Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Daily Dinner: Wannabe Southwestern Chicken Empanadas (But Really Just Kind-of Chicken Pot Pies)

Boyfriend and I have decided to try to eat at home more often. When I was at school three nights a week, it became really easy just to go out to eat every night (Chili's Happy Hour!), but now we're trying to cut back and get back to eating at home. It's cheaper, and to be honest, we like it better. (Except for the dishes. Why would I want to do dishes?) Since the beginning of the year, we've tried to reduce the amount of red meat in our diets, so we eat a lot of chicken.

So tonight for dinner, I decided to try at "What can I make from items in my pantry" exercise. I was kind of feeling some Southwestern-style chicken dish, so I settled on a sort of empanada. I already had the chicken, the puff pastry, the cheese, and all the ingredients for a Béchamel (white) sauce. I was going to add some black beans and corn to the filling, but decided to forgo the beans, and honestly, just forgot about the corn.

I thought these little wannabe-empanadas were pretty tasty, but could have used a lot more flavoring, a.k.a. spices. I went easy on the spices to start, because Boyfriend and I don't like overly spicy things. In the end, the wannabes reminded me more of just a miniature chicken pot pie than they did empanadas. The good news is that this means the recipe is easily adaptable to whatever flavors you're craving.

Regarding the recipe, measurements are approximate. I don't think I've ever measured my cream or milk for a Béchamel sauce, so I'm not going to be much help in that department. I used 2 sheets of puff pastry, so essentially doubled this recipe; the ingredients and measurements I'm listing are approximate, as I'm trying to halve the recipe.

1 sheet of puff pastry
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
heavy cream or milk (at least 2%)
1/8 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp ground coriander
1/4 - 1/2 pre-packaged nacho/taco cheese mix
Kosher salt

1. Fill a saute pan with a couple of inches of water. Salt the water, and bring to a boil. Add the chicken breast and cover the pan. Reduce heat to medium-high, and let cook for approximately 7-10 minutes. (This will cook the chicken and keep it nice and juicy.)

2. While the chicken is cooking, make the Béchamel sauce. Melt butter over medium heat and then whisk in flour until fully incorporated. Add heavy cream or milk (start small - 1/2 cup to start, then add more as you go), and continue to stir until sauce has thickened. Sauce should be thicker, but not really thick or heavy. Whisk in chili powder over the heat.

3. Using 2 forks, shred the chicken and place in small bowl. Sprinkle kosher salt and coriander over chicken and stir.

4. Pour Béchamel sauce over the chicken and stir. You want the chicken to be lightly coated, not drenched in sauce. Add cheese to bowl and stir. Set aside.

5. Roll out puff pastry to 12" x 12" square. Cut square into either 9 or 6 squares, depending on how full you want the little pies to be. Place equal amount in the center of each square.

6. Seal each square into a triangle. You can wet your fingertip and run it along the edge of the square to help seal the pies. Use a fork to crimp the edges. I would also recommend using a knife to cut a small slit in the top of each pie to allow steam to escape during baking.

7. Bake pies on aluminum foil-lined baking sheet for 15 minutes at 400 degrees F, or until golden brown on top.

If you want more flavor, I would definitely increase the spices, or add some stronger ones. In addition, for a more southwestern flavor, I might add in some tomato paste or chipotle peppers to the Béchamel sauce. You could also try the following variations:
  • Italian - crushed tomatos, basil, oregano, Parmesan cheese
  • Asian - soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, shredded veggies
  • Other - caramelized onions, thyme, Cheddar cheese


Julia July 7, 2009 at 9:50 PM  

This is such a great idea! They look delicious, and I love your ideas for varying the flavors/themes!!

gigiofca July 8, 2009 at 1:10 AM  

I will need a lactose pill before having these, but you better believe I will be trying them. Thanks for posting. These look good for freezing, too.

AppGal July 8, 2009 at 8:07 AM  

these look amaaazing! I love your recipes...keep 'em coming!

do you have an iPhone or iPod touch? there is a free app done by Whole foods market that lets you type in random ingredients that you have, then they find recipes for you using those ingredients. It's brilliant!