August 27, 2009
The name of these empanadas, like so many things, just sounds better in Spanish.
Empanadas de Pollo, Puerro, y Pimiento–it's almost like a tongue twister school kids would recite for better diction. (Pepe Pecas pica papas con un pico. Con un pico pica papas Pepe Pecas. Pepe Pecas picks potatoes with a pick. With a pick picks potatoes Pepe Pecas.)
Or it could be a phrase learned on a Spanish language cd–I can almost hear the velvet-voiced narrator say it: "Listen and repeat: Empanadas de Pollo, Puerro y Pimiento."
Why do things sound better in a foreign language? In the case of Argentina, maybe it's the starlit nights tinted with Malbec, the strolls through cafe-lined plazas, and certainly, everything both sounds and feels better on a stomach full of things like empanadas. (Or, in my case, just not really understanding what's being said half the time, which I tell myself makes it all the more romantic!)
But really, Argentineans do have a unique accent, making their lilting, melodic pronunciation of Spanish almost like a song. Many people say that listening to an Argentinean is like listening to someone speak Spanish with an Italian accent, and that's true–a study done by the University of Toronto showed that the Castellano (as they call Spanish in Argentina) is more like Neopolitan Italian than any other spoken language! This is no doubt due to the millions of immigrants from Northern Italy to Argentina in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Now I'm imagining the velvet-voiced narrator saying that empanadas are one of Argentina's renowned delicacies, and that they can be filled with anything you can think of, and bought by the dozen from a street-side stand, where they are undoubtedly handmade from scratch in the back room with someone whose deft fingers fold empanadas together faster than a sewing machine makes stitches. (Though I suppose that's more depth than you'd get on a language cd, but still, I like imagining the voice!)
However you pronounce it, these empanadas filled with chicken and vegetables are divine–the leeks and green pepper round out the chicken, the spices add just the right flavor. These are a welcome change from typical beef empanadas and destined to be a favorite. Make them, take a bite and say, "Mmmm! Empanadas de Polllo, Puerro, y Pimiento!"
How's that for a tongue-twister?
Empanadas de Polllo, Puerro, y Pimiento
Chicken, Leek and Pepper Empanadas
12 tapas or discos for empanadas, either store-bought (available at Latin Markets) or homemade
1 hard-boiled egg
1 chicken breast
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 green bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten, for painting
Hard-boil the egg. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan, and add the chicken breast, one onion, chopped very coarse, and a handful of coarse salt. Let poach until the chicken has cooked through, about 20 minutes or so–check the inside of the chicken to be sure it is not pink and has cooked thoroughly. Alternatively, use leftover cooked chicken, like from a rotisserie chicken. Remove the chicken breast to a cutting board and discard the onion and water. Let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Chop the onion into medium dice, and add it to the skillet. Chop the leek, (white part only) and add it to the skillet, as well. Let cook for about 10 minutes, lowering the heat slightly if needed, until the leek and onion mixture has softened and become translucent. Meanwhile, shred or cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
Add the chicken to the skillet, and the crushed red pepper, salt, pepper, and oregano. Stir well to combine. Peel your hard-boiled egg, if you haven't already.
Set the empanada shells out on the counter to assemble. Lightly flour a baking sheet. Also have the slightly beaten egg in a glass, and a small glass of water. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of the empanada shell. Slice a sliver of hard-boiled egg and put it on top of the filling.
Moisten the edge on the top half of the shell with a little water on your finger. Fold the bottom half of the dough up until the edges meet and seal with your fingers by pressing down. The empanada should have a half-moon shape.
Use the palms of the hands to pack the filling firmly in the center. Next, fold the edges with the Repulgue: using your fingertip, fold one corner of the empanada over, pressing down firmly. Go to the edge again and repeat, pressing firmly each time. Go around the edge of the empanada and you'll get a spiral pattern. You can also use a fork-seal, instead.
Paint the top of each sealed empanada with the beaten egg so that when they bake, they have a shiny, golden shell. Place the finished empanadas on the baking sheets. Put the empanadas in to bake for 12 to 15 minutes-they should be sizzling and very golden brown on top. Take out and eat very carefully while hot!
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Relevant recipes: Empanadas de Humitas from Katie at Seashells and Sunflowers