Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mojo Chicken Empanadas

I love snacky foods. Can I hold it in my hand? Can I dip it in something? Then I'm probably a fan.

So when I saw a recipe for baked empanadas a while back, I was intrigued. Empanadas, in case you don't know, are like little savory pastries, like apple turnovers with meat. And while I'm a southerner who'd eat just about anything fried, frying is a pain in the butt. And also an expansion of the butt. So I perked up at a baked version.

These were the baked empanadas I first spotted on the Internet: I made picadillo from that site (and fell in love with capers), stuffed the shells and knew I'd found a food that felt like a snack and filled like a grown-up meal. So naturally I thought, what else can I put in an empanada shell? I think the answer is probably "anything." But Jon and I decided to try a chicken filling. I envisioned something like a chicken fajita, chopped up and in a pastry.

I had to go to a local Latin market to find the shells, which are in the freezer area. (Sure, you can make your own, but I'm lazy, and the store-bought shells are delicious, and only cost a couple of bucks for about a dozen). We chose a Goya brand of empanada shells, with a red and blue package that said "tapas para empanadas." They also said "para horno," which I believe means "for baking." There are different types for baking or frying, so do make sure you get a baking shell.

We also got a big bottle of Goya mojo sauce. Several years ago we visited Miami, briefly, and ate some sort of local fast-food that involved shrimp with a mojo sauce for dipping. Thereafter we tried to recreate the mojo sauce (with not much luck) but decided to try out the Goya mojo as a marinade.


1 package chicken (we used chicken tenderloins, it was a bit over a pound)
1 onion
1 bell pepper (we used green)
Most of a big bottle of Goya mojo sauce
Two packages of Goya brand frozen empanada discs
Some cilantro and green onion, to taste
A few dashes of hot sauce, a few sprinkles of cumin
Some cheese, like monterey jack or queso blanco or cheddar
Spray oil

Directions: Remove the empanada discs from the freezer and let thaw for about an hour. Trim and marinate the chicken in the mojo sauce, using as much as seems necessary to coat the chicken. We let it sit for a couple of hours, stirring the chicken around now and then although I think thirty minutes is probably a minimum. Cook the chicken in the marinade and then shred with a fork. Dice the onion and green pepper. Return the chicken to a skillet and add the onion and green pepper, sauteeing until the vegetables are softened. Taste your chicken -- while the mojo was strongly-flavored in the bottle, the chicken was actually was pretty mild (still flavorful) once it was cooked.We wanted a slightly stronger flavor so we added a tablespoon or two more mojo sauce (you want it flavorful but you're not looking for a wet, liquid result here) and a dash or two of hot sauce and a sprinkle of cumin). Remove from heat and mix in the cilantro and green onion (and you can leave these out if you're not someone who likes cilantro. We had them on hand). Let cool.

I didn't take a picture of the chicken mixture after we cooked the empanadas, so here's a picture of the filling:

Heat the oven to 350 to 400, depending on your oven. Open the package of empanada shells, take one out, and lay it on a flat surface. Use a rolling pin (or, if you're like me, a large canned-food item, with saran wrap protecting the shell) to roll it out slightly larger. Spoon a tablespoon or two of filling into one side of the shell, leaving a half-inch or so of free shell around the edge, and sprinkle some cheese on top of the filling. Dip your finger in a bowl of water and run it around the edge of the shell, which will make it stick together. Fold the other side of the shell over the filling, lining up the two edges (it should look like a half-moon now) and then folding the edges over to seal. You could probably fork it. Whatever, just make it seal. Spray a baking pan with oil and lay the empanadas on it, then spray them again with oil. (You can also whisk an egg and brush it over the tops, which I did the first time I made empanadas, but then I decided it wasn't necessary.)

Here's what they look like before they're cooked:

Bake about 15 minutes and check them; Jon decided to flip these and bake a few more minutes, which worked with these Goya shells, although I haven't done the flip with past shells. If they've browned, they're done. We dipped them in green salsa and corn salsa.

*A note on shells: different brands seem to provide quite different consistencies. The brands I'd tried in the past created hard shells, but this one had a delicious buttery, flaky crust, like a pastry. Jon ate his with a fork. It depends on your preference, but just make sure you're getting a type meant for baking. Also, when filling them, be careful because the dough can rip. But it's also possible to sort of push the filling around once you've folded the shell over, to help lessen the chance that it'll puff up and half your empanada will be air.

(click here for the printable recipe)

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