Chicken Empanadas

Meatpies are one of my favorite foods. Back when my kitchen skills were as advanced as scrambling eggs or boiling pasta, I used to tell myself that if I ever learned how to cook one of the things I was going to learn and learn well, was how to make a meatpie.

While I still may have some more things to learn, I do think the practice I’ve had thus far has led me to understand what really makes a good meatpie. It depends on giving equal amounts attention and consideration of both the casing and the filling because a good filling encased in tough pastry is no bueno, and a good pastry with bland filling is also not so great.

My strategy for avoiding bland meatpie filling is to as Chopped judge Marc Murphy says “season with authority.” I’ve tried to inject flavor at just about every step of the cooking of this empanada filling. And then after it’s finished, I allow it to rest in the fridge just to give the spices the time to really set in so that they come through after the empanadas are finished baking.

The key to flakiness of this crust is the shortening. It’s VERY easy to work with and roll out. I could obviously still use some more practice when it comes to my crimping/sealing skills, but that’s completely on me, not the recipe. Trust me, it really does melt in your mouth when you eat it.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe. Be Kind.

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Chicken Empanadas

Filling recipe by Jess@CookingisMySport, Pastry recipe courtesy of The Kitchn 

Ingredients

For Chicken Filling

  • 2.5-3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 1 (1 oz.) packet of your favorite taco or fajita seasoning
  • 2 bell peppers, diced (you can mix and match different kinds; I used 1 red and 1 green)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 16-32 oz low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of smoked Paprika
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For Pastry

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening or lard, frozen
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup ice water
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Directions

For filling:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

In a small bowl combine the taco/fajita seasoning with 1/3 cup of the flour. Place the cubed chicken in a gallon sized resealable plastic bag. Pour the flour-seasoning mixture over the chicken and seal the bag. Toss the bag to season the chicken in the flour until evenly coated.

Pour a tablespoon of oil (canola, vegetable or olive) in the bottom of a Dutch oven or pot. Sear the chicken over high heat, just to get a crust on the outside of it (it doesn’t need to be cooked through here). Remove the chicken to a 13 x 9 baking dish and keep loosely covered. (you may need to do this in batches).

When the chicken has finished searing, pour a bit more oil into the bottom of the pot and saute the peppers and onions over medium heat until they are soft and translucent. Remove them to a bowl and set aside.

Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of flour into the pot, and allow to toast for about 2 minutes. Pour in 16 oz of the chicken broth and stir briskly with a whisk or fork until flour is dissolved and a smooth and somewhat thick ‘gravy’ forms, then pour in the other 16 oz of broth. Season the mixture with the cumin, smoked paprika, honey and salt and pepper. Allow to come up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Pour the gravy mixture over the chicken. Tightly cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until chicken is fork tender.

Remove the chicken from the baking dish and mix with the sauteed onions and peppers. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to meld and for the filling to completely chill.

For crust:

Place 3 cups of the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Use a box grater (or cut it up into small cubes) to cut the shortening/lard into the dry ingredients. Stir together with a fork. It should have a sandy texture.

Whisk the egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl until combined. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients.Continue mixing until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Empty mixture onto a lightly floured work surface and use your hands to shape it into a rough ball. Using the heels of your hands, gently knead the dough into a smooth, elastic ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight.

Lightly flour a clean, large work surface and a rolling pin. Roll the dough out to about 1/8-inch thick. Using a 4-inch-round pastry-cutting mold, cut circles from the dough. (Alternatively use a knife and trace around a 4-inch plate to form the circles.)

Gather the dough scraps and form into a ball again. Roll out the dough and cut more circles. (If the dough springs back and is difficult to roll out, let it rest before rolling again.) Makes about 16 dough circles.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.Take 1 of the cut circles and and place 2 heaping tablespoons of the filling in the center. Brush the edges of the empanada with the beaten egg. Fold the circle in half to form a half moon and seal the edges together with a fork or pinch with your fingers. (Be mindful when sealing to squeeze out any air pockets.) Place on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough circles, spacing the formed empanadas a few inches apart.

Chill the formed empanadas for 20 minutes before baking. Meanwhile, arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 375°F.

Place both sheets in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the sheets front to back and top to bottom, and continue baking until the empanadas are golden-brown, about 10 minutes more. Let cool a few minutes before serving with salsa.

Linking to Fiesta Friday #363, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Secret Ingredient Rice Krispie Treats

So, I feel like on a list of the easiest things to cook/bake, rice krispie treats are right up there with spaghetti, scrambled eggs, and grilled cheese sandwiches. They all feature pretty basic ingredients, come together within minutes and are all (I think) pretty hard to mess up.

Even back when I was an abysmal cook, I knew how to put together rice krispie treats. No matter what anybody says, the pre-made packaged ones don’t taste as good as the ones made from scratch. They just don’t.

There’s nothing wrong with pre-packaged rice krispie treats, but I’m partial to making my own from scratch because if I can control the amount of marshmallow in the mix, then I can control the ‘gooey-ness’ factor. Packaged ones don’t really have it.

You want to know what ones do? These.

I’m always interested in finding ways to improve on classics, and today’s recipe is another one of those ways. If you’re a fan of scratch made rice krispie treats and you want to up their gooey-ness factor, this is for you. It doesn’t require a whole lot of extra steps or ingredients. There’s just one extra step and one extra addition to the usual suspects of ingredients, actually:

Browning the butter, and a can of sweetened condensed milk.

That’s right folks. Browning your butter and adding sweetened condensed milk to your treats mix will alter everything you ever thought you knew about how to make or eat rice krispie treats. You are not prepared for how incredible this is. I wasn’t. The rich, gooeyness it adds to them is everything you want in a treat. It adds a real ‘bakery’ taste and flavor to them that almost makes no sense, because rice krispie treats aren’t baked at all. I don’t understand it, and I really don’t need to. I’m just glad to have discovered it, and you will be too once you try this out for yourself.

Wear a mask. Social Distance. Stay safe. Be kind.

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Secret Ingredient Rice Krispie Treats

Recipe Courtesy of The Kitchn

Ingredients

  • 6 cups toasted rice crisp cereal, such as Rice Krispies
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (10-ounce) package mini marshmallows (about 4 cups)

Directions

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the cereal and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan or pot over low heat, gently stirring with a rubber spatula so all the butter melts evenly. When the butter is bubbling, add 1/3 to 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk* and stir to combine.

Bring the sweetened condensed milk to a boil (this will happen really quickly) and cook for about a minute until it is fragrant. Once the butter begins to foam, watch carefully, as it will quickly begin to brown and emit a nutty aroma. When browned, turn off the heat. Stir in the salt and vanilla.

Working quickly, add half the marshmallows and stir until thoroughly melted. Add the remaining marshmallows and stir until melted. The residual heat from the butter should be enough to melt them off the heat, but you can return the pot to low heat for a few seconds if the marshmallows aren’t melting easily. Keep a close eye on the butter, however — you don’t want it to continue to brown to the point of burning.

Add the toasted cereal and gently fold it in until the cereal is completely coated with the marshmallow mixture.

Transfer the mixture to an 8 x8 inch baking pan that you’ve sprayed with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Using the rubber spatula, lightly and gently press into an even layer.

Let the treats stand at room temperature until set and completely cool, about 1 hour.

Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

*This all depends on how gooey you want the treats to be. I went for the full 1/2 cup.

Linking up to Fiesta Friday #362, co-hosted this week by Petra @ Food Eat Love.

Sweet Potato Biscuits & Cranberry Butter

Happy New Year everyone.

If you’re reading this, it means that you’ve made it 2021. Give yourself a pat on the back. Let out the breath that it feels like we’ve all been holding for I don’t know how long.

What a year. What a time to be alive.

2020 was a rough year for most of us. We may have survived it, but I’m sure we all know of others who did not, and those who are still struggling going into 2021. I’m not one for making New Years resolutions, but I am on board for maintaining a positive perspective even in the midst of negativity, and trying to spread positivity where I can.

If your 2020 was particularly difficult, I’m very sorry. You have all of my best wishes and hopes for a better and brighter 2021 where things begin to turn around. Please know that trouble doesn’t last always. This too shall pass. You’ll make it.

After spending a lot of time and effort getting pretty good at baking them, biscuits have become my happy place. I thought a happy place recipe was, a great recipe to kick off the new year with on the blog, so here we are.

I mean: don’t these make you feel at least a little happy just looking at them?

Sweet potato biscuits have been on my radar for a while to try out. I always had hesitation about it because most of the recipes I’ve seen others put out, the biscuits seemed to come out flat and hockey-puck like to me. The potato just seemed to be weighing everything down and one of my biggest biscuits pet peeves are biscuits that don’t rise.

But that was all before I developed my personal technique of biscuit-making that to date has never failed to give me the results that I want. As it turns out, it still doesn’t even when adding mashed sweet potato to the mix.

Sweet potatoes are a heavy ingredient, but what I found they do most for biscuit dough is take the place of the majority of the liquid. You won’t need to add as much buttermilk because the sweet potatoes themselves are moist and give the dough the moisture it needs to hold together, as well as the finished biscuits the moisture they need to not be too tough and dry.

These taste perfectly fine on their own, but I decided to give them an accompaniment using some spare cranberries I still had leftover from the 12 Days of Christmas sitting in my fridge. It comes together in minutes, and the sweet tartness pairs pretty well with the savory flavor of the biscuits.

Here’s to sweet potato biscuits, cranberry butter, and 2021. May one be just as wonderful as the other, and vice versa.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Be kind.

Sweet Potato Biscuits & Cranberry Butter

Recipe Adapted from Allrecipes.com and Let’s Dish 

Ingredients

For Biscuits

  • 2 large, orange fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus more for potato water
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark, doesn’t matter)
  • 1/2 cup-3/4 cup buttermilk*
  • 6 1/2 cups self rising flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, frozen

For Cranberry Butter

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of one medium orange

 

Directions

For Biscuits:

Cut sweet potatoes in half lengthwise. Cut each in half again lengthwise, then in half cross-wise. Cut each piece in half to make evenly sized chunks. Transfer into pot; cover with water and add a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer on high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and cook until potatoes are tender, about 17 minutes. Drain thoroughly; return to pot and mash potatoes. You will need 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes. Cool thoroughly.

Transfer cooled mashed potatoes to a medium size mixing bowl and add brown sugar, stirring to combine. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Stir together with a fork.

Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Stir together with a fork to coat with flour after each addition of about 1/3 to 1/2 stick. This will prevent butter from clumping. Mixture should look like floury pieces of butter.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add sweet potato mixture. Toss with a fork until evenly distributed, but don’t overmix.

Drizzle in the buttermilk. The amount you add here is going to vary according to the time of year and your location. You may need to use all of it, you may not. Start with 1/2 cup and stir the dough together with the fork, just until it begins to come together in large clumps. Add more flour if you need to, just enough to make it hold together.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or a clean smooth countertop with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Use a bench scraper or a large sharp knife to divide the dough in half. Roughly shape each half into a square. Stack one of the halves on top of the other and use a rolling pin to roll it together into one mass. Repeat this process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle. (This is a process of layering so that the biscuits will bake flaky).

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour and unwrap the biscuit dough out onto it. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a square cookie cutter, or a knife to cut the remaining dough into squares, about 2″ each.

Remove the cut biscuits to the baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper, placing them rather close to each other (it will help them rise higher). Freeze until cold, about 15 minutes.

Bake until golden brown, 18 to 23 minutes. You may need to cover them with foil to keep from browning too fast. When you pull one away from the others, it should look baked all the way through; the edge shouldn’t look wet or unbaked.

For Butter: 

Use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, powdered sugar, honey, cinnamon, vanilla extract and orange zest together until fluffy. Add the cranberries.

Store in the refrigerator, but it’s best to bring it to room temperature to serve.

Linking this post to Fiesta Friday #361.