Chicken Empanadas: Latin American Pastry

Chicken Empanadas are a delightful treasure of Latin American cuisine, featuring a flaky pastry crust that encases a savory, spiced chicken filling. These handheld treats trace their roots back to Spain and Portugal but have been lovingly embraced and adapted by cultures across Latin America, each adding their unique twist to the recipe. A staple at celebrations and family gatherings, empanadas can be fried or baked and are equally delicious when served hot or at room temperature, making them perfect for picnics or on-the-go snacks. Chicken Empanadas are not just a meal; they are a celebration of flavor and tradition wrapped up in a golden, crumbly crust.

Ingredients for Chicken Empanadas

  • For the dough:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • For the filling:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup green olives, chopped
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, chopped (optional)
  • 1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

Cooking Steps for Chicken Empanadas

  • Begin with the dough: In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 egg, cold water, and vinegar. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture, stirring until a dough forms.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently. Form into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  • For the filling, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion until translucent, then add garlic, paprika, cumin, and chili powder, cooking until fragrant.
  • Add the shredded chicken to the skillet, pour in chicken broth, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the liquid has reduced. Stir in the chopped olives and hard-boiled egg if using. Let the mixture cool completely.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C) if baking. Roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out round disc shapes using a large cookie cutter or the rim of a bowl.
  • Spoon a portion of the chicken mixture into the center of each dough round. Fold the dough over the filling to create a half-moon shape. Seal the edges by pressing with a fork or folding decoratively.
  • Place the empanadas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops with beaten egg for a golden finish.
  • Bake for 18-25 minutes, or fry in hot oil until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

In summary, Chicken Empanadas are a versatile and universally loved dish that can be enjoyed as a snack, appetizer, or main course. The success of your empanadas relies heavily on the freshness and quality of your ingredients—both for the dough and the filling. Using cold, unsalted butter and ice water for the dough will ensure a flakier pastry. For the filling, fresh, aromatic spices and well-seasoned chicken will create a filling that is moist and flavorful. Whether you choose to bake or fry, these empanadas will be a hit, offering a little parcel of joy that captures the essence of Latin American culinary artistry.

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