Mariel here. Well, I’m back. After two delightful weeks in Argentina and Uruguay, I’ve returned a married woman, much lighter in the wallet and possibly five pounds heavier. Peter and I spent most of the trip cruising the countryside on horseback – dreamy! – and then gorging on homemade empanadas, butter-slathered “lomo,” and more dulce de leche than two people should consume in a lifetime. It was amazing.
Never a fan of empanadas pre-Argentina, I became an ardent convert once tasting the real deal down south. We spent the first few days of our trip in the province of Cordoba at Estancia San Pedro Viejo, a charming, super-homey, full-service ranch three hours from the nearest city. The hotel’s on-site chef is an 80-year-old woman – the matriarch of a staff that consists of her son and daughter-in-law, among others – who whips up the most mouth-wateringly delicious food I’ve ever tasted (sorry mom). A few of her specialties include homemade chorizo, made-from-scratch risotto, duck kebabs and loads of steak, naturally. But it was her empanadas that truly stole the show. Fluffy and flaky, these authentic meat pies were unlike any Taco Bell rip off I’d ever tasted – which, to be fair, was about as far as my experience extended.
Those empanadas have stayed with me and while I don’t pretend to have her generations of ‘nada making skills at my beck and call, my culinary prowess has come a long way under the wise tutelage of my mother. So I figured it was worth a shot. It turned out to be a success, even garnering Peter’s highest epicurean accolade – the “I could eat these all day long, babe” award.
While my rendition boasted a decidedly North American flavor, they handily satisfied my craving for San Pedro’s Argentinian originals. Great for casual parties, afternoon snacks, dinner or even football watching, these sweet and savory Butternut Squash and Pulled Chicken empanadas are perfect for chillier sweater days. If you have a favorite recipe or any tips, don’t hold back!
Butternut Squash and Pulled Chicken Empanadas
Makes 10 empanadas
1 medium butternut squash (about a pound) – $1.49
Goya empanada discos – $1.99 for 10
1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped – $0.89
2 chicken breasts – $2.99
1/2 cup chicken broth – stock
1 strip of bacon (I use turkey bacon) – $3.19 (for a package)
3 TBS brown sugar, divided – stock
1 tsp chili powder – stock
1/2 tsp cumin – stock
1/4 tsp paprika – stock
1 TBS olive oil – stock
1 tsp whipped butter (or light butter) – stock
1 tsp honey – stock
1 tsp cider vinegar – stock
1/4 tsp salt – stock
1/4 tsp cayenne – stock
3/4 tsp black pepper, divided – stock
1 egg – stock
1 TBS water
Grand total assuming “stocked” kitchen: $10.55
Cost per serving: $1.06
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. Cut squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out all seeds and membranes.
3. Place squash flesh-side down on a rimmed jelly roll pan. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Bake 45 minutes or until the squash is very soft.
4. For the chicken, stir together the 2 TBS of brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, paprika and 1/4 tsp of black pepper in a small bowl. Place the chicken on a plate and press the sugar mixture onto both sides of the chicken.
5. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (with a lid) over high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes on each side until it begins to brown, but doesn’t cook through. Transfer the chicken to the plate and set aside.
6. Add the Vidalia onion and strip of bacon to the skillet stirring constantly. Cook the onions until translucent then add the chicken and 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Bring the ingredients to a boil then immediately reduce heat to low, cover the skillet (with lid or tin foil) and simmer for 30 minutes (or until chicken is cooked through).
7. Once chicken is cooked through, transfer to a plate and shred using two forks.
8. Once shredded, return to the skillet, bring the heat to high and boil. Once boiling reduce heat to medium, add tsp of cider vinegar and simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes until most of the liquid is reduced. Remove the bacon strip and then set aside the chicken/onions.
9. Once the butternut squash is soft, mix with whipped butter, 1 TBS brown sugar, honey, 1/4 tsp of salt, cayenne and 1/2 tsp of pepper.
10. Preheat the oven to 375. For the crust, gently roll out the Goya pre-made discs (remember, the less you handle the dough the flakier the result!). Take 1 spoonful of butternut squash and one spoonful of chicken mixture and place at the center of the disk. Fold in half and seal the edges using the tines of a fork. Repeat until all 10 discs have been filled.
11. In a small bowl, whip together the egg and 1 TBS water. Using a pastry brush, very lightly coat the top and bottom of the empanadas with the egg wash.
12. Place discs on a jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper (a coating of Pam works too if you’re out of parchment). Bake for 25 minutes or until the empanadas are golden brown. Serve warm.