Chicken Empanadas with Creamy Cilantro Sauce
After having delicious empanadas at a South American restaurant, I decided I wanted to make my own version- perhaps slightly healthier. I researched tons of recipes and ultimately decided that I would go with a baked empanada instead of fried. Also, I would use whole wheat flour in my dough instead of traditional all-purpose white flour. Finally, many of the reviews I read of “healthier” empanadas complained the filling was dry. (Conversely, many of the traditional recipes seemed to utilize large amounts of oil, fat, and butter.)
I would not call my version of chicken empanadas to be “healthy”, but just a healthier version of a absolutely delicious dish. I will post the creamy cilantro dressing separately, as it can be used in various dishes.
List of ingredients for the dough:
- 3 cups white whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter- cut into smaller pieces
- dry white wine
- white wine vinegar
- 2 eggs
List of ingredients for the chicken filling:
- About 1 lb of chicken thighs (I used bone-in with the skin)
- 1/2 yellow onion- finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- red pepper flakes
- dry white wine
- white wine vinegar
- 6 green olives- chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
- tomatillo salsa verde (pre-made in a jar) – I’ll probably make this fresh next time. It was a last minute add to the filling.
- olive oil
I started off making the dough. In a large mixing bowl, I combined the white whole wheat flour with a spoonful of sugar (about a tablespoon) and about a teaspoon of salt. Whisk to combine. Add the small pieces of butter and mix with your hands until there are only small lumps of butter left. (You can use a pastry blender, but I do not have one.)
In a separate mixing bowl, add the eggs, 1/3 cup of the dry white wine and a tablespoon of white wine vinegar. Whisk this combination together and then add to the flour and butter mixture. Again, I used my hands- but be careful to not overwork the dough. Ensure all of the flour is mixed into the dough. Flatten out into a disk, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Set a timer for a minimum of one hour to allow the dough to become firm.
Next, I moved onto the chicken filling. I seasoned my chicken thighs with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. In a frying pan, I melted down 1 tablespoon of butter with a splash of olive oil. On medium high heat, I cooked the chicken thighs- skin side down, first- for about 4 minutes. I flipped and cooked the other side for about 4 minutes and them removed the chicken from the pan to rest on a plate. I ended up with a large amount of grease, oil and fat in the pan, so I dumped all but about 1 tablespoon and then returned to the stove. Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low and add the onion. I also added about a tablespoon of red pepper flakes and cooked until the onion became translucent. Then add about 1/3 cup of the dry white wine and 3 tablespoons of the tomatillo salsa verde.
Add the chicken back to the pan, along with any juices in the plate. Reduce heat to low, cover and continue cooking for 20-25 minutes (until the chicken is cooked through). Once cooked, remove the chicken again and allow it to cool. At this point, I ended up with what I considered too much oil in the pan. I raised the heat to evaporate some of the liquid, but considering most of it was oil/grease, I turned the stove off and blotted out as much oil as possible. (Probably three half-sheet paper towels.)
Once the chicken cooled, I removed the skin and bones. Chop the chicken meat very finely and return to the onion mixture in the pan. Add olives, a splash of white wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Next, I added about 1 1/2 tablespoons of paprika. I started with about one teaspoon and continued to increase the amount, as I tasted the mixture- so feel free to adjust this to your personal taste. Make sure all the ingredients are combined well and set aside to continue cooling.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and lightly oil a baking sheet. Create an egg wash, whisking together one egg and a splash of water. Remove dough from the refrigerator (making sure it has been at least one hour). Lightly flour your work surface (I used my kitchen countertop) and roll out the dough. Roll out the dough as thin as possible without tearing. Ensure there is equal thickness throughout. I used a bowl with a six inch opening to cut the rounds. Many empanadas are much smaller, but going along with my goal of achieving a healthier empanada I wanted to have a greater chicken filling to dough ratio. Add as much filling to the round as possible, leaving at least 1/2 inch of the edge clean. Use your fingers to spread the egg wash along the edges and close your empanadas. Once closed, I used a fork to create a stronger seal (and for aesthetics). Repeat until all the chicken filling is gone. I was able to create 6 empanadas, but you may alter the size of the dough round to make smaller more bite size empanadas.
I used the leftover eggwash and brushed a bit over the top of each empanada and then baked for about 28 minutes.
Serve with creamy cilantro dressing and cilantro lime rice for a complete meal. ENJOY!