarantee they’ll be a hit. I think I made a few new friends with these when I recently did just that. You could also make larger empanadas and serve them for a meal.

The finished empanadas freeze well before they are baked so if you are having a cocktail party these are a great candidate for making ahead. Just pull them out of the freezer and let them sit for about 10 minutes to thaw slightly, and bake just before serving.

Recipe makes about 55 empanadas with extra salsa

For the Dough:
Start 2 to 3 hours ahead

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
6 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

In a food processor, combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt. Pulse to blend. Add the butter and cream cheese and process until the fat looks like small pebbles and the mixture comes together when pressed with your fingers. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten slightly with your palms, wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

For the Salsa:

1 pound tomatillos
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 jalapenos (plus one more if you are making the chicken filling below)
1/2 of a small white onion, sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices
1 avocado
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and Freshly ground pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to a boil, husk the tomatillos and drop them into the water. Boil for 5 to 8 minutes, until they are soft. Drain and set aside.

In a medium dry skillet or comal, over medium heat, toast the whole unpeeled garlic cloves, whole jalapenos, and onion slices, turning occasionally, until browned, fragrant, and soft.

When the garlic is cool enough to handle, peel it. Remove the stems from the jalapenos and some, none, or all of the seeds, depending on how hot you want your salsa.

Transfer the drained tomatillos, peeled garlic, jalapenos, onion, and the flesh of the avocado to a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Stir in the cilantro and salt and pepper.

For the Chicken Filling:

Note: This is a great and easy way to poach chicken for any Latin American dish, but you can also use leftover shredded roast chicken. You’ll need about 2 cups for the amount of dough in this recipe.

1/2 pound chicken, dark or light, depending on your preference (I like thighs)
1/4 of an onion
1 garlic clove, unpeeled and smashed
2 sprigs cilantro
4 to 5 peppercorns
Pinch of cumin seeds

Put all of the above ingredients in a small saucepan and fill with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and simmer 5 minutes. Turn off heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove, cool, and shred the chicken into very small pieces. Save the resulting broth for another use, like cooking rice, or adding to a soup.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced very small
1 jalapeno, charred as above, seeded, and chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder or smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon cumin (from toasted and freshly ground seeds, if you have them)
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
2 cups finely shredded chicken (from recipe above or leftover)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a medium skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft and fragrant. Add the tomatoes, jalapeno, chipotle powder or smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, and chicken. Saute until the ingredients are well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add a little chicken broth or water if the mixture seems dry. Set aside to cool.


To assemble:
You’ll need one egg beaten with a little water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into rounds with a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter. Gather the dough scraps and roll out one more time. Place a scant 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling in the center of each round and brush the edges with beaten egg. Fold each one over to close, sealing the edges with the tines of a fork. Brush the tops with beaten egg and poke a couple of times with the fork to let the steam escape. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant. Serve immediately or at room temperature with the salsa above for dipping.

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