Chef-owner Richard Sandoval
Fusing the flavors of two on-trend cuisines is one way to attract adventurous palates. Although empanadas originated in Latin America and rely on ingredients from that part of the world, Zengo chef-owner Richard Sandoval gives the chicken filling a Thai accent with the sweet chili sauce known as mae ploy. A few spoonfuls of mango chutney complete the plate.
Diced meat from 1 roast chicken (about 5 cups, or 2 lb. diced meat)
2 poblano chilies
4 tsp. olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
2 cups finely diced onions
1 bunch cilantro, minced
3/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce (mae ploy)
4 lb. puff pastry
12 oz. Oaxaca cheese, shredded
All-purpose flour, for dusting
3 qt. frying oil
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Rub chilies with 2 tsp. oil, and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Wrap chilies in foil and roast in oven until softened, about 30 min., checking every 10 min.
2. Remove from oven and set foil-wrapped chilies aside until cool enough to handle. Peel and seed chilies; cut into a small dice.
3. Heat a large sauté pan over med.-high heat. Add 2 tsp. oil and sauté onions until translucent, stirring frequently, about 8 min. Remove from heat.
4. Assemble filling: In a large bowl, combine diced chicken, diced poblanos, onions, 1½ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper, cilantro, Thai sweet chili sauce and Oaxaca cheese. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. (You should have a generous 6 cups filling.) Cover and refrigerate filling until chilled, at least 1 hr. or overnight.
5. Roll out puff pastry 1 sheet at a time on a lightly floured board. Cut out rounds using a 3½-in. biscuit cutter. (You should get 16 to 18 rounds from each pound of puff pastry.)
6. Fill each round with about 1½ tbsp. chilled chicken filling. To fold the empanada, place the round in your hand. With the fingers of your other hand, press the filling down as you are clamping the pastry into a taco or moon shape. (It may seem as if there is too much filling at first, but dough will stretch as you press filling down.) Seal the empanada by pressing edges with fingers; crimp with fork to seal completely. Refrigerate empanadas until ready to fry.
7. Heat frying oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot to 350°F. To order, fry empanadas three at a time until golden-brown, about 3 min. Drain on rack or paper towel-lined baking sheet. Serve immediately.
Recipe by Zengo Chef-owner Richard Sandoval, Santa Monica, Calif.