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Empanadas for pi(e) day March 17, 2010

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Chicken.
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There has been a longstanding debate in my household about the definition of a ‘pie’. Now this may seem silly to some, but I can tell you that pie (and what is and isn’t a pie…) is no laughing matter! Pie is definitely serious business.

Pie is serious business for Nero Wolfe too. He eats a great variety of pie, including chicken pie (Fer-De-Lance), lots of blueberry pie (Help, Man Wanted and A Window for Death) and pumpkin pie. In the US, and around parts of the world thanks to the internet, March 14 (3/14) is known as pi, or pie, day! What better way to celebrate than by making empanadas?!

For those who don’t know, empanadas are a Spanish and South American stuffed pastry item, kind of like a pasty or a samosa. In my opinion, they are part of the ‘pie’ categorisation as they are a pastry shell with filling inside. To begin making the empanadas, I made the pastry dough. I used the recipe for pastry here, and mixed it with a fork until it was combined, and then kneaded it a little.

I then refrigerated it, and set about making the filling. I decided to make chicken empanadas – perhaps not the most traditional of fillings – and made up my own filling rather than using a recipe. I chopped up some chicken fairly finely and added carrots and onions, salt and pepper. I simmered them in some chicken gravy I had left over from a roast chicken and when they were starting to soften, I added some mushrooms. I toasted a dried chipotle chili over my stove flame, and then put it in my blender with a bit of water, and blended it until it formed a thick paste. This went into the saucepan with everything else.

I let this simmer for a while, to thicken up the liquid and allow the flavours to combine. When this had finished cooking, I took it off the heat to let the mixture cool down. I got the dough out of the fridge and rolled it into 10 golf ball-sized pieces. For each piece, I floured my benchtop, rolled out the ball to a circle(ish) shape about 10cm across, put some filling in the centre, folded the pastry over itself and sealed the edges with water. I crimped the edges with a fork – this was mainly for decoration as I’d already sealed it with water – then brushed each one with some beaten egg.

Here’s what they looked like after I’d done a few – they were quite large!

I baked them in the oven at 180°C for about 20 minutes. After they came out I immediately burned my fingertips by trying to pick one up off the foil straight away! I left them for about 5 minutes to cool and then transferred them off the foil – I had another batch to cook by then!

As you can see my eggwash wasn’t perfect but they looked great and smelled even better.

Once they were cool enough to eat, we cut them open and took a bite. I really liked the pastry – it was still a bit chewy and didn’t snap easily which was nice, but was still quite light and not overwhelming. It wasn’t as flaky as a samosa crust, or even some pie crusts. The chicken filling came out nicely too, with some smokiness and spiciness from the chili, the sweet taste of the onion, and the chicken which had absorbed all the flavours.

While making this type of pie can be a little time consuming, the overall result was worth it as I was very happy with how this came out. While the eternal debate about pie categorisation rages on in this household, we could both agree that we’d done Nero Wolfe proud in our pie making – and eating – efforts for pi day.

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