Prep 3 hrs
Cook 0 mins
Now it is time for a party! My middle son got married to a most wonderful girl and we are welcoming them home from their honeymoon with a small family get-together. As a family favorite, my empanadas will be the principal side dish, along with various and sundry goodies. Everything is ready, I have everything prepared, including the masa. But, alas, in my excitement, I did not realize that I had run out of ground beef! With no time to spare, it is time to improvise. "I'll make chicken empanadas!" I thought. With no previous experience in the matter, I just grabbed 6 chicken thighs, cooked them and pulled the meat apart. So, below you will find my improvisation which, if I say so humbly, turned out as good or better than my beef empanadas. I love when an "experiment" is a success!
- 6 large chicken thighs (skin on for flavor)
- 2 stalks celery (cut in half)
- 1 white onion (cut into large chunks)
- 6 garlic cloves (peeled, whole)
- 1 carrot (cut into 4 inch chunks)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 lbs cornmeal (Yellow or white, preferably Goya brand)
- 3 -4 cups chicken broth (for use with the dry corn meal)
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons cassava meal (yuca starch)
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin (for the masa) (optional)
- 2 bunches green onions, cut into 1/4 bits
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped into small chunks
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 1⁄4 cup butter or 1⁄4 cup margarine or 4 tablespoons your favorite cooking oil
- 3 medium potatoes (cut into 1/2 inch chunks and boiled)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- The Chicken.
- - Place chicken thighs in a large pot with 8 cups of boiling water.
- - Add the celery, onion, garlic, Kosher salt and cumin.
- - Boil over medium heat for approximately 1 hour (or until chicken is cooked).
- - With a slotted spoon, carefully remove chicken from the pot, place it in a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Allow it to cool until safe to handle.
- - Cover the pot and continue to cook the stock on low heat.
- - Once the chicken has cooled, remove the skin and the bones. Drop the bones and skin into the stock pot, cover and continue to cook. With your fingers, pull the chicken meat apart so it resembles shredded meat. Put into a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
- - Allow the chicken stock to boil on low heat for another hour. Using a sieve, separate the broth from all the rest of the ingredients and allow it to cool for about 30 minutes. Discard the stock ingredients.
- The Dough.
- - Mix all the dry ingredients together (corn meal, brown sugar, yuca starch and optional cumin) in a large bowl and begin to add the chicken broth until you have a smooth, humid, easy to work dough. I usually add two cups and work the dough with my hands. Then, I add the chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time until I get the consistency I need.
- - Cover the bowl and let the “masa” rest for about one hour in the refrigerator.
- The Filling.
- - In a frying pan, heat the butter, margarine or oil over medium heat and saute the onions and tomatoes. (Here you can add cumin to taste).
- - In a large bowl, combine the chicken, potatoes, chopped cilantro, garlic powder and pepper.
- - Add the sauteed onion-tomato mixture and stir until well blended. Check for salt and adjust spices to your liking.
- The Empanada.
- - Now, if you have a tortilla press, you’re sitting pretty for the next step. If you don’t have one, two pieces of 1” wood about 8” square will do just fine. Lacking that, anything flat and a counter top will work. Or, if you feel adventurous, you can use your own two little hands!
- - Roll the “masa” (dough) into little balls about 1” in diameter. Cover the bottom part of the tortilla press with a piece of plastic wrap. Place the masa ball on top of the plastic wrap. Cover with another piece of plastic and press it into a flat circle (depending on the size of the original masa ball, the flat circle will turn out to be about 3 to 4 inches in diameter). Remove the top piece of plastic. Now add about one rounded tablespoon of the filling to the middle of the circle leaving about 1/2” of space on the sides. Using the plastic, fold the circle in half and press the edges together so it forms a half-moon. While still in the plastic, press the edges firmly together between your thumb and middle finger so the empanada is sealed. I like to make them pretty so, after the empanada is sealed, I remove it from the plastic and use the tip of my finger to fold the edges at small intervals so that the empanada has a “scalloped” look to the edges.
- - Cook them in bunches but don’t prepare too many at a time and let them sit while the others cook since this tends to dry out the masa too much. Also, as you are cooking, keep the bowl of masa covered with a humid towel to keep it from getting too dry.
- - The traditional method, of course, is to fry the empanadas in a large, iron cauldron (approximately 50 years old), on top of a wood fire, outdoors, in about twenty pounds of pork lard that was used to fry the empanadas for the last month and a half.
- - However, tradition does not always mean that it is right. Much of the time tradition simply means “lack of technology and alternate methods.”.
- - I use a deep-fat fryer filled with Canola or Peanut oil. For even healthier empanadas, they can be baked in the oven at 350 degrees F on a greased cookie sheet. Baking them, of course, takes longer and you will have to turn the empanadas once. Bake or fry until golden brown.
- - If you fry them (the best method because they turn out nice and crunchy), make sure you place the finished empanadas on a cookie sheet whose bottom you have lined with a thick layer of paper towels. This will allow the excess oil to drain.
- - The tradition in Colombia is to have an empanada in one hand and a wedge of lemon in the other. As you take a bite, you squeeze a few drops of lemon juice inside. A bowl of your favorite salsa and a teaspoon will also do the job quite well. This recipe should yield approximately 4 to 5 dozen empanadas.