Monday, December 31, 2012

Grubbus Cooks: Chicken Empanadas

I should be clear about this right up front. These are really good empanadas, better than just about any you could score in town. Just about. Because the empanadas at Buenos Aires Cafe, full of delicious and some kind of black magic, beat the pants off any other entrant in the entire grand empanda universe.

Chicken Empanadas
12 empanadas - about 4 servings.

The Filling
1 split bone-in chicken breast (2 breasts, about 1.5 pounds)
1 tablespoon neutral oil (I like grapeseed)
1 medium-size onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 teaspoons ground ancho chile (or good chili powder - I like Ancho Mama)
4-5 chipotles in adobo (I like San Marcos better than Goya - a 7oz can works well)
4 cups chicken broth
1 tomato, peeled and chopped
1 lime, juiced
1/3 lb. Cotija Cheese, grated (sharp cheddar works OK as well)

The Dough
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup masa (or masa harina - in Austin, the easiest to find is Maseca, in the 5lb bag)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes (lard works well here too)
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup milk

The Dough, Part 1
Whisk together the flour, masa, baking powder, and salt. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut in the butter, or just toss it all in the food processesor with the regular blade for about 5 seconds. Just like pie dough, the texture should be gritty, along the lines of super-coarse corn meal.

Whisk together the egg yolk and the water and add to the dough a little at a time, gently working the dough until it comes together into a ball - this may or may not take all of the water/egg mixture. This is a dry dough, and it'll be a little crumbly until you get it good and chilled.

Cut the dough ball into 12 sections, wrap each in plastic wrap, and throw them all into the fridge for at least 20 minutes. 20 minutes works, but best results for me were when it chilled for about an hour. While the dough is chilling...

The Filling, Part 1
Preheat the oven to 450

Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Heat a large pot (at least 6 quarts) over medium high heat. Add the oil and sear the chicken breast for a minute or so on each side. It should stick a little. This is good. We'll use all those bits that stick to the pot later. Remove the chicken to a plate to rest.

Add the onion to the pot and saute for about 5 minutes, until softened, then add the garlic and saute for a minute or so more. Add the broth and deglaze the pan with a wooden spoon.

Now, everything else goes in. Cumin, ancho, chiplotle, tomatoes. Crank up the heat. When it comes to a boil, add the chicken. At this point, you are dealing with some seriously spicy broth, at least by my standards. No worries. The chicken that comes out has only the mildest of kicks. Reduce the heat to low, maintaining a simmer, and cover. Let the chicken simmer for another 25 minutes. While the filling is simmering...

The Dough, Part 2
Take each little dough ball in turn and roll it out to about 9 x 9 inches on a floured board. If it's too hard to work the dough, warm it up just a bit in your hands. If it's too sticky, more flour. I use an 8 1/2 inch salad plate as a template, and cut around the edge to get the dough to an even circle. Hang on to the extra dough until you're through assembly.

The Filling, Part 2
Remove the chicken breasts from the broth, and into a good-sized bowl. Remove and discard the skin. Add about a cup of the broth. Using two forks, shred the chicken down to the bone. Toss the bone. Add the lime juice. If it still seems a bit dry, add more broth.

Final stretch here. Take a dough-circle, add a good-size dollop of the filling, top with the cotija, brush the edges of the dough-circle with water and fold it over. Using your fingers first, fold the edge of the dough over, rolling the bottom layer over the top layer. Use a fork to crimp the edges together securely. If things start to fall apart a little at this stage, just patch it up with the extra dough left over from rolling it out.

Place the empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet (I use a little high-heat spray to make sure they come up easy, but that may just be paranoia - I think they'd be fine without it). Brush each empanada with milk, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until they're golden brown.

Serve with the lime wedges and salsa (don't laugh -  but I love the La Frontera Chipotle Salsa with this).

That's it. You can stuff these with anything, though I don't have a reliable source for black magic. You need to hit Buenos Aires Cafe for that.

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