On any average day, I tend to walk the culinary straight and narrow. This means nothing overly fatty (sigh), fried (hmph) or cheesy (BOO!). But all I need is the teeny tiniest of excuses to send me digging through my Lick ‘Em & Stick ‘Em recipes. These are so bad (read: lip-smacking, mouth-watering yumminess) that you might as well lick them and then stick them to your hips because that’s exactly where they’re going. Unless you’re my friend Megan who has the metabolism of 15 average women and who, therefore, we all take turns hating.
This week my excuse was our semi-regular Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament. I made these for the last tournament and they were such a hit that they got asked back to the party. This is really saying something since the menfolk don’t care much for greasy playing cards. Leave it to Paula Deen to charm the guys.
So Thursday night I spent the evening rolling out dough and filling up mini fried-pie type things. Some argue that making empanadas from scratch is way too much of a PITA to deal with, but I disagree. There is something strangely soothing and comforting about kneading and rolling out dough. Even if it isn’t dough you’ve made from scratch. In fact, I think it’s the perfect way to prepare for a poker tournament. You’ll arrive with a batch of goodies that will distract all your opponents, while you sit there and rake in the dough (ha, sorry), completely calm and relaxed.
Cheesiest Fried Chicken Empanadas
3 cups chopped, cooked chicken, about 4 to 5 chicken breasts
1 (8-ounce) package shredded colby and Monterey Jack cheese blend
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 chopped red bell pepper (I omit this.)
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts
Preheat oven to 375F.
In a large bowl using a rubber spatula, combine the chicken, colby and Monterey cheese, cream cheese, red pepper, jalapeno, cumin, salt, and pepper. Remove 1 pie crust from pie tin onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 15-inch circle. Cut out rounds, using a 3-inch cookie cutter. Re-roll dough as needed. Repeat procedure with remaining pie crusts, making 12 to 15 circles total. Arrange 1 round on a clean, flat surface. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the edges of crust with water. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of chicken mixture in the center of the round. Fold the dough over the filling, pressing the edges with a fork to seal. Repeat with the remaining rounds and chicken mixture. Place empanadas on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until slightly golden.
Top with your favorite Mexican sauce (chili con queso, guacamole, salsa, etc.).
*Paula Deen’s original recipe has you deep fry these, which I did the first time I made them. However, after testing out one baked empanada, I felt that they were just as delicious and actually were easier to eat during the tournament (see the aforementioned greasy fingers). If you do want to deep fry these, just heat your oil to 350F, and drop 4 or 5 in for about 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.