This is the ultimate "buy it once, serve it twice" recipe, which makes it a double win!
Leftover chicken never tasted better than inside a traditional pastry pocket with sautéed onions, peppers, garlic, and savory spices. This dish freezes well and is great for parties. It’s also a home run with kids because not only do they love the taste, but they can help prepare this recipe using a cookie cutter or upside down bowl to portion the dough. These empanadas are the quintessential technique-not-torture recipe!
Equipment: cutting board; chef’s knife; dry measuring cup; measuring spoons; medium mixing bowl; large sauté pan; wooden spoon; rolling pin; 4-inch cookie cutter or bowl; pastry brush; sheet pan; parchment paper; offset spatula; cooling rack
Dough Ingredients: 1 large egg, beaten 1/3 cup ice water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 additional egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water (for brushing)
Filling Ingredients: 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 large onion, thinly sliced lengthwise 2 small bell peppers, julienne (any color combination) 2 garlic cloves, minced 3 cups of cooked chicken, shredded (half a rotisserie chicken) 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon smoked paprika 1 teaspoon cumin ½ teaspoon black pepper
1. First, prepare the dough:
By hand: In a small mixing bowl combine the egg, water, and vinegar and set aside. Combine the flour kosher salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into tablespoon chunks, then cut each tablespoon into quarters. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and squeeze the butter with the tips of your fingers, working it into the flour, until the fat is the size of peas. Drizzle the egg mixture over the flour mixture and continue working the dough with your fingers until all that fat and flour is incorporated and the dough comes together in a large ball. Gather the dough, kneading it with the heel of your hand until it becomes more smooth (2-3 minutes). Form it into a disc and wrap in plastic and refrigerate. Refrigerate for at least one hour up to overnight.
In the food processor: In a small mixing bowl, combine the egg, water, and vinegar and set aside. Combine the flour and kosher salt in a food processor set with the the dough blade for 10 seconds. Cut the butter into tablespoon chunks and scatter over the flour mixture (while the machine is off). Very carefully pulse in 3-second intervals until the fat is the size of peas. With the machine turned off, drizzle the egg mixture over the flour mixture. Pulse until the dough begins to form into small balls. If the dough will come together when pressed with your fingers, gather the dough, form it into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate. If not, drizzle a bit more ice water over the dough and pulse again. Refrigerate for at least one hour up to overnight.
2. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan, and add onions and peppers; cook for approximately 10 minutes until onions are golden and peppers are softened. Add the the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the chicken, salt, paprika, cumin, and pepper; stir well to incorporate and remove from the heat. Set aside.
"This filling absolutely can be made hours or days in advance because the cooler it is, the easier it will be to form the empanadas."
3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven.
4. On a lightly floured cutting board using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the empanada dough to 1/8-inch thick. Make 8 large circles using a cookie cutter or bowl turned upside down.
5. Moisten the rim of the dough with your index finger dipped in water. Spoon 2 tablespoons chicken filling onto the center of each piece of dough, and fold dough in half, enclosing filling. Press edges together to seal, then crimp decoratively with your fingers or with the tines of a fork. Place the empanadas on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
6. Lightly brush empanadas with the egg wash and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden, switching position of sheets halfway through baking. Transfer the empanadas to a rack to cool at least 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 8 empanadas.
ILOC tip: Chicken is not the only filling fit for an empanada. Leftover maduros (fried sweet plantains) and yucca frita (fried yucca) make a sweet-and-savory explosion, the ideal vegetarian option short on effort and long on flavor.